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(Editor’s note: This is one of a series of articles in the months to come on candidates for statewide office.)

Lester Jackson was first elected to the legislature as a House member in 1998. A family dentist from Savannah, Dr. Jackson was voted Freshman Legislator of the Year and served for ten years before moving over to the State Senate. He currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs Committee and as chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, the largest in the country.

Lester Jackson

Sen. Lester Jackson

Jackson hopes that more than 20 years of legislative experience can help translate into his run for Labor Commissioner. “I have more elected experience than any candidate in the race, including the incumbent,” said Jackson to IAG. “During all my time as a public servant, I learned intimately how our state government can and should be used to improve people’s lives, and how our elected officials have a solemn responsibility to empower Georgians to succeed.”

Jackson did not hold anything back against the sitting Labor Commissioner, Republican Mark Butler, who is already facing at least one primary challenge.

“No elected official in the entire state has failed to live up to that responsibility more than our Labor Commissioner, Mark Butler. Over the past several years, I have kept hearing more and more frustrating stories from my constituents, friends, and neighbors about delayed unemployment benefits, stalled payout claims, and nonexistent workforce training. As a small business owner, Navy veteran, and dedicated public servant, I know I’m the best candidate to turn things around at the Labor Department,” said Jackson.

Jackson believes the Department of Labor is “chronically understaffed” and can’t serve the people of Georgia properly at the current level of funding. Getting that funding will be Jackson’s top priority should he be elected. He also pledged to reopen labor offices that have closed across the state which he considers critical for providing service, particularly in rural areas of the state. His other main goal is to make sure the department is processing claims in a timely manner, as well as prioritizing workforce training.

Jackson honed his leadership skills while serving for seven years in the U.S. Navy. He served on three different ships at five different bases and was even involved in a helicopter crash while aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima. “My favorite place I ever traveled to with the Navy was Rota, Spain. After my first four weeks aboard an aircraft carrier, the first place we landed was Rota — it was just good to touch ground again.”

Jackson noted that his proudest moment while serving in the legislature was the passage of the 2022 Hate Crimes Bill, of which he was the lead sponsor six years earlier. What ultimately became a bipartisan effort took Jackson years of work and collaboration with different groups to help push over the line.

On a personal note, Jackson has lived nearly his entire life in Savannah and enjoys fishing at Gator Creek, which he says is his favorite fishing spot. It is a small stream that runs through his neighborhood and Jackson enjoys relaxing and fishing for bass with his sons.

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