RIO RANCHO – If you haven’t had a dark day – or dark period – in your life, you’re one of the lucky ones.
Kevin Jackson had a dark period. He served the City of Vision as mayor from his election in March 2006 until his hasty resignation in July 2007 under accusations of illegal behavior.
But he has rebounded.
Now 62, he is married to Hannah, a native of China, and happily living in Rio Rancho. He said he is still doing what he’d done in his happier days as mayor: serving.
“I’m thankful; she has the same heart I do,” he said of his wife, whom he met in Shanghai in 2015 and married two years ago.
Later, the couple was wed again by the Maisai tribe in Kenya – one of his favorite places.
“The Maisai is a curious culture, but they survived,” Jackson said. “They went and hid and didn’t fight the British.”
Lately, he has been doing missionary and humanitarian work overseas.
“(Jackson) came to Maisai land as the first missionary volunteer to Olasiti, a village at the foot of Ngong Hills,” noted Virginia Turasha, who invited him to her world. “I saw him in a dream, coming like an angel, and the following day, he arrived to Olasiti.”
“He started teaching in a one-room school with four children; then the number of students increased up to six and then 14 more students joined the school,” she said.
He helped to buy school books, paid the salary of the teacher, and found a “small desperate church” of seven members that Turasha pastored under a tree.
She said Jackson gave a donation to build the church, which has grown to 60 members.
“He also helped to build Naserian children home, now Naserian Children Foundation, that became the home for the needy, homeless, single parents, kids and orphans, plus the children born with HIV/AIDS,” Turasha said.
A map of the world on a piece of metal has countless small magnets, each “pinned” to a different country where Jackson visited or worked.
“I’m at 188 countries and holding,” he said.
Not many Rio Ranchoans can say they moved here in 1965; Jackson can. “When we moved here, I think there were 50 homes,” he said.
In the mid-60s, there weren’t enough boys to even field a Little League team.
“Karate was a big thing; there was nothing to do in Rio Rancho,” he remembered. “I got into the Teen Club here as a 12-year-old. It gave us a sense of purpose.”
He even managed to get some lessons from Chuck Norris, a friend of the club’s founder.
“Going to Taylor Junior High and (then) West Mesa High School as a fair-haired, blue-eyed boy, you had to learn to run fast or fight back,” he said.
He ran fast, competing on the track and field team, and following graduation, he said he obtained U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici’s “first slot” to West Point.
“They weren’t sending ‘new people’ to Vietnam in 1974,” he said. “I was there 40 years later. I go back to Vietnam every year.”
After his military career, Jackson headed back to Rio Rancho, eventually running for mayor.
“I loved serving the people; the staff was amazing,” he said.
He recalled taking ride-alongs with officers, working on cleanup projects with parks and recreation and, literally, shoveling the muck next to then-Police Chief Bob Boone during the 100-year rains in summer 2006.
His wife, Kathy Jackson, served on the Rio Rancho school board.
Then came some miscommunication about who was going to represent the city in the July 4 parade in 2007, with Jackson angrily tearing up a proclamation, and financial woes, including allegations that he misused of a city-issued credit card.
He resigned as mayor, with his recall likely if he didn’t step down. The family moved to Pennsylvania, and Kathy later lost her battle with cancer.
“It was the worst time in my life, clearly,” he said. “My faith led me.”
By faith, he means a request for his services in Somalia and Kenya, then suffering from drought and losing their cattle, a necessity for survival.
“I got my life together again,” he said. “They asked me to come to their village. They didn’t know what they needed; I didn’t know. They had no education and no hope … I started a school; the warriors came and said, ‘This is good,’ and in one week we went from four to five kids to 16. By the end of the summer, we had 30.”
That began another chapter in his life.
Jackson is still a regular at Grace Outreach Center, just as he’d been when he was mayor. He has been going abroad several times a year, building churches, schools and orphanages and teaching leadership and kung fu at the Chinese Military Academy.
Led by his faith, former mayor back in Rio Rancho