New spin: The evolution of Maurice Jones
Maurice Jones is worlds away from City Hall and his former job as its spokesman. In his swanky new digs at the Miller Center off Old Ivy Road, instead of writing press releases and dealing with reporters, his new job is to raise big bucks for the prestigious public policy center.
The fact that he's done very little fundraising doesn't appear to faze Jones– or the Miller Center, which, he says, offered him the director of development job– exact amount to be raised to be determined– apparently confident of his ability to schmooze for dollars.
"It's not just asking people for money," he says. "The most important part I do is to meet people and build relationships. A passion of mine is politics and presidents, and I talk to them about shared interests."
That might be a surprise to those who remember Jones as an NBC29 sports reporter and anchor, the gig that brought him to Charlottesville 12 years ago, armed with a communications degree from James Madison University.
Television sports reporting was the job Jones had dreamed of since he was a kid, inspired by an NFL Today piece on Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.
But always lurking was the pull of politics. He worked for L.F. Payne's lieutenant governor's campaign, and Bruce Kirtley's run for the 58th District seat in the General Assembly.
When his candidates lost, he was back at 29 producing the morning show. "The hours were brutal," he says. "I think you're not supposed to go to work at 1:30am. I was sleeping in shifts– " and continuing to do sports segments.
After 11 more months, he took a job as a weekend sports anchor in Columbia, South Carolina– and discovered he really wasn't into doing sports wrap-ups anymore. "I realized my heart was really into politics and public service," he says.
Thus he donned the City of Charlottesville polo shirts and began six years as director of communications.
Jones remembers the drought of 2002 as one of the job's biggest crises. "We saw that coming in 2001 and tried to warn people. As water levels dropped, we had to heighten our publicity."
The best part of that job? "Feeling like I was truly serving as a liaison between people, media, and city government in a way that empowered people," he says.
Of course, he won't miss the 2am phone calls for fires or murders.
And it's not all serious government doings at City Hall. Jones reveals a fun-loving side of top city officials: At Christmas, City Manager Gary O'Connell dresses up as Santa with Police Chief Tim Longo as his elf-clad assistant to pass out candy canes to city employees.
Jones has gotta miss that.
Why here? I came to Charlottesville for a job and stayed because of the people and the quality of life.
What's worst about living here? Traffic is becoming more of an issue, but it's still nowhere near what I grew up with in Northern Virginia.
Favorite hangout? The Downtown Mall
Most overrated virtue? Prudence. Yes, it can keep you from getting in trouble, but it can also hinder spontaneity (which I have been guilty of on occasion).
People would be surprised to know: I was painfully shy as a child.
What would you change about yourself? I would broaden my eating habits. I tend to be very picky about food. I know my wife, Michele, would enthusiastically embrace this transformation.
Proudest accomplishment? Being a part of strengthening the connection between the city government and the people of Charlottesville. That and carrying the Olympic Torch back in 1996– a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I accomplished without falling down on live television.
People find most annoying about you: I can be too deliberative at times.
Whom do you admire? National civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but also local folks who had a major impact on Civil Rights here in the Charlottesville area like Eugene Williams and Paul Gaston.
Favorite book? Nonfiction has to be Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch. My two favorite novels are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple.
Subject that causes you to rant? Hypocrisy... especially in politics. It's actually kind of amusing to watch Democrats and Republicans change positions depending on their immediate needs.
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Advances in medicine and technology
Biggest 21st-century creep out? Microchip implants with my personal information. I'm pretty sure I'd turn down that opportunity.
What do you drive? A 2002 Camry
In your car CD player right now: Gospel performer Byron Cage
Next journey? Hopefully to New York in December. I hear it's beautiful during the Christmas season.
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I once received detention for talking in class. I was actually trying to get the other students to quiet down. My teacher was unsympathetic.
Regret: Not trying out for quarterback on my high school football team. Mark Brunell now has my job with the Redskins as a result of that moment of hesitation.
Favorite comfort food: Cold pizza
Always in your refrigerator: Gatorade and Diet Coke
Must-see TV: The West Wing, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and ESPN Sportscenter
Favorite cartoon: The Simpsons
Describe a perfect day. My wife and I actually experienced the perfect day during our honeymoon on the island of St. John. It began with breakfast overlooking Coral Bay, followed by a trip to several of the island's beautiful beaches, and closed with an elegant dinner at sunset over Cruz Bay.
Walter Mitty fantasy: Hosting Meet the Press
Who'd play you in the movie? Either Denzel Washington or Terrence Howard
Most embarrassing moment? One night while I was anchoring sports at NBC 29, I was hit with a pretty vicious case of the giggles and just couldn't stop laughing. I snickered my way through the entire sports segment. Afterward, I thought my "laughathon" would either endear me to the audience or get me fired.
Best advice you ever got? "Do unto others what you would have them do to you."
Favorite bumper sticker? Boston Red Sox: 2004 World Series Champions. It just warms my heart.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO