The City of Jacksonville has gone through some major changes over the last ten years. The most glaring change has been the population decline.
Jacksonville’s 2020 census reveals that 1,830 people left over the last decade, leaving the current count at 17,616. It’s a 9.41% drop in population compared to 2010. According to the State Journal Register, it was Illinois’ 17th largest percentage reduction in population for a municipality.
According to the census data, the city got more racially diverse with large jumps in the biracial, Asian, and Latino population while white, black, and Native American populations declined.
Mayor Andy Ezard says that he’s disappointed with the report of the population decline because he believes good things are happening in the city: “As mayor and working with our council, we will continue to do what we can to make Jacksonville as far as making Jacksonville attractive with infrastructure improvements and recreational opportunities to try to at least keep those folks here as we have now but potentially lure some new individuals. One thing this pandemic has taught us that folks may want to get away from the city. Now, a city like Jacksonville may be appealing that they can work out of their home. In turn, our initiative that’s finishing up – the community-wide broadband – they have that potential to work out of their home with good broadband with good capabilities. The things we are doing as far as recreational like the lake improvements, the parks, the swimming pool, new sidewalks, roads, the sewer plant update, the water plant update – those all play into it. We just have to keep the pedal down, so to speak, and try to attract people here.”
Ezard said he expected the numbers to be down, but didn’t expect them to be that significant. Ezard hopes that the path forward is continued amenities and improvements to the city’s infrastructure: “Finishing up Phase IV of our Downtown project and pushing forward for Phase V in the completion of Downtown is significant. There was initiatives that I’d like to see – a Phase VI so to speak – but that’s on the city’s responsibility, which is getting South Main from Morton Avenue to the Square looking better as far as curbs, gutters, and sidewalks. Those are important to me and that’s going to be a lot of money.”
Ezard hopes that a recent bill signed by the governor will help the state unload the Jacksonville Developmental Center and get that property cleaned up. He says he has concerns over down enrollments at ISVI and ISD are also concerns in the near term. Overall, Ezard says he’s still believes Jacksonville is one of the best places in the state to raise a family and retire to: “I’m not negative. I’ve got to be positive. I’m the cheerleader for the town. There is other cheerleaders out there as well. I still think this is a very good town even though some folks have left. This is a very good town to live in and raise your children and grow old in. I think by just keep pushing the positive daily and getting that word out that we will be okay.”
Jacksonville wasn’t the only municipality in Morgan County to take the hit. South Jacksonville lost 29 people, but saw major increases in all ethnic diversity classes in the city. Waverly, Chapin, Meredosia, and Murrayville netted losses of 100 or more. Markham and Pisgah rural precincts were the only places that saw areas of growth in the county.