Letter Re: The Quest for Safety: Is Jackson County, Florida America’s Ideal Retreat Locale?

I recently noticed your recent comparison of Jackson County, Florida, with Lewis, County, Idaho, and the follow-ups posts. I hope I can add some additional information since I attended high school in the county and have many relatives living there. Just as a point of reference my mid-1970s High school graduating class had less than 60 people and only five of them attended and graduated college. I know of only one of those people who still lives there. Youth tend to move away if they can.

As poster Kathi indicated, the county is rather closed to outsiders. The only town of any size is Marianna, with the usual array of Wal-Mart and related-tier stores. The county is bisected E/W with I-10 and N/S by US-231. The closest towns of any size are Dothan, Alabama and Tallahassee, Florida, both about an hour away. She is correct that the only major employers are prisons (state and federal) and the local hospital. There is also Sunland, a developmental disabilities resident facility. EMS response time to most parts of the county are in the 10-20 minute range. Much of the county is still crisscrossed by dirt roads (mainly sand.) The smaller roads were not named [and marked] until the early-1990s when E-911 service was introduced. Cell phone service is rather spotty with frequent dropped calls. Sometimes if you are on the east side of the county, your cell phone will often link with the system from Gadsden county which is in the Eastern time zone, which makes for some interesting double-takes!

If you are an individual with skills, establishing a customer base will be difficult. Most work is done based on word-of-mouth recommendations. The population is generally aging or retired and wary of ‘newcomers’. There is little professional employment with most of it occupied by locals that are in a family business (legal, medical, etc.) There is little entertainment available in the county. Hunting and fishing are major outdoor activities; the county is adjacent to Lake Seminole, know for bass fishing. Also the eastern border of the county is the Apalachicola River, which runs from the Jim Woodruff Dam to the Gulf of Mexico.

Anyone considering moving to this area should perform significant due diligence prior to making a move. – J.D.