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Tiffin Administrator Jackson resigns

Office will be vacated Feb. 6

North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– Tiffin City Administrator Michon Jackson is heading out.
The last day Jackson will sit at the helm of the city will be Feb. 6. She has resigned her position in order to take a new job on Marco Island off the coast of southwest Florida.
“Ever since I was 15 years old, I wanted to live near the ocean,” said Jackson. “I decided that by the time I turned 50, that’s where I would live.”
Though she is only 44, Jackson saw this opportunity in Florida and didn’t want to pass it up. But she still checked with her husband and daughter– a sophomore in high school– to gauge their feelings about moving now.
“I didn’t really want to move her during high school, because there are such critical things that happen during that time. But when I mentioned this job, my daughter said, ‘Mom. It’s an island, where it’s sunny and 80 degrees all the time. I’ll make new friends,’” Jackson said. And since her husband grew up in California, he was on board for warmer climes as well. Jackson will serve as a utilities customer service representative and staff supervisor for a city that has about 15,000 regular residents and boasts closer to 40,000 when the snowbirds of the Midwest winters fly south.
Jackson came to Tiffin as the city’s first administrator/clerk in April 2012. In the nearly three years of her tenure, she has seen significant changes in the community.
“We’re upgrading infrastructure, which residents don’t always see, and we are trying to give them benefits of things above ground as well, like the new splash pad, upgraded playground equipment and things they can see,” said Jackson.
When Jackson arrived in Tiffin, there had been no previous administrator to organize the extensive record keeping required of a growing city. She conducted a massive clean-up, clean-out and computer cataloguing of Tiffin’s long-held document paper files, and brought policy change suggestions to council– including creating job descriptions, employee manuals, a review process and an employee benefits packet. Jackson made recommendations for the best ways to utilize new staff for the growing city, and asked for electronic utilities billing, electronic emergency notices to residents and allowing payments by automatic account withdrawal to create efficiencies. She dusted off the city’s 20-year-old Comprehensive Plan so it would once again be a guiding document for the city, renewed the Land Use Plan and suggested a more rigorous process for capital improvements planning.
“What they did before was kind of a wish list,” said Jackson. Now, the council prioritizes the list through a series of work sessions and adds dollar estimates to the projects.
In the last three years, Jackson has also played a large part in securing grant funding for the city on several projects; Tiffin will collect nearly $500,000 total for Ireland Avenue’s extension project and the completion of Clear Creek Trail, grants administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation through the Metropolitan Planning Organization- Johnson County (MPOJC). Jackson said she worked hard to bring a stronger voice to the MPOJC’s Technical Transportation Advisory Committee on behalf of Johnson County’s smaller cities.
“I think communication is a lot better between the cities, the county and the school district,” said Jackson. “I spent a lot of time networking and discussion time letting people know I’ll listen to what they have to say.”
Perhaps most noticeably, Tiffin has a new City Hall that the community can be proud of.
“Being the city’s first administrator, it was a growth experience for all of us,” said Jackson.
But she does not accept all the credit for the improvements in city processes.
“The mayor has been very proactive and supportive in getting all this done. We’ve worked well in tandem all this time in making these things happen, and obviously, the city council as well,” she said. “They had already been talking about (making changes). What I think I brought to the table was knowing how to get us to that next step. I think I helped hone things for them.”
There are other things Jackson helped to set in motion that won’t be finished before she takes leave: annexation of properties into the city limits; a major upgrade to the city’s sewer plant; online utility payment capabilities; and an updated website.
“Other cities of this size are talking about sustainability; how do they keep their population? They are seeing less revenue because they are losing residents, and having to cut everything to the bone,” said Jackson. “Luckily, we don’t have that problem here.”
To fill Jackson’s position, especially at this crucial time of the budget season with its filing deadline of March 15, she suggested the council consider hiring a Range Rider– one of a collective group of retired city administrators who offer their services when cities need an interim manager. She also hopes they will hire a consulting firm to conduct a thorough search for a permanent replacement.
“What we have going on here is not the normal circumstance, with all this growth,” said Jackson. “If someone comes in with no idea how to handle it, they will have difficulty jumping in and trying to get to the level of these multiple projects we have going on.”
At the council’s Jan. 14 meeting, the council directed Jackson to research a potential Range Riders interim replacement and bring some choices back to the council’s Jan. 28 meeting.
That same evening, Tiffin Public Works Director Brett Mehmen thanked Jackson for her service.
“She has done a great job. She came in with ideas,” Mehmen said. “She was aggressive in attacking a lot of problems we had. I think she deserves a lot of credit.”
Mayor Steve Berner echoed those sentiments.
“It is difficult to explain just how much Michon accomplished during her tenure with the city,” Berner said in an email communication Monday. “I definitely do not have enough space in these short comments to explain all Michon accomplished in our town, but I will summarize by saying the corrections she made within city hall procedures, and especially the water billing department, literally saved our city financially and from potential legal issues. I feel our city will be benefit from her work for many years, well beyond her leaving her position. I greatly appreciate the work Michon did for Tiffin and wish her the very best.”
As Jackson faces a new journey ahead, she looks back on Tiffin as a great place to be.
“I love Tiffin. It’s a great community. I have worked with great people, the residents are always friendly, and it was a very positive experience here. I really want the city to do well, and I hope everybody continues to stay involved and work together.”