Newly-elected Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones began his first term with baptism by fire days before he was officially sworn into office.
VA Peninsula Media spoke with Jones after taking the oath of office on Wednesday about the Richneck Elementary shooting and his plans for Newport News.
Jones said due to the ongoing investigation, he could not comment in the incident. However, he praised the Newport News citizens.
“There has been much support and prayers for the teachers and staff at Richneck. I really saw Newport News come together on this,” he said.
The First 100 Days
Jones said his first step is to build strong relationship between city council, the school board and the city manager’s office.
“It’s important to build a cadence and rhythm with procedures so that we can get out on the right foot,” he said.
In order to build that rhythm, Jones plans to devote 100 percent of his time to the city for the next several months. Previous mayors have maintained a career, such as former Mayor Dr. McKinley Price who has a dental practice. Jones recently worked as a management consultant across several industries.
A pair that Jones hopes to bring together is city council and the school board, the two governing bodies relationship has been contentious over the years, mostly due to budget disputes.
Jones plans to work to improve Newport News’ brand, not just in Hampton Roads but on a national and international scale.
He said “and that begins from the bottom up.”
While he has ideas, Jones said it’s important to hear from citizens. During his campaign, he held listening tours, a practice he plans to continue.
Jones wants to develop citizens boards. Each board will focus on particular issues and will have a city council member as a sponsor.
“This was done in San Antonio (TX) and it works really well,” he said.
The 33-year-old Newport News native is not the only fresh face on city council. Three new council members, all under 40 years old, were elected. Each district has two council members.
Cleon Long was elected to represent the central district with Dr. Pat Woodbury. John R. Eley III was elected to represent the south district with Tina Vick. Curtis Bethany, the youngest member at 31, was elected to represent the north district with Marcellus L. Harris III.
Jones said this dynamic has benefits and downfalls.
“This allows to begin with a clean slate,” he said.
Having the different generations on the council can also balance viewpoints, he added.
However, all new council members have full-time jobs with families. Many previous council members were retired which allowed them to participate in daytime activities, Jones said.
No matter the age differences, Jones said all have a common thread.
“They all bring the heart and passion needed. We all have to strive to work for the citizens of Newport News,” he said.