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Government, Politics & Issues

Politically Speaking: Mike Jones dispenses words of wisdom on education and leadership in St. Louis

Mike Jones
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Politically Speaking podcast duo welcomes veteran Democrat Mike Jones as this week’s guest for a particularly lively show that focuses on education and black leadership.

A graduate of Beaumont High School and UMSL, Jones currently sits on the state Board of Education.

He started his political career more than three decades ago as a St. Louis alderman in the city’s 21st ward. Most recently, he served as the senior policy adviser to then-St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who lost a bid for re-election last year.

Between those bookends, Jones has held a number of other posts:

  • Headed the St. Louis Housing Authority in the 1980s;
  • Was an executive at Anheuser-Busch;
  • Served three years as St. Louis' deputy mayor for development under Mayor Clarence Harmon, in office from 1997-2001;
  • Served as executive director of the St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone and ran the Herbert-Hoover Boys Club for five years.

Jones also has been a major behind-the-scenes player in area Democratic politics and a mentor to many up-and-coming African-American officials and activists.
Here’s what Jones had to say during the show:

  • Michael Brown’s death “really changed the dynamic of politics and social activist culture” in St. Louis County. He’s hopeful that the Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition will continue to influence county politics into the future.
  • The region is devoid of “big thinkers” who can bridge the gap on thorny public policy issues.
  • When Jones called then-Councilman Steve Stenger a “political zero” who was using black children for his own political purposes, he was trying to send a message that he wasn’t going to be intimidated by the Affton Democrat. “If you think that somebody’s getting ready to challenge you or act like you’re going to do it, you try to hit them in the face as hard as you can,” Jones said. “And when you knock them down, keep your foot on their neck until you hear it break. And that way, people don’t do that kind of stuff to you.”  
  • Black political leaders should be “as irrational about education as the NRA is about guns.” He said that black state legislators shouldn’t go along with any major policy initiative, like building a new stadium in St. Louis, without concessions within the educational sphere.
  • The State Board of Education’s reconfiguration of the Normandy School District “wasn’t even close to smooth.” But while he says that district has enormous challenges, he added, there’s stabilized leadership on the administrative level.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Read Mike Jones’ column in the St. Louis American

Music: “B.O.B.” by Outkast

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