CityOfJackson.net has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of Tennesse. Below you'll find an interview with Wanda Rapp, Web Site Administrator for the City of Jackson.
- CityOfJackson.net is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
CityOfJackson.net is a public service vessel that strives to offer as much information to our citizens as possible. As the Web Site Administrator for the City of Jackson, I developed the current design and manage the site. I depend on and work daily with each and every department to ensure current data and important announcements are available to our public. The pictures displayed on the site are my own, taken on locations in Jackson to display the beautiful landscapes and scenes of Jackson and it's surroundings. We are proud of our City and want to offer the very best of services to our citizens and businesses.
- Can you summarize the history of Jackson’s web portal?
This site was originally created and designed by an outside source in 2000 and updated by City of Jackson's Web Site Administrator. The site was completely reconstructed and a brand new design was released in spring of 2007 using all new photos of our City. The intent was to have a clear and simple design that is not only pleasing to the eye but allow easy navigation throughout the site. Our primary goal is to welcome visitors and hope they find the information they are searching for on our site. The photo on the main page is changed frequently throughout the year to reflect the seasons and holidays. Our viewers have a springtime favorite, a sunrise favorite and a Christmas favorite used each year.
- What are the overarching objectives of Jackson’s current e-government initiatives?
Our overarching objectives are to provide Jackson's citizens and businesses with the most current information as possible. It is our service, duty and privilege to direct all residents and visitors to any and all available resources of Jackson while also attending to the ever present economy and budgets of our departments in utilizing many methods. Today's technology and service implementation can reduce or eliminate paper-based processes in many areas and we have strived as a multi-tasked city to address as much as possible to become more efficient and cost effective.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by CityOfJackson.net, both on- and off-line?
We have made public announcements through our local media, but we've found our best marketing isn't a strategy at all but has been 'word of mouth' by our citizens and businesses that use the site on a regular basic and depend on the data and services provided. Being a relatively 'small' city, Jackson is a pretty tight community and our neighborhoods interact with each other for annual events throughout the year. Word travels fast in Jackson, good or bad and we act quickly on both.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Jackson’s e-government services?
Citizen feedback is one of our driving forces that influence the development and information on Jackson's site. We often have had citizen's suggest we make certain data available for them to find on a regular basis. We take each request and suggestion seriously and make a point to explore the possibilities of making it happen. I personally enjoy the challenging opportunities it can provide to be able to expand our web site and additional services and information. It's rewarding to be able to assist citizens and improve communication.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
The most widely used services would be paying property taxes, traffic tickets and garbage collections on-line. The city council meetings gets a lot of traffic, but our Financial page with Budgets, Statements and Policies ranks higher along with our Police Department with Daily Arrest Reports and "City Watch"/Crime Stoppers. We also provide Surplus Auctions, City Ordinances, Neighborhood Crime Reports and Public Service Schedules as quick links on our main page.
- How does making city council meeting agendas and minutes available online give citizens greater access to government information?
City council meeting agendas are available online so our citizens can read what issues are going to be raised during the meetings so they have an opportunity to attend meetings that they feel will concern them. The minutes from each meeting are available also. As an additional service, we provide city council meetings through a live on-line streaming with a local TV station at the time of the meetings. These meetings are recorded and available as an audio recording from the site for our citizens to listen to at their convenience. This assists in keeping the public abreast on all issues and decisions made by the council.
- How have you tried to make it as easy as possible for citizens to find exactly the information they are looking for on your website? How have you collaborated with other city departments on this information?
I've tried to make navigation as easy as possible mostly by using pop-up menus as an index of our departments and services. Another attention getter has been a "Notice Board" that rotates information and notices with links embedded for the users to jump to another area or site for additional information. Then there is the visible quick links on the main page.
Collaboration with other city departments has been an essential part of the design and development. I depend greatly on the departments to convey what is needed and hoped for not only from their perspective but the citizens they interact with on a daily basis. Once I understand what is desired, I attempt to provide the best possible solution for the departments and the citizens of Jackson. Without a joint collaboration, I could not provide a unified stance in representing the City of Jackson.
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Jackson’s web portal?
I see the next 2-3 years bringing Jackson's web portal improvements and expansion with more applications and on-line features to assist not only the average citizen or businesses, but our departments and staff as well. Today's technology offers so many opportunities to grant requests at the touch of a button and instant results that it is truly a shame to not take advantage of it and provide the most effective portal available. As mobile devices and social sites have become daily tools to communicate there are many avenues to explore and implement in the near future.
- Is there anything else you would like to tell us about CityOfJackson.net?
The City of Jackson wants to serve and inform the citizens and visitors as best and efficiently as we possibly can and we continue to look at development and improvement for ways to do this, while keeping in mind that all this wonderful new technology and devices are not utilized by a good deal of our citizens. We strive to keep in mind that the more flash and pizzaz added to our site, can and does alienate some of our valued citizens if we are not careful. Thus we greatly depend on the feedback of our community and decide accordingly and hope to constantly provide a balance first and foremost.