Former Marshall student serves important role in city government
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2010 00:04
The director of administration and finance for the City of Huntington has become a respected leader in the city. At any city council meeting, the audience can see she is the one with all the answers.
Brandi Jacobs-Jones was born in Charleston, W.Va., and lived in Huntington for a short time as a child.
"It just kind of turned out that I fell in love with Huntington," she said.
Jones moved back to Huntington to attend Marshall University in 1995. She said she never got to live close to her grandparents growing up, so moving to Huntington brought them together.
While studying at Marshall, Jones was on the dance team and served as president of the Student Government Association.
"SGA teaches you how to work with different perspectives and different constituents, which in fact I actually use today," Jones said.
After Jones graduated, she moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work for an advertising agency. She said she worked there for a year and realized it was not for her so she decided to get her master's degree in public administration at Eastern Kentucky University.
"What I was learning in grad school as far as community development, I thought, ‘why aren't we doing these things in Huntington? We have all these resources, why aren't we building upon them,'" Jones said. "So I moved back to Huntington to work in the community, and somehow I've ended up doing what I'm doing."
While at Eastern Kentucky University, she received a HUD Fellowship and said she gained real world experiences working with non-profit organizations and governments. When she moved back to Huntington, she did a portion of her fellowship with Ebenezer Outreach. During that time she ran for city council and got her foot in the door at City Hall in 2004, she said.
"I was a councilperson for three years and (former) Mayor (David) Felinton asked me to step into this position," Jones said. "So after much prayer, I stepped down from council and began working this role in October 2007. Then (current) Mayor (Kim) Wolfe was gracious enough to allow me to stay in my position because typically my position is the first position that's replaced."
Wolfe said he kept Jones in her position because he would have been stupid if he hadn't.
"After doing interviews with her and talking to other people that she works with, I felt like it would be to the city's advantage and certainly my advantage to have a person there with her capabilities, her background, her expertise, who was in the position to continue that position," Wolfe said.
Jones said her favorite part of her job is to know that every day she goes to work to improve the community and knows her work has meaning.
"People criticize our employees, but the majority of our employees come every day because they care," Jones said. "I can't really take credit for any of our successes, it really is a team. My job is to support department heads and supervisors and make sure they have the resources that they need to do their jobs and to advocate on behalf of the city with council."
Wolfe described Jones as very dedicated, trustworthy, intelligent and humble with a tremendous work effort.
"She's very service oriented," Wolfe said. "It's not about her; it's about how she can better the mayor's office and the community. She's a do-for-others kind of person and very humble. I think that makes her who she is and why she's very valuable."
Not only does Jones hold the position of director of administration and finance, but she is also the acting public works director.
"Her ability to hold things together, to multitask, is very strong," Wolfe said. "She has had to be the public works director and help put together the budget along with many other things. Her experiences are way ahead of her."
Jones has been married to her husband Aaron for five years, and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Alden.
"She doesn't care at all what I do," Jones said of her daughter. "She doesn't know that we've had a hard council meeting and they've just ripped us to shreds. She doesn't care, and that's nice and refreshing. Playing with her and my time with her it's so pure. There's just something special about it."
Jones said she does not know what the future holds for her. She said she would like to go back to school to get her doctorate and would like to teach.
"When the Lord tells me to do something else, I'll do something else," Jones said. "Really I just want to be used to make things better and that's how I want to live my life. Also, to be able to support my daughter. As long as I can provide to her and contribute to society, I'm pretty happy."
Wolfe said he hopes she stays with him as long as he is in office, but said she has the ability to do whatever she wants.
Tess Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.