To Jerry Flowers, serving as the mayor of Winona has been one of the greatest honors of his life.
“Outside of my wife and family and the good Lord above, serving the people of Winona as their mayor has been the greatest honor of my life,” Flowers said.
Currently, Flowers is seeking his fifth term as mayor of Winona, and his focus for the future of his native city remains steadfast – to make Winona a better place to live.
In recent months, big things have happened for Winona, something Flowers attributes to good leadership all around.
In January, the dedication of local leaders to bring economic development to the county has been rewarded with the announcement of a $143 million Biewer Lumber development, expected to bring at least 150 new jobs to the county.
“Through the years, the city and county have worked together well,” Flowers said. “In a small community, the city and county have to work together. The Biewer development is a fine example of the city, county, county’s economic development partnership, state, and federal agencies working together for a common goal.”
Through long-term planning, Flowers and the Winona Board of Aldermen worked to improve the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, a very costly endeavor, without putting an added tax burden on property owners. Last month, the city was awarded $3 million in grant funds to expand and improve the city’s water system and complete the rehabilitation of the city’s sewer system – the largest amount of funding received by the city for a single project.
The project includes the construction of a new elevated water tank at the Winona Recreational Park, digging a new water well, rehabbing the city’s water treatment plant, and rehabbing phase two and three of the city’s sewer lines. Phase one was completed in 2018 thanks to a $346,000 Community Development Block Grant. The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.8 million.
According to Flowers, after acquiring a Capital Improvements Revolving Loan (CAP) to match the Appalachian Regional Authority’s grant of $394,600, the city will be responsible for the remaining $1.5 million for the project. With three long-term notes being retired by 2023, the city will be able to use budgeted funds, initially used to pay the notes on the retired debt, to pay for its portion of the project.
“We had to retire debt before this could become a reality,” Flowers said. “We did that so we would not have to raise taxes to pay for the project – a project that will greatly improve the city’s water and sewer service to its citizens.”
Just this week, the board voted to purchase equipment for the street and water department so it can begin a citywide paving project.
“We are buying the proper equipment, and we are about to begin a massive paving project, which will include streets in all parts of the City of Winona,” Flowers said. “We will begin as soon as the weather permits and the asphalt companies re-open.”
The paving project was accelerated by a $500,000 appropriation from the state’s BP settlement money. The project includes paving a large portion of Montgomery Street, from College Street to Lamar Street, as well as all or a portion of eight streets in the city – Shirley Avenue, Turner Street, Oak Drive, Lamar Street (the west side from Speedway), Sterling Avenue (north of the railroad track), and a portion of Scotland Road.
Flowers credited Representative Karl Oliver (R-Winona) for the Montgomery Street paving project as well as last year’s $300,000 paving of Powell Street, and several auxiliary streets.
Since 2007 when Flowers was elected Winona’s mayor, the city has been awarded more than $7.5 million to fund infrastructure and community improvements, funds that allowed the city to make improvements without raising taxes.
Flowers, an accountant by trade and a local business owner for three decades, said he has always been a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars.
“The city’s finances are in good shape,” Flowers said. “I use the same conservative philosophy with the city’s finances as I do in my own business. We keep expenses down and stretch our funds through grants and other funding sources to continue to improve services for the citizens of Winona.”
Flowers said some things, like the safety of the citizens of Winona which is paramount to him and the board of aldermen, are worth continued investment.
“An investment in public safety is always a good investment,” Flowers said. “The board has funded the Winona Police Department and the Winona Fire Department with everything they need.”
Most recently, the board adopted a new pay scale for the Winona Police Department in an effort to remain competitive with neighboring law enforcement agencies.
“This helps the police department recruit and retain good officers at the department,” Flowers said.
The father of three and grandfather of four, Flowers has always championed youth programs in the city, especially through the city’s recreational park program.
“The park has always been my baby,” Flowers said. “Since I have become mayor, we have continued to improve the Winona Recreation Park.”
Over the years, the recreational park has installed new lighting for its baseball field, constructed a grant-funded recreational walking trail, built new and renovated bathrooms, resurfaced tennis courts, and most recently, installed turf on the park’s four main baseball fields.
“The Winona Recreation Park is the largest tourism draw to Montgomery County, with thousands flocking to the city for weekend tournaments,” Flowers said. “Our Park Director Mike Narmour has made Winona a competitive locale for baseball and softball tournaments, and tournaments bring families to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and shop in our retail establishments. Those additional sales tax dollars benefit the citizens in so many ways.”
Flowers said he remains committed to making Winona a premier destination for youth sports, not only for weekend tournaments, but with an emphasis on recreation league sports for all of Winona’s young people participating in soccer, baseball, softball, football, and basketball. In addition, the park provides recreation for citizens of all ages with its recreational walking trail, tennis courts, and adult tennis league.
“We want every citizen of Winona to enjoy our wonderful park, and we hope to continue to grow the park and the activities for citizens of all ages offered in the future,” Flowers said.
An active member of the community, Flowers serves on the board of directors for Christ’s Cross at the Crossroads. He is a past-president of the Winona Rotary Club and currently serves as treasurer, a longtime member and supporter of the Winona Booster Club, and a member of Moore Memorial United Methodist Church.
A committed family man, Flowers and his wife, Becky, will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary this May. They have three children, Rachel, Butler, and Lexie, and four grandchildren, Dayton, Randy Caroline, Madilyn, and Judah.
“I could not do anything without the love and support of my wife, Becky, and my children,” Flowers said.
As he seeks a fifth term as mayor of Winona, Flowers said he is excited about the city’s current path and what lies ahead in its future.
“As in life, the City of Winona has had its ups and downs in its more than 150 years, but through strong experienced leadership, the future of the City of Winona has never been brighter,” he said. “With new industrial development and the ongoing construction of new businesses and the continued investment into existing businesses throughout the city of Winona, I’m asking for your continued support and vote in the upcoming election so we can continue to make Winona a better place to live, work, and raise your family.”
Flowers expressed his gratitude to the city’s employees, who exemplify the meaning of public service.
“None of this would be possible without the truly great employees of the city of Winona,” he said. “Our outstanding employees go above and beyond to take care of our citizens. From the ladies at city hall to our firemen and policemen to our street and water crews, I can’t express my appreciation enough for all they do.”