I Am Jackson: James Ross

What is your hometown and how did you end up in the Jackson area?

I was raised in Henderson and attended Chester County Schools. I lived two miles outside of Jacks Creek — home of the best BBQ. After high school, I attended Jackson State Community College, where I received my AEMT and AAS degree. In 1982, I enrolled at Union University, earning my Associate and Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees, and I moved to Jackson. If you can imagine the country boy going to the big city, that was me.

What is your profession?

As a boy, my father suggested I go into electrical engineering, but I had a different passion. As a Boy Scout, I developed a love for first aid and emergency preparedness. I worked with Chester County EMS before enrolling in the nursing program at Union. I paid my way through college by riding in ambulances and I loved it. Upon graduating with my nursing degree, I started work in the Surgical IC at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. I loved the process and flow of the nursing world. I became a Clinical Coordinator, allowing me to work daily in staffing floors, responding to CPRs, assisting with special procedures and dealing with whatever situations came up that were out of the ordinary. This role led me to other supervisory and management roles in the organization. I recognized the need to further my education and with the assistance of Jim Moss, past President and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare, I enrolled in the Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration program at the University of Alabama Birmingham – the same school he attended for his Masters. In 2000, I was selected to be a Vice President of Hospital Services. Then in 2009, I was selected to become Chief Operating Officer. In 2016, I was named interim President and CEO, which led to President and CEO full-time in 2017.

Where have you volunteered or contributed your time in efforts to give back?

Giving back to the community is something that I have worked hard at. You read the Bible verse, Luke 12:48, “to whom much is given, much is demanded; and to whom much is entrusted, much more will be asked.” Through the years, I have participated and chaired several community boards. I am currently chair of the West Tennessee Council for Boy Scouts of America.

What are some of your favorite things about Jackson?

I love, love, love Jackson. Culture, relationships, support, and a theme of love and respect for all people. I can say we have it all for anyone, in varying degrees, but the revitalization of downtown has been a huge positive movement for the community. It has continued to enhance the melting pot feel of the community for which Jackson is known. We have a bright future ahead and a great community of involved citizens to get us there.

Three words that best describe you.

Tall, dark, and handsome or maybe I should say, perseverance, endurance and believer.

What is one thing that you do not go a day without?
Spending time with people.

Finish this statement, I AM JACKSON because…

This is where I met my wife, and it is where we raised our family, worship, made a lot of true friends, have become part of this community and strive to meet the needs and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with every day. Jackson is a community that has embraced and supported my family and me.

This article is from VIP Magazine, a premier publication for events and local coverage throughout Jackson and West Tennessee. https://www.vipjackson.com/feed/2023/ii-am-jackson-james-ross

I Am Jackson: Cassidy Spencer

What is your hometown? 

I was born in California, but Milan, TN, is the place I consider my hometown. I arrived in Jackson in 2012 to join Union University’s volleyball team. After graduation, I found a job in Jackson and was amazed by the city’s numerous offerings. Over the last decade, I have grown to love Jackson even more and now consider it my home.

What is your profession?

I work in the non-profit marketing, development, and event world. Currently, I serve as the Director of Annual Campaign and Special Events for the YMCA of Memphis and the MidSouth. As Junior Class President, I discovered my passion for planning and decorating events, particularly prom. Witnessing the magic of memories being created inspired me to pursue event planning. During my college years, I cultivated a love for philanthropy while mentoring girls at Andrew Jackson Elementary. The experiences I shared with them ignited my desire to make a meaningful impact in the world.

Where have you volunteered or contributed your time in efforts to give back? 

For years, I served on the steering committee for Black Tie & Boxing where I channeled my love of events and marketing into raising funds and awareness for Type One Diabetes. My exposure to volunteer opportunities increased through my involvement in the Jackson Rotary Club, Leadership Jackson, and the Miss America organization. I’ve been fortunate to give back through my personal passions for mentoring, mental health advocacy, and initiatives like Children’s Miracle Network, RIFA, Hub Club, Salvation Army, Jackson Theatre Guild, Out of the Darkness Walk, and others. I live by a simple philosophy: change a life, change a community, change the world. That’s what I strive for and what I hope will be my legacy. 

What are some of your favorite things about Jackson? 

Jackson offers the best of both worlds – the charm and warmth of a small-town community combined with the liveliness and talent of a big city. Whether you’re in the mood for mouth-watering local cuisine, live music, or cause-driven events, there’s always something to do in Jackson. If you’re bored here, you’re not looking hard enough! As a downtowner, I’m excited about the revitalization taking place in this historic part of the city. But what really sets Jackson apart is the incredible support it offers to nonprofits and organizations that are making a real difference. This city truly rallies behind those who strive to create positive change.

Three words that best describe you. 

Passionate. Inventive. Goofball. 

Favorite place for dining and for entertainment? 

I’m a self-professed foodie… so this one is complicated. Best pizza – Rock’N Dough, Best Apps – Blacksmith, Best Street Tacos – Takos Borukas, Best Fajitas – Coyote Blues, Best Rice Bowls – Tulum… and the list goes on!
As for my favorite spot for entertainment, it has to be Hub City Brewing. This unique venue has so much character, amazing event lineups, and a welcoming atmosphere that’s hard to resist. In fact, my husband and I loved it so much that we even held our wedding reception there! Plus, it’s within walking distance.

What is one thing that you do not go a day without?

Coffee and puppy kisses… I love my fur babies, Swanson and Sugar Ray. 

Finish this statement, I AM JACKSON because… 

This place, these people have embraced me at my best and my worst. I am Jackson because I believe in all this town has to offer and desire to help others to find their place in our city.

This article is from VIP Magazine, a premier publication for events and local coverage throughout Jackson and West Tennessee. https://www.vipjackson.com/feed/2023/i-am-jackson-cassidy-spencer

I Am Jackson: Brad Little

Where are you from and where else have you lived? 

I was born and raised in Jackson. Generationally speaking, my entire family is from Jackson. My grandmother was Cousin Tuny, who left a huge Jackson legacy. I did live in Chattanooga for about two hours in 1995, but that is a story for another day. Those who know me know that story well. My friends whose children are heading to college often say to them, “Don’t you dare pull a Brad Little!”

What is your profession and what led you to choose it?

My degree is in both education and mathematics. I taught Algebra II and Geometry at North Side High School for three school years. In 1999, my father, Steve Little, called me and asked if I had any interest in joining him in the investment business through Voya Financial. His niche at the time was the group retirement plan business. I shadowed him and worked part-time after school. Shortly thereafter, I became licensed as a financial advisor. Steve and I worked to expand the team and the volume of group retirement plans and eventually transformed the business to be full wealth management with an emphasis on retirement savings and income planning.

Where do you like to give back?

Giving back to this community that raised me is incredibly important. Over the years, I have served on various boards and committees from church and the Red Cross to the Jackson Arts Council. Currently, I serve as co-chair for the Hospice Home committee for West Tennessee Healthcare. Through our business, we give back to the clients we serve through sponsorships to support the arts, healthcare initiatives, and more.

What are some of your favorite things about Jackson?  

Jackson is a big city but still a small town. I am fortunate to have many friends in Jackson, and that fact provides me with comfort and a strong sense of community, love, and support. Jackson is an eclectic place where history, music and arts, education, healthcare, and innovation all converge. There is something for everyone, and if it cannot be found, our unique position on I-40 provides quick access to sister cities, Memphis and Nashville. The future of Jackson and West Tennessee is very bright on all fronts.

Three words that best describe you. 

I decided to pick four words! The thesaurus gave me too many choices: Compassionate. Loyal. Optimistic. Engaged.

What do you do in your spare time?

Reading or exercise should be my answers. Honestly, practicing and performing with my a cappella group, The Jukes, provides a needed outlet and keeps me involved with my passion for music. Kevin, Allison, Jennifer, Charlie, and I have been singing together since 1995 with our Southern take on all styles a cappella. 

What is one thing that you do not go a day without?

I wish I had a true and unique answer to this question. I could reply with coffee or the like, but that would be everyone’s answer. Therefore, I will say that on a daily basis, I do not go without ensuring that both my staff and my children are safe and cared for.

Finish this statement, I AM JACKSON because… 

I was born here, raised here, and am provided for here. I have been immersed in the fabric of this community and am in a unique position to have my finger on the pulse of our city’s heartbeat simply by listening, participating, and serving. I have a vested interest in seeing Jackson thrive, not only for my fellow Jacksonians, but for my employees, my friends, and my children.

This article is from VIP Magazine, a premier publication for events and local coverage throughout Jackson and West Tennessee. https://www.vipjackson.com/feed/2023/ii-am-jackson-brad-little

I Am Jackson: Avery Williamson

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Milan, and I moved back to West Tennessee this past June.

What brought you back?

I grew up farming, so to be able to return to that. And opportunities to do things in West Tennessee and to give back and be an influence in the community. 

Where else have you lived? 

I was in Miami right before coming here.
 My NFL career allowed me to live in Nashville, New Jersey, Pittsburg, and Miami. I went to college in Lexington, Kentucky.

What is your profession? 

I’m not just going to put myself in one box. I want to say Entrepreneur – I’m doing multiple things. For me, it’s the desire to be great and to be great at something other than football. You kind of get put in a box as an athlete, and I’m really motivated to be great at something else and prove to myself and to others that I can do it. 

Where have you volunteered and given back? 

Right now my main thing is volunteering at Jackson Christian. I’m there for three days a week, two practices and one game, I’m there coaching the middle linebackers. 

(Editor’s note: Avery was humble, but I think it is really inspiring that he volunteers his time completely for free. He didn’t accept payment for coaching, but wanted to give back and be a mentor for these young athletes.) 

What are some of your favorite things about Jackson? 

Good food, great people. People here are willing to grow and there is a lot of opportunity right now. There’s a lot of motion, and I think that’s why God called me to be here.

Three words that best describe you. 

Caring, Hardworking, and God-Fearing

Favorite place for going out? 

The Jamaican spot is so good. Jamaican & African Cuisine on Vann Drive. (Note from Chelsea – when I met with Avery, he had picked up a to-go from there and convinced me I need to go try it! I’m going this weekend. It looked so good!)
We haven’t been back for too long yet, so we have so much to explore still. Right now, my son’s favorite thing is riding around at home on the RZR. So that’s what I want to do more of, ride around on that at home with him. 

What is one thing that you do not go a day without?  

Breakfast. If I miss it, I will be okay, but it throws my day off. I gotta eat.

Finish this statement, I AM JACKSON because…

I am innovative. And so is Jackson.

This article is from VIP Magazine, a premier publication for events and local coverage throughout Jackson and West Tennessee. https://www.vipjackson.com/feed/2023/ii-am-jackson-avery-williamson

I am Jackson – Frank McMeen

How did you end up in the Jackson area? 

Columbia, Tennessee, is my hometown. I worked for Freed-Hardeman University twice. The first time I lived in Henderson, but the latter time I lived in Jackson. While Henderson was a good experience, I felt drawn to Jackson, and it was a good fit. While Jackson is not my hometown, it is where I have chosen to make my home. I have lived in cities in all three grand divisions of Tennessee, and Jackson has become my favorite. While I could have chosen to live and work in any of the cool places in Tennessee, I chose to be a part of Midtown and Downtown Jackson.

What is your profession?

In a sense, my life has been one entirely of fundraising and nonprofit management … out of necessity. As a campus minister, I went to work in Cleveland learning there was no money. I began asking people and churches for funds. It worked! Working with Columbia Academy, the fundraising work became more deliberate, but when I returned to work in Development at FHU, I learned that fundraising was truly a learned profession. Having that understanding of fundraising and nonprofit work has served me well as President of the Community Foundation for 25 years.

Share about your volunteer spirit 

Serving on local boards has been a great way to get to know the people of Jackson. I currently serve on the Tennessee Dental Association Foundation board and was President of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities board.

I am renovating my thirteenth house in an effort to save some of our more neglected, larger homes in Midtown and Downtown from becoming empty, vacant lots. Each had a rich history but had been neglected. 

What are some of your favorite things about Jackson? 

Jackson is a very diverse and welcoming city, which makes it a very healthy city. You begin to see the heart of our Jackson is diverse and welcoming, which makes it a healthy city. You see the heart of our community when you see the number of local nonprofits doing so much good. This city believes in supporting good causes.

Also, Jackson is a city of music. There must be something in the water. It is amazing to see so much musical talent. We even have a music museum featuring our musical heritage.

Three words that best describe you. 

Caring. Happy. Kind.

What is the last thing you Googled?

How to spell “hors d’oeuvres.”

Favorite place for going out?

My favorite restaurants are Downtown — Blacksmith and Jackson’s Kitchen and Catering. The AMP is THE place to be on a summer Friday night! But nothing is more fun than a house party with friends.

Midtown is known for backyard gatherings. Walking down Northwood one evening, someone came out to talk, holding a glass of wine. Next, 8 people had joined us, each also holding a glass. 

What is one thing that you do not go a day without?

Diet Coke, chocolate milk, or ice cream. I think I need to go into some kind of treatment program.

Finish this statement, I AM JACKSON because… 

I like diverse people – usually, they like me too. Jackson is about to become even more diverse with major industry coming. While some may not be accepting of diversity, they are in the minority. Diversity is part of our country’s makeup. It makes our neighborhoods, places of worship, and schools better when we are accepting of newcomers. Jackson has shown that love to outsiders, even me, when I was that new person.

This article is from VIP Magazine, a premier publication for events and local coverage throughout Jackson and West Tennessee. https://www.vipjackson.com/feed/2020/8/14/viprofile-frank-mcmeen