Kenneth Jackson: Not your stereotypical Republican
He's African American. He's gay. He lives in Section 8 housing. So why is Kenneth Jackson running for City Council as a Republican?
Jackson doesn't put too much stock in political parties, but his attraction to local Republicans is simple: "They welcomed me," he says. What's more, "They have more of a grip on things. They really understand what's going on and what people need. I don't get that from other councilors."
Jackson thinks he has a better understanding of the working class than do the Dems on council. "If someone doesn't look like a voter, they don't want to deal with them," he says.
When Jackson lived on Ridge Street, he was Mayor Maurice Cox's neighbor, but he worked to elect Republican Rob Schilling.
As the city's first openly gay Republican candidate for council, Jackson says he's experienced some disapproval of his lifestyle– "not that I have a lifestyle. It's the same as other people, trying to get ahead and take care of my family."
And family is the priority for Jackson. He beams when he mentions his 15-year-old daughter, Laquanda, a ninth grader at Charlottesville High, but at the same time, he's not too indulgent. "I don't tolerate C's," he says firmly.
He calls his partner, Anthony, his best friend. "He balances me out," says the candidate.
The sofa table in his house is covered with photographs of family members. While he was born in Charlottesville, his family hails from North Garden.
"There's my mom," he says, and he quotes a nugget of wisdom he learned from her: "It takes a hell of a lot of 'attaboys' to make up for one 'holy shit'."
Jackson is a cook at Ludwig's Schnitzelhouse. He worked for 16 years as manager at Burger King, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Wendy's, and he expects to put those management and people skills to work on City Council.
Jackson has no problem defying stereotypes based on race, sexual preference, or political party. "Not all Republicans are rich and sitting up on the fat hill," he so aptly points out.
What brought you here? Charlottesville born and raised, and I have never found any other place I'd rather call home.
What's worst about living here? The lack of voice and acceptance of younger people
Favorite hangout? Next to my home, my job at Ludwig's is the most relaxing and comfortable place, where everyone's like family.
Most overrated virtue? Perfection, for no matter how hard we strive, I've found that we are all imperfect.
What would people be surprised to know about you? That despite my hard outward appearance and attitude, I am deeply caring, concerned, and old-fashioned in my ways.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Nothing. My faults and good points are what make me who and what I am. My faults and mistakes are what I learn from and improve upon, and my good points are the things I strive to make better.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? The fact that I can be a positive and constructive model of what can be accomplished, no matter what one's age, or social or economic status.
What do people find most annoying about you? My passionate persistence and never-quit attitude when it comes to what I believe in.
Whom do you admire? My educators, who instilled in me the belief that I can accomplish whatever I want, with hard work, self-determination, and open-mindedness.
Favorite book? Robert Frost's Fire and Ice, A Collection of Poems
What subject causes you to rant? When simple common sense falls victim to quick thinking rather than rational study.
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? The flush of technology that has bombarded our society.
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Society and its social and moral decline. In short, the lack of common courtesy and respect for one another.
What do you drive? 1988 Oldsmobile
What's in your car tape player right now? Nothing. I listen to 92.7 [WUVA-FM "Kiss"].
What's your next journey? Drive around the city
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Up until 13 years ago, my temper got me in lots of trouble, but I attribute that to being young and restless.
What do you regret? I have no regrets. My mistakes were errors that I use as learning experiences, and my accomplishments are what I use as positive points in which to grow.
Favorite comfort food? I love chocolate, semi-sweet if handy.
What's always in your refrigerator? Bread and water, so we never forget what is promised to us.
Must-see TV? Law & Order and CSI
Favorite cartoon? Family Guy
Describe a perfect day. Having my morning coffee and review time with my daughter before taking her to school, coming back home and straightening the house, running around paying bills, and going to work, which hopefully is busy, and coming home to unwind with my family.
Walter Mitty fantasy? I have no fantasies, only hopes that one day people of all races, colors, nationalities, and creeds will learn to get along in peace and harmony.
Who'd play you in the movie? Cuba Gooding Jr. Funny, yet sincere; serious, yet laid back.
Most embarrassing moment? I'd like to think that I have not yet experienced every moment there is, so this is hard to say.
Best advice you ever got? "Life is a mystery to be lived, and not a problem to be solved."
Favorite bumper sticker? Real men don't use violence
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO