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Jonesboro's New COO, JETS Director Announced

Johnathan Reaves, KASU News

The City of Jonesboro has a new Chief Operations Officer and a new JETS director.  Retired United States Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Tanner has been named as the city’s new Chief Operations Officer. Tanner replaces L. M. Duncan, who has retired.  

Also, former Jonesboro transportation supervisor Michael Black is now the new director of the Jonesboro Economical Transit System.  Black replaces Steve Ewart, who has retired.  Both men attended a press conference and were asked about their priorities, as well as challenges associated with their respective jobs.

First, a little about Edward Tanner.  He and his family have lived in Jonesboro for nine years.  He was a commissioned officer for 21 years and was a special ops and combat rescue pilot in multiple combat deployments.  The 53-year-old says he has one year of experience in working in the private sector, but he says that working on base operations are very similar to in a city.  He will start August first, and said he has been meeting with Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, as well as department heads, about the job:

“Mayor Perrin and I have spent the last few days together talking about some of the business of the city and I have been sharing with him how I would like to carry out my duties in my new role.”

Tanner was asked about what infrastructure experience he has.

“I grew up in the Air Force system and my experience comes from what I saw happening in the infrastructure system on base,” said Tanner.  “I helped build a brand new unit from scratch and I understand about deadlines, budgets, communication, and other processes that are important.”

He tells what his first priority is.

“I want to get to know the people, so I am meeting with workers and department heads.”

The new head of the Jonesboro Economic Transit System is 53-year-old Michael Black.  Black has worked for the city of Jonesboro for nine years, with the last four years serving as the transportation supervisor for JETS.  Black worked with former director Steve Ewart, as they both oversaw huge growth in the public transit service in Jonesboro.  Black tells what the main challenges will be for JETS.

“One of the challenges will be funding,” said Black.  “I will be looking at new revenue streams, such as putting advertising on city buses.  I will also be looking at other transit systems that are similar to ours and seeing how their operations work.”

He says a new bus route will be needed in the very near future and could be put in place as early as next year.  He says the city is right now trying to meet the needs of all residents that use JETS, as well as trying to stay on time. 

“We are close to capacity right now because of the number of citizens that we pick up at each look,” said Black.”  We will be looking at another route, yes.”

Black says two new buses should be coming by the end of this year and two more buses should be in Jonesboro next year.  He says there are 5 full time drivers and 14 part time drivers working for JETS.  He says he is thankful that turnover rates are low, but they are always looking for drivers.

“The turnover is very minimal.  Once I get a driver, they usually stay with us.  It just never hurts to get more drivers in the system to help us out.”

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin also spoke, saying that Jonesboro is expected to receive a lot of highway money for infrastructure needs.  He says Jonesboro will need to provide about $8.5 million dollars for its share of Statewide Transportation Improvement Money that will come to the city.

“That dollar amount should be between $70 and $80 million dollars from now through 2020.”

Perrin says a lot of the money will help in building projects that were rejected by voters in November.

“We had the election and the voters rejected the sales tax for infrastructure improvements. Thank goodness there will be money in this round of funding to complete those projects.”

He says work currently continues on one of the big projects, which is building a railroad overpass at the corner of Nettleton Avenue and Highland Drive in Jonesboro.