Jay’s new Mayor Becki Farley could describe her first couple of months as a whirlwind, especially since she literally had to deal with a tornado hitting her city in her sixth week in office.
Though new to her position, she and her staff handled the challenges the storm brought in a top notch, professional way, though Farley continues to give all credit to the staff, police and fire departments.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the great people who work for the city” was her description about how everything came together.
Even though they weren’t being paid, “the staff jumped in that night: all the police and firemen were out, Camrine (city clerk) was coordinating on her phone and Kay (Treasurer) manned the phones in city hall.”
An Incident Management Team helped keep everyone informed and directed, getting supplies to where they were needed.
The team members were: Police Chief Mike Shambaugh, Fire Chief Brandon Alexarden, Sheila Guinn, Jenifer Daftari, Shaunda Davis, Megan Howe, Brenda Stuart and Craig Richardson (Southside Church of Christ).
The storm, took out the electricity throughout the city, allowing the water tower to be drained quickly since the electric pumps weren’t able to refill the tower.
On top of that, the second water tower had just been refurbished, but had not come back on line, yet.
Events like these always illuminate something that needs to be addressed and this storm was no exception.
Besides the water being an issue, with the power out throughout the city, the city found out their communications tower didn’t have power, either.
That was addressed quickly, as the council approved the cost of installing a generator for the tower, following the tornado.
Farley used this example to point out that Jay “has a great council and it’s a joy to work with them.”
Additionally, they are working on a grant to cover the purchase and installation of generator for the water plant, so the community will not be without water during the next event.
She went on to name the Jay churches, the football team, youth groups, teachers and all kinds of people stepping up to help wherever they could.
Farley told of a call that went out for a family who needed help as their home was severely damaged by the storm.
Neighbors, many churches, football team and others showed up and moved them and their undamaged stuff to a dry location.
In another instance, since all the stores were closed such as Homeland and Walmart, people couldn’t get water or food.
Volunteers and teachers prepared meals at the elementary school and served anyone who needed meals, others gave out bottled water.
“I’m super thankful for the people of Jay, Jay has so much to offer” as Farley continued to re-direct praise to others.
She said she understands the mayor’s job is really just customer service, something she knows well after 34 years in banking.
When asked about the failed school bond proposal, she was disappointed.
“A school has a direct impact on the growth of a community, as potential businesses want a quality, thriving school” if they are going to locate in a community.
Sometimes people focus on the initial cost of the bond in taxes, but there are other longer term impacts not always looked at.
For instance, the dollars brought in by sports, Farley said “look at sports teams coming to Jay; families can spend an average of $300, so multiply that by the number of families coming into town from 20 teams.”
The contribution to sales tax, sales by retailers, restaurants and motel stays.
As a parent of a Jay Bulldog, she said “they always try to fill up in Jay, but they forget stuff that they need to buy there, if the distance is significant, may have to refill with fuel, and sometimes stay overnight for playoffs.”
For sports, the Jay Bulldogs aren’t able to host any track meets because the facility doesn’t meet state standards, so the track team has no home meets and the bond was going to address that with a new track.
She doesn’t know what next steps the school board will take, “but quality school facilities are important to growth of a community and with that growth, comes increased property values for property owners.”
Farley feels very comfortable in the position of mayor, as “I really knew what the job was.”
She has been around Jay for years, serving in many community organizations and still serves as president of the Chamber of Commerce.
“I feel like God put me in this community for a reason, I really believe it.
I don’t ever want to be boastful, it’s God handling it.”
Hopefully, the next 90 days will be less intense.