After his early and loud opposition to Maryville’s mask ordinance gained him prominence in the local political scene — making him a voice for those fed up with Maryville’s City Council and skeptical of the coronavirus altogether — Tim Jackson is now less than a week away from his first appearance on a ballot after months of conservative activism.
Jackson, who in July gained local and regional media attention for posting a “No masks allowed” sign at his business, is one of two candidates who has gained widespread support from the Maryville and Nodaway County Resident Council as a conservative martyr, though he has only posted once on the group’s Facebook page, making an initial announcement Nov. 25 of his campaign for City Council, promising that he is “not a puppet” in a note that contained 36 words and garnered 58 likes in a group that now has 1,100 members.
Still, his bid for one of two open City Council seats in the April 6 municipal election will test the group’s impact on local politics and the strength of its support for Jackson, the last candidate to distribute yard signs across the city — a signal that his campaign is one largely built on word-of-mouth and the name recognition that has come with Jackson’s role as the owner of Title Town Bar and Grill.
Though he has been publicly weighing an entrance into local politics since the summer and officially filed to run for Council in December, Jackson did not make campaigning a priority in the weeks leading up to the election. He did not create a Facebook page for his City Council campaign until March 20 — less than three weeks before Election Day. He was the only person in the race who did not respond to The Maryville Forum’s candidate questionnaire.
And, when reached by phone at Title Town, Jackson, 47, hung up on The Missourian after learning the reason for the call was an interview request. Several follow-up messages went unanswered, making Jackson the only City Council candidate who refused to speak with The Missourian.
In a post on his newly-formed campaign page, Jackson formally announced his widely known bid for Council in a well-lit video shot from inside his Maryville bar. The video begins with a drawn-out “Good morning, Maryville,” — a nod to the morning posts Jackson makes on his personal Facebook page promoting his grill’s daily menu specials, updates that often end with uplifting words reminding readers to smile.
“I truly believe this year is going to be the biggest vote ever,” Jackson said in his debut video posted the same day he formed his page. “I think we’re gonna see thousands of people come out and vote. I know in the past, people have won City Council with 100 votes, 200 votes. This year, I don’t think that comes close. This year, I think it’s gonna take 500, 600 votes.”
The increasing focus placed on Maryville’s City Council since the pandemic first upended daily life last March, coupled with recent election history, suggests Jackson’s forecast of the upcoming municipal election will be accurate. Less than 250 voters cast ballots for Council members Rachael Martin and Ben Lipiec last June, in a pandemic-postponed municipal election that saw the two incumbents run unopposed for two open seats on the Council. But that low voter turnout rate — 5.6% of Maryville’s registered voting population showed — is an outlier.
Consistently over the last five years, winning Council candidates have often received between 450 and 700 votes. In 2017, Martin and Lipiec each won more than 600 votes in a crowded field of four candidates vying for two open seats.
Martin received an election-best 638 votes in that cycle, though Jackson was not one of them. According to voting records provided to The Missourian by Nodaway County Clerk Melinda Patton, Jackson has voted in two of the last five municipal elections. Last June, when Martin and Lipiec were reelected less than two months before they would go on to initially support Maryville’s mask ordinance, Jackson did not cast a ballot.
Jackson’s inconsistent local voting streak does not make him an outlier in this cycle’s crowded field. Fellow candidates John McBride and Dannen Merrill have each voted in two of the last five municipal elections, according to records. Ashlee Hendrix, the fourth candidate, has voted in three.
In his debut campaign video, Jackson, a Grant City, Missouri, native who has lived in several cities scattered across the region, outlined a four-pronged platform he’s running on — made up of issues that have largely been addressed or resolved by the current City Council. And though he has been pegged on social media as a conservative hero, much of his platform is built on a prerequisite of increased government spending.
“I really want to work on the water — the infrastructure — getting us high quality water, folks,” said Jackson, who has voiced frustrations about Maryville’s water quality at City Council meetings over the last six months. “Maryville’s a beautiful town, but then you come here, and six, eight months out of the year, the water isn’t great, so that’s something I really want to work on.”
In a February meeting that Jackson did not attend, at least in person, Maryville’s City Council approved a joint funding project for granular activated carbon absorbers, providing a four- to seven-year solution while the city works on long term fixes for taste and odor issues in Maryville’s water. And before the up-to-$1.4 million project was passed in February, Marvyille had spent $860,000 trying to address the water’s taste and odor ailments since 2017.
The water issue was the first of Jackson’s four keynote issues noted in a post accompanying the video on his campaign page, where he said he plans to repeal Maryville’s face-covering ordinance, to provide more resources to city employees for road repairs and “give small business owners the right to vote,” advocating on behalf of business owners who live outside Maryville’s city limits, avoiding city-specific taxes making them ineligible vote in city elections.
Two days after Jackson made the initial post to his campaign page, Maryville’s City Council voted 4-1 to lift the mask mandate, which was set to expire at the end of April, with several Council members citing the weight the city’s divisive measure placed on its governing body. The Council’s choice to terminate the ordinance may have been a moot point. All four candidates for the Council’s two open seats have said they would not support a face-covering ordinance going forward, as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 cases lull.
It’s unclear whether Jackson, a 1991 graduate of Maryville High School, hopes to raise the city’s budget to increase investment into public works or if he’s aiming to simply reallocate funding within Maryville’s budget to help with road improvement. Jackson did not respond to a last-ditch email seeking clarification on both his voting-rights grievance and his budget plans.
While Jackson’s notoriety in Maryville has grown over the eight months largely due to his outspoken opposition to the mask mandate, that rise has coincided with increased involvement in the community.
When the Maryville Host Lions Club announced last May it would not host its popular farmers market in 2020 due to COVID-19, Jackson stepped in, offering Title Town’s parking lot as a host site, saving the annual market after his own business had been resigned to carryout for 45 days during the early stages of the pandemic.
And Jackson, a member of Ten Squared Men — a loose organization of local men who each donate $100 per quarter to a selected area charity — presented a $14,000 check to Santa Cops on behalf of the group in November. Jackson was the Ten Squared Men Member who nominated the Santa Cops for the group’s donation in the last quarter of 2020.
Still, as his visibility in Maryville has increased over the last eight months — and particularly since making known his plans to run for City Council — Jackson has made himself unavailable to media outlets and the voting public at large.
In addition to declining to participate in The Forum’s candidate questionnaire and avoiding interview and comments requests for this story, Jackson too declined an interview with KXCV-KRNW, Northwest Missouri’s public radio station. He was the only candidate to skip the local candidate forum March 31, hosted by the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce.
And though he has amassed more than 470 followers in less than two weeks, Jackson has not posted on his campaign’s Facebook since the day he formed the page. In all, Jackson has posted twice on the page, with a short thank-you message following his initial post, which at the time of publication had amassed 112 likes, 57 shares and 18 comments — some of which came in the form of questions.
“How exactly would you fix the water situation?” asked Facebook user Lori Blake. “Do you have a plan?”
Jackson did not respond.