GULFPORT — Is a job that places you in the public eye, has you on call 24/7, requires your attendance at countless meetings, and pays but a modest monthly stipend worth it?
Ask Jennifer Salmon who, after nearly four years representing Ward 3 on the Gulfport City Council, has decided she will not seek re-election when her term expires in March 2014.
"I wouldn't trade my time on the council for anything," she said. "I enjoy working on behalf of my constituents and the residents of Gulfport. But after four years I need to spend more time working on my career."
Salmon, 54, holds a doctorate in aging studies and is a principal in Aging Research Group, a local private consulting firm.
In March 2010, Salmon ran unopposed to represent Ward 3 after Bob Worthington decided not to seek re-election. In 2012, she beat challenger James Perry to claim the seat for a second term.
"Sometimes being a member of the council isn't always about dealing with the big issues. Sometimes it's more about working with the city manager to get answers to neighbors' questions about alleys, or the need for speed bumps. A great deal of my time is spent responding to phone calls and emails from residents," she said.
Even as she focuses on the day-to-day concerns in Ward 3, Salmon has never been far from some of Gulfport's bigger, more contentious issues.
Before her election, she publicly opposed the city's proposal to build a mooring field in Boca Ciega Bay. That changed once she was elected.
"When the city dropped the number of mooring spots from 100 to 25 and limited it to sailboats only, I felt it was a more realistic proposal. I had no trouble accepting the change and voted for it," she said.
She has supported a smoking ban on Gulfport's beach and backed the city's domestic partner registry, stronger code enforcement, marina improvements and the cleanup of Clam Bayou — an issue that continues to generate discussion on the council.
"If there was a single issue that would keep me on the council, protecting Clam Bayou is it," she said. "While we still have more work to do to develop a plan of action, I'm confident we're all on the same page to determine the best and safest way to protect that waterway."
A colleague sang her praises.
"I've always found that she injects her views in a professional manner," said Michael Fridovich, who was elected in March to represent Ward 4. He said Salmon is pleasant to work with and that he shares her view that every council member ultimately represents all the residents of Gulfport.
"I was surprised she decided not to run again," he said.
Doris Glass is also surprised and saddened to see Salmon leave. Glass, who has lived in Ward 3 for 34 years and shares a home with her daughter, said Salmon is responsive.
"Everyone here calls Jennifer and she always works to get an answer or a solution," she said. "She's been involved with lots of projects for the betterment of Gulfport. She's very capable, and I hope her replacement has the same level of compassion that she's shown over the years."
As she anticipates leaving the council, Salmon, who lives in the district with her husband and son, thinks the city could use some "tweaking."
"Going forward, we need to look at the changes that are happening here," she said. "If we're going to attract new people, young families who want to live in an 'old-fashioned' town and raise their families, we have to have good schools and parks, and create more owner-occupied housing.
"And I hope we always attract the nontraditional folks."
Diane Craig can be reached at [email protected]