By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 13, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (March 13, 2014) -- Fort Jackson's housing program is always looking for a few good mayors.
The program relies on a staff of 16 volunteers, who represent eight districts of post housing. Each district gets two mayors, but, at the moment, seven of those districts have vacancies.
"We speak for the community," said Colleen Briggs, a housing mayor for Pierce Terrace District 3 since 2012. "Our residents can come to us for support in a variety of ways. We're a liaison of sorts."
Residents can take their concerns directly to Balfour Beatty Communities, which manages post housing, and can take issues directly to the installation's housing office. Occasionally, Briggs said, residents are uncomfortable with those options, depending on the nature of their issue.
"Sometimes people feel more comfortable bringing their concerns to a neighbor," she said. "They may have to go through these other offices to find a resolution, but we can help them bring things to light that they might not be comfortable doing face to face."
The primary function of the housing mayor program is to enhance the quality of life for families assigned or residing on the installation, said Vickie Grier, housing management specialist.
"Mayors are volunteers who represent their designated communities issues and concerns to the garrison leadership with house issues," Grier said. "Housing residents living on post are eligible to serve, including military and civilians. There's an application to become mayor, as well as a background check with military police."
"I love to volunteer," said Christie Richardson, a housing mayor for Pierce Terrace District 4, now in her third volunteer year. "I figured what better thing to do than enhance the quality of where we live?"
Richardson said housing mayors have made significant changes to the quality of life on post in recent years. Children riding bicycles are now required to wear helmets because of the program, which also instituted an evening curfew for minors. Volunteers have also worked on several beautification projects on post.
"There have been more issues in the community than I thought were there," she said. "It's time consuming, but it's well worth it."
Helping with community improvements is what first attracted Olivia Ray to the housing mayors program. Ray has represented Pierce Terrace District 2 for one year, and originally joined to help establish a dog park on post.
"I thought being a mayor would give me a leg up on the people who'd listen," Ray said. The park opened last summer.
"The mayor's biggest role is getting information out to the residents and relating their concerns to the appropriate person at Balfour Beatty and (to) housing personnel," Grier said. "(Volunteers) also man the housing mayor Facebook page, so any information they have and need to get out to the community they can post it to the Facebook page.
"We pass out newsletters, and go to two meetings a month," she said. "We're voices for the community. A lot of times when people can't get something accomplished with Balfour (Beatty), we can step in and be their voice."
Briggs said her husband was a housing mayor before she volunteered.
"I filled in for him for a meeting and said, 'Why don't I just join?' I thought it was a really great initiative to get people interested in the community," she said.
Interested residents should contact Grier at (803) 751-7567.