Tishaura Jones, first Black female mayor of St. Louis, emphasizes transforming public safety

By Jason Flynn, Staff Reporter

Tishaura Jones, who made city history on April 6 when she became the first Black woman elected mayor of St. Louis, has quickly gone to work making changes to the city’s public safety infrastructure. 

“Right now I don’t think that we provide a great environment. It’s okay,” Jones said. “Right now, half of the city is pretty much left to fend for itself in terms of economic development, in terms of education, in terms of public safety.”

Jones was sworn in on April 20, and presented a proposed budget that would close the city’s jail, known as The Workhouse, on April 21. 

Advertisement

“I think we have to shift our focus and how we look at decisions that we make in local government, and focus on, number one, racial equity and how that plays a role in how our region has been held back, and how this has permeated our policy making decisions,” Jones said. 

Jones started in politics in 2002 when she was appointed to the Democratic Party Central Committee for St. Louis’s Ward 8. 

She became a state representative in 2008, has been the city’s elected treasurer since 2012, and first ran for mayor in the 2017 Democratic primary which she narrowly lost by 888 votes. 

“We were governed by the minority,” Jones said. “We had seven people in that primary and the winner had 32 percent of the vote.”

Since the 2017 primary, a group of residents were successful in changing the election system to implement approval voting, where residents cast approval ballots for as many nominees as they’d like in an open primary, and vote on the two most approved candidates. 

Jones campaigned on making big changes to the city’s police and jail systems, two sectors that have been flash points for community groups organizing in the wake of the 2014 and 2015 Ferguson protests. 

“I’d like to transform the public safety department, which is one that leads with an arrest and incarcerate model, to one that leads with prevention,” Jones said.  “That means staffing our police departments and our public safety departments with other licensed professionals like clinical social workers and substance abuse counselors, so we can deploy the right professional to the right call.”

Francesca Meixner, an SIU online student and St. Louis native, voted for Jones. 

“Her policies I just agreed with more,” Meixner said. “She’s trying to get more grants and funding into the school system, which is kind of one of my biggest things as an educator.”

Meixner said she also felt Jones was the most experienced candidate, and had a background that could help bring the city together. 

“With just all of the racial issues, especially happening in St. Louis right now, I just think having an African American woman as the mayor was, just, it needed to happen to help start bringing unity and kind of a transfer of power,” Meixner said. 

Jones said she plans to appoint liaisons to help work on other city priorities like education and labor. 

Jones appointed former police chief Dan Isom interim director of public safety on April 15. 

“When all of these issues are happening, it definitely helps when It’s someone who’s been directly impacted by it is the one fixing it and solving it,” Meixner said. “Which is why having Tishaura Jones as the mayor is going to, in my mind, make the greatest impact and difference because she actually gets it because she’s been part of that community.”

Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at jflynn@dailyegyptian.com, by phone at 872-222-7821 or on Twitter at @dejasonflynn.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Advertisement