An entire nation has been rocked by recent economic woes. But Kennesaw has managed to keep its head fairly high above the waterline. Today, Patch speaks with Councilman Bruce Jenkins about his work with the city.
“We had great leadership,” said Jenkins. “I’m not trying to compliment myself there. I’m saying we had great teamwork.”
He credits Kennesaw’s minimal losses to the hard work and preparation of the council. He said everyone’s experience and dedication helped keep the city afloat.
That’s the Bruce Jenkins of today: councilman, Cobb Municipal Association President, and graduate student. But what's led him to this point?
Jenkins was raised in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. He attended Paige High School, and afterward, the Art Institute of Atlanta. While in college, he worked as a photographer, taking school photos. He graduated in 1982 with an Associate of Arts degree in photography.
After college, Jenkins worked with a firm for over 11 years, where he took school pictures for Cobb, Bartow, Cherokee, Fulton and Dekalb school systems. “That’s where I got a brief understanding of the politics, how that worked," Jenkins said.
Jenkins left his old firm and started his own company, photographing weddings and doing family portraits. He did this for another 12 years.
During his 25 years as a photographer, Jenkins attended classes at and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Art degree in education. After earning his B.A., Jenkins taught at the middle school level for a few years, including at Austin Middle School in Paulding County and Tapp Middle School in Cobb County.
After a few years of teaching, he had a “longing to go back to school.” He began a Master’s program at KSU this past summer, and is working towards a Master’s in Education Leadership. “I’m finishing that up, hopefully, in another year," said Jenkins. “We’ll see where that road takes me.”
Jenkins' wife, Julie, has a Ph. D. in Education Leadership and teaches at . “It’s kind of an encouragement (for me to get my master’s),” Jenkins said with a chuckle. Jenkins also has one son, Jonathan, 15, who is entering this year.
Jenkins is currently serving his second term as a councilman for the city of Kennesaw. He is also the president of the Cobb Municipal Association.
“I’ve enjoyed immensely understanding how government works,” said Jenkins. Concerning his political philosophy, Jenkins says, “My personal beliefs tend to lean more towards a conservative approach. I always have to say I’m more Republican.”
Jenkins said the most important local issue facing Kennesaw at the moment is economic development.
“There are difficulties with any city, with its revenue, and with a shrinking tax digest,” said Jenkins, adding that annexation of property is also difficult because Marietta and Acworth hold the areas around Kennesaw’s currently held property.
“We have great relationships with the county,” said Jenkins. “In years past, I’ve seen a great improvement in the relationship between the city and the county. (The cities) are no longer islands. What we do affects them, and what they do affects us.”
In order to develop Kennesaw’s economy, the council must take steps towards making the area more desirable for prospective business owners, said Jenkins.
“We have to find ways of marketing ourselves in competition with other cities, other counties, other areas,” said Jenkins. He cited various ways this can be done, including business licensing, waiving of certain fees, making pre-constructed buildings available, and the size of the workforce.
Jenkins said he also highly favors current development, including the continued expansion of Jiles Road.
“Transportation and water and land availability—those are your three components for economic development,” he said. “If you have those three, which we do, then we offer a great package to developers, both in residential and commercial.”
Asked which ordinance he would first pass if he were allowed to make a unilateral decision, Jenkins takes a long pause. “When you say one project, you have to think, what’s the best for all parties involved?”
He eventually settles on the construction of a new library for the city, which he said is a sort of “pet project” for him. He said the has not been updated since the 1960s. “I’ve had a vision for a new library for (the Cobb County) system,” said Jenkins. “(Kennesaw’s) library is the fourth busiest in the Cobb County system.”
Jenkins acknowledged that updating the library would mean bringing along all the changes of the 21st century. “We have to understand that it’s no longer going to be just a storehouse for printed materials. We’re going to have to look at something that’s going to be state-of-the-art.”
Jenkins declined to get into specifics about his future political plans. “To hold those offices, I would hesitate to say no, but also say yes,” said Jenkins. “At present, I’m considering options.”
He also said he doesn’t have retirement plans. “I want to wear out, not rust out," said Jenkins. “I’m the type of person who would prefer to keep working until I can’t.”
Jenkins had this final message to members of the community: “I love Kennesaw. I love it as a family community. We have a wonderful city, wonderful people. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.”