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Homegrown boy ready to give back

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Councilor Jack Screws learning as he goes

By Carolyn Ten Broeck

You’ve been on the same job for 38 years, you’re still young and you have your health. And then you retire. What do you do?

If you’re Williston’s Jack Screws Jr., you throw your newly unemployed self into the public arena and seek to become a councilman.

Screws, the latest addition to Williston City Council, applied in January to fill the unexpired term of Norm Fugate and qualified for that same seat.

As luck would have it, no one filed against him and suddenly that retirement took on another facet: that of public servant.

A Williston native, the son of Jack and Helen Screws has never strayed far from the homefront.

He and his two brothers grew up here, and while at Williston High School, Screws was active in FFA.

“I tried to play football,” he said, “but I broke both arms.”

That evident 40 years ago mirrored a similar evident last year when Screws was injured on the job and again found himself disabled with two broken arms.

Accident prone? 

“Maybe,” he chuckled.

After high school, Screws was hired by Florida Telephone as a cable splicer/helper. He credits Jake Cason, another familiar face on the Williston City Council and father to its current president, Jason, with helping him land the job that would become his career.

Over the years, he worked himself up through the ranks with the telephone company that would undergo a series of name changes through the years.

With the advances in technology, Screws also saw his job evolving to keep up.

“The digital age changed what we did on a daily basis,” he said.

In 1977, Screws married the former Sherry Sauls from Raleigh and the couple became parents to daughters, Melissa and Brooke.

His job was also headquartered in Williston, which meant that he was almost always home to be father to the girls and husband to his wife, an assistant vice president at Perkins State Bank.

The Screws family is active in First Baptist Church, where he sings in  the choir and performs with a Southern gospel band.

A self-taught guitarist, he said in the late 1990s, he made a country music CD and spent time in Nashville, Tenn.

The timing wasn’t right with teen-age girls and a wife still in Williston, so he turned his back on what have been foray into the music business and returned to the hometown he loves.

With limited mobility in his hands and arms following the accident last year, he opted to take an early retirement.

The plan was to hunt and fish and enjoy all he had worked for during the past 38 years.

But, he said, he’d always had an interest in politics and when Fugate resigned, the door was opened for him to walk through.

As he spends the next weeks and months getting acclimated to his new position as a voice of the residents of Williston, he will be observing, talking and listening to those constituents.

Two concerns in the early days of his post are Williston’s overall appearance and what will become of the old high school once a new one is built.

Screws hopes to see beautification efforts take place to give those who pass through town a better impression.

He says the city’s churches are among the best things about Williston because they are filled with people who love God and care deeply about the community and each other.

He’s also happy to be serving with the men who make up the council.

 “They’re men I know,” he said. “We were friends before the council, and we’ll be friends after.”