Kimberly Jackson has one of the best jobs in Tampa Bay, but what makes its great also makes it difficult. As Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, she's tasked to drive thought leadership, education and awareness around an almost endless pool of topics. The topics can range from the obscure to the controversial, and from event to event, they may have nothing to do with each other. Thus in programming ISPS, it takes just the right mind to go wide, while also going deep, while also tying it all together in a cohesive brand. In her first few years on the job, she's doing exactly that.
Years in St. Pete
Since 1997. So, long time now.
Organizations involved in
Personally, I’m involved in the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Links, Jack & Jill Incorporated, the sorority Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. I sit on the boards of the Arts Alliance. I sit on the Arts Advisory Board, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Academy Prep, YMCA and COPAA for those of disabilities.
What gets you out of bed every day?
My daughter. I have two daughters, but I shouldn’t say one, because the older one always tags me for this. But my younger daughter altered my existence. She has Asparagus Syndrome or AST moderate. Watching and shepherding her as she has had to evolve in the community, and learn her space has changed me in ways that I would have never have known.
Why St. Pete?
My husband is from here. I didn’t have a choice. We are college sweethearts. We went to Spelman and Morehouse together in Atlanta, Georgia. He went to Howard and I went to Hopkins. I’m originally from the Chicagoland area, a small area called Crete. He could not take the winter. He is raised here, and he tricked me in saying we would be here for three to five months. Three to five months has turned into – do the math – over 25 years.
What is one habit that you keep?
I travel a lot. That’s one habit. I actually have two, and I read a lot. Those are my two main habits.
Who are some people that influence you?
Definitely, my grandfather. My grandfather was an educated minister from Alabama. He left the South during the great migration with little to nothing and my grandmother. Together they raised four incredible women who I all see as my icons during a period where what they achieved really wouldn’t have been possible. In terms of – I don’t know if you call them people in the community, I like people who are grounded and committed to what they do. Watson Haynes is one of my favorites. He’s committed to a lifetime of hard work and rooted in this community. In terms of national people, I really do love Toni Morrison for not just her work, but also for her life story and what she did for women, and particularly women of color.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Give people the room to fall. And let them know that grace is extended daily to everyone. We’re not who we are yesterday, and certainly not tomorrow. I don’t like to hold people accountable to one thing in their life. Give them the space to grow.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
COVID, I guess. I accepted this position transitioning from the local science chair at the college. Having a month ahead of time, maybe two before COVID hit. And having to transition into the technical world to show everything virtually was quite a challenge. It’s been a good challenge for us. I think it’s helped us grow, but it would have helped me prepare more in terms of navigating advertising and getting our messages across and practicing for Zooms, all of that.
Personally, my daughter is graduating from college, my same alma mater. We’re excited to see where she lands. My husband and I – now that we have a daughter that is grownish – hope to do a lot more traveling in our spare time in helping our younger daughter reach her dreams of wherever that might take her. I think COVID has taught a lot of us to appreciate life a little more. So, to slow down in my personal space. Professionally, continue to build ISPS. My goal and the mission when I received it and having had read most of Congressman Bill Young’s notes, the [4:18] I could locate them, talked about something I firmly believed in, which is non-partisan discussion. And making sure the discussion broadens. I want to carry that mission as he wanted to do across the state, region and nationally. So, just keep putting our name out and having good conversations that make people think about life and how we contribute to it as a community