More Mo: Jones in as city manager
After a four-month job search that drew over 80 applicants from all over the country, City Council went with the tried and true and picked Maurice Jones, the acting city manager, to become Charlottesville's CEO.
Former NBC29 sports reporter Jones has spent much of his career at City Hall, starting as director of communications in the late '90s, a position he held for six years. After a stint at the Miller Center, where he served as director of development, Jones came back to Charlottesville as assistant city manager under Gary O'Connell, who left the city manager slot open earlier this year when he took a job with the Albemarle County Service Authority.
Although speculation swirled that Jones was the top pick earlier this week, it wasn't until Friday that the city officially announced that Jones will take the $170K-a-year position.
How big a role did being ensconced in the home court play? "It certainly gave me an advantage," says Jones.
Despite his insider status, Jones getting the job wasn't a done deal, according to Mayor Dave Norris. "Some may have assumed he had it in the bag and we were just going through the motions," says Norris, but that wasn't the case.
"Where it crystallized was in the interview," says the mayor. "He nailed it. He had command of the issues." And Council's decision to hire Jones was unanimous, adds Norris.
"He genuinely cares about people," says O'Connell, when asked what Jones' best quality is for leading the city. "He knows lots of people in the community and he knows the issues."
O'Connell is reluctant to offer advice to his successor, but when pressed, says, "My only advice is he help us find a solution to the water supply situation." The city and county have been divided on a long-term water supply plan, but O'Connell says he believes they're close.
And O'Connell repeats what his own predecessor, Cole Hendrix, told him: "Until you sit in that chair, you don't know what it's like. I believe he's well-qualified to handle it and I wish him the best."
When O'Connell announced that he was leaving the city manager job, Jones was not one of the first to send in his resume. "I took my time to apply," he says. "I wanted to give myself time to see if this was something I could do."
As the father of three young children, Jones says his soul searching was both professional and personal.
And the biggest factor preparing him in his arc from sports reporter to city manager? "What opened the door for me was being director of communications," says Jones, 40. And when he returned back to city government two years ago, Jones began more seriously preparing himself for a position he hadn't really foreseen that he would ever hold, he says.
Longtime civil rights advocate Eugene Williams didn't foresee that either, for a different reason. "There are those of us that didn't think we'd ever live to see the day that Charlottesville would have a black city manager," says Williams, who was instrumental in integrating the city's schools.
City Council formally adopted Jones' contract at its December 6 meeting after an endorsment from Mayor Norris and tear-choked comment from Councilor Holly Edwards, the latter of whom hailed Jones a role-model for schoolchildren and a new beginning for the City.
And for Jones, he's already rolling up his sleeves to work on the long-term water supply and the perennial priority of the city manager: putting together a budget.
"I am blessed to live in this community," said Jones. "Thank you very much– let's get to work."
Updated 4:15pm with Eugene Williams' remarks.
Updated 4:40pm with Gary O'Connell's comments.
Updated 8:41pm with Jones' and Edwards' comments.