Stephanie Jackson was born and raised in Little Rock, attended Little Rock public schools, and received her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Arkansas at LIttle Rock. An experienced journalist and public relations professional, Jackson has worked in a number of communications roles across the city, including former executive producer at KARK and currently, director of public and media relations at The Design Group, a multicultural communications company started in 2007 by her husband Myron Jackson.
Today, much of her energy is put towards her newest part-time role, communications director and spokesman for the Office of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., which she stepped into in 2019. This role is layered on top of her position at The Design Group.
A day in the life of Jackson is, in her words, “fun, never dull, and quite busy.”
“I spend a lot of time on the phone, I spend a lot of time talking to various people throughout the day, a lot of planning and then I jokingly tell people — although it’s probably pretty true — I do my best thinking at 2 in the morning, [when] I am finally not on the phone with somebody,” Jackson said. “While I am not employed by the city as a full-time staff member, it does take up a considerable amount of time, but it’s important to do the work, because, as a public servant, the mayor is making decisions that affect real peoples lives everyday.”
In a short history of the mayor’s office, Jackson said that in the past, the position of the mayor’s office was barely more than ceremonial. However, due to a restructuring of city government based on a 2007 ordinance that Scott implemented in January, the staffing structure of the mayor’s office required some reassessment because of the more active and influential nature of the mayor role. Since the 2007 change, the mayor now directly oversees six city departments: finance, fire, human resources, planning and development, police, and public works.
Scott’s campaign, which Jackson also worked on, included a lot of communication to let Little Rock residents know he would be responsible for job creation, city growth and progress, among other things. He took a more policy-making and hands-on approach to his involvement in city government. This means more communication between the mayor and city residents and ultimately, more hands on deck to facilitate that exchange of information. That’s where Jackson comes in today.
“He is called upon so much more than someone who may have been mayor in the past, not to say those mayors weren’t busy, and I don’t want to imply that.” Jackson said. “With that, comes a set of responsibilities that maybe, in the past, hadn’t been there, so it definitely increased the amount of calls that comes to a mayor, increased the amount of questions from the media, and increased the amount of requests that we get from people to have him speak to and provide important information to neighborhood association groups, business professional groups and others.”
With the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as the recent 2021 snowstorm both taking place shortly after Scott was elected mayor in December 2018, the need for constant communication has increased dramatically, with the level of communication around the virus jumping up by at least 60 percent.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2021, but this has taught me that we need to be prepared for it,” Jackson said.
Jackson and Scott share the belief of always being prepared, as well as many other beliefs that help them work well together and stay in lock step as a team. After making the connection that they both spent time as Tigers at the University of Memphis, they maintained a bond that ultimately evolved into the partnership they work in today.
“When it was time for him to get ready to run, he knew that he wanted [Myron and I] to be a part of that experience with him and we wanted to as well, having developed that friendship over the years,” Jackson said. “It was important that we helped, because we believed in what he wanted to accomplish for the city of Little Rock.”
Most already know that Little Rock made history with Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s election as the City’s 73rd mayor and first elected Black chief executive. Since then, he has worked to expand the economy and improve Little Rock’s quality of life, but also to unite its diverse neighborhoods into one city and one people – a mission of unity shared passionately by Jackson as well, both as Scott’s spokesperson and at The Design Group.
If there’s one word that drives everything she does, it’s intentionality — using her seat at the table as a megaphone for the drowned out voices of her city.
“I’m a Black woman, clearly, and I understand what it feels like to be viewed as unimportant because of my gender and ethnicity,” Jackson said. “If I’m at the table, I’m bringing all of the women who’ve impacted me but weren’t allowed their own voice in matters that affect their lives.”
Jackson’s knowledge, experience, empathy and passion make up the driving force behind taking important phone calls all day just to still be up at 2 a.m. thinking about the next big moves for Little Rock and all the residents that depend on its public servants, businesses and policies to unite it.
“Along every step in the process of creating, curating and communicating content, it’s extremely important to consider how I am engaging a diverse group of thought leaders, how I’m listening to those whose stories are important to hear (and may have been overlooked in the past) and how what I write and verbally state will impact those in our community who historically haven’t had a voice.”