By Kevin Collison
If the residents of greater downtown could elect their own mayor, Jared Campbell would likely be a top candidate.
Campbell moved to Quality Hill in 2002 after graduating from William Jewell College, met his future wife in the elevator of their apartment building, helped start the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and has been DNA president for five years.
And along the way, the 41 year-old ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2015 and 2019.
So when the Downtown Council, an organization of business and property owners, decided it was time to connect better with the growing residential population, they hired Campbell to be its full-time liaison.
“Jared is the right guy,” said Sean O’Byrne, Downtown Council vice president. “He ‘s in tune with all the neighborhoods and is well respected.”
Campbell said downtown was deserted when he arrived almost 20 years ago. So desolate, there were haunted houses in the central business district, block after block pockmarked with parking lots and dozens of vacant office buildings.
“I remember what downtown looked like before the Power & Light District and Sprint Center,” he said. “I’m obviously thrilled to see the changes that have taken place.”
Campbell and his wife now live in a condo they bought 14 years ago in one of the restored historic buildings in the Library District.
His new title with the Downtown Council is resident engagement project manager. The job calls for him to actively solicit input from residents and represent their interests.
“If a building is having an issue or a resident is having an issue, I can be the go-to person,” Campbell said.
He also will be encouraging residents to become more involved with what’s happening in their downtown.
“A lot of what I see this position working on are quality of life issues,” he said.
One of the bigger challenges currently is the jump in the downtown homeless population since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. People are living in makeshift camps along the highways and in parks.
“Sean and I and the community improvement district (CID) staff are working on how the homeless issue is affecting residents,” he said. “Anything from their safety to feeling more comfortable in their downtown community.
“At the end of the day, I want people to feel downtown is truly a residential neighborhood, and help to get people out of their buildings and engaged in their community.”
Part of that engagement is to make residents more aware of activities and events so they can patronize them. It also calls for alerting them to projects and proposals at City Hall that will affect them.
“At some public meetings, there are more consultants than residents in attendance,” Campbell said.
He plans to help the Downtown Council revive its annual resident survey to determine what amenities, retail options and recreational opportunities they want. The last one was done in 2013.
So after living in downtown for 18 years, what would Campbell most like to see happen there to improve the quality of life?
“A world-class, signature park,” he said.
“I’m seeing great examples of cool, green spaces in urban environments from around the world. That would be so awesome to have an amazing green space downtown.
“A City Target would be my number two.”
O’Byrne said the Downtown Council established the new position as part of its effort to encourage more people to live downtown.
“The growth of our residential base is paramount,” he said.
“We’ve topped 30,000 people. We want to make sure that we’re taking care of the requests and the initiatives that residents want.”
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