For Natalie Smith, there is no other place she would rather raise her family.
“I’m seriously passionate about my neighborhood,” said Natalie Smith, who sits on the board of directors of Eastover subdivision in Northeast Jackson. “We moved here in 2000, but I feel like I’ve been here all my life. I wouldn’t trade my 3000 square foot ranch home for anything.”
Natalie, who is in sales for WAPT-TV, and her husband, Chuck, who owns Smith Brothers Body Shop, thought they might want to make the move to Madison County a few years ago.
“We got the really big house in a prestigious subdivision, but when we got there, we realized it wasn’t for us,” she said. “The neighbors were hard to get to know, and it just didn’t have the same feel as Eastover.”
The couple moved to Madison County before selling their Eastover home, so they put both homes on the market and planned on living in whichever home didn’t sell.
“I was praying the Madison County home would sell first, and it did,” Smith said.
The neighborhood has approximately 400 houses and many of Jackson’s most prominent citizens call it home. Bob Davidson, who serves as chief counsel to the Mississippi State Senate, likes the fact that the neighborhood is close to his son’s school.
“My son is an eighth-grader at Jackson Academy,” Davidson said. “He could practically walk to school from our house.”
Davidson said that he purchased his first home in Belhaven, but then got married and had kids.
“We wanted a home with a bigger yard, so we moved to ‘Leftover,’ in a neighborhood adjacent to Eastover,” he said. “But in time, we were faced with having to renovate or move. I realized the property values were a little higher in Eastover, and the security was a little better, so I took the plunge and bought a house there two years ago.”
Stephen Higley, a professor of urban geography at the University of Montevallo near Birmingham, Ala., maintains a Web site charting the nation’s most affluent neighborhoods. His calculations are based on his examination of average household income for communities with at least 20,000 residents. The only Mississippi area that made the top 1,000 on Higley’s list is the Eastover-East Manor Estates of Jackson, which ranks at 634th on the list. The average mean household income in Eastover is $211,105.
Ted Duckworth, owner of Duckworth Realty, is living in his fifth home in Eastover.
“We bought and renovated our first home here in 1995,” Duckworth said. “I never intended to keep moving, but as a property would become available, I could see the potential and we’d just get it and renovate it.”
While he does not hesitate to move from house to house, Duckworth would not consider moving out of Eastover.
“It’s a unique neighborhood because a lot of people don’t even realize it’s there,” he said. “You can’t really see it from Ridgewood Road.”
Duckworth serves as the president of the neighborhood’s board of directors.
“We elected a new board last fall, and one of the first things I did was to break up responsibilities in a number of different areas including security and beautification,” he said. “We are working on creating a non-profit arm so that people can make tax-deductible contributions to go towards projects like upgrading street signs and lighting.”
Duckworth explained that what they are doing is similar to the Fondren Renaissance Foundation and Belhaven Foundation.
“We didn’t feel it necessary to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “What they’re doing is working well, so we want to do the same thing. We realize there is only so much the city can do, so we are taking matters into our own hands in order to preserve and enhance our neighborhood.”
David Sanders is the former president of the homeowners association. Sanders deals in commercial real estate and has lived in the neighborhood since 1973.
“We moved there three weeks before the birth of our first child,” Sanders said. “In 1982, we moved to our second home in Eastover. We like it because of the atmosphere. There are large wooded lots, yet it’s close in and convenient to just about everything.”
Sanders particularly likes the fact that he is two minutes from his Lakeland Drive office.
“My commute time depends on how many people are at the traffic light on Lakeland,” he said with a laugh.
The future of Eastover looks bright. With the new homeowner’s association board in place, new covenants will be formed to protect property values.
“The ones we had have expired over the years,” Sanders said. “All the new neighborhoods being built have strong covenants, so we are doing the same. It’s a way to protect what we have and to preserve it for the future.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Susan Marquez at firstname.lastname@example.org .