Community politics: Student Jewell Jones becomes youngest ever elected to Michigan House of Representatives

State Representative Jewell JonesJewell Jones was just a 20-year-old college student when he was elected as Inkster, Michigan’s, youngest city councilman. And now, at 21, he’s making headlines again as the youngest person ever elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.

Yes, the full-time political science and business student has a lot on his plate. He recently sat down with journalism student Gabrielle Joseph to talk about running for office, his goals for the future and how he manages to get everything done.

Q: What motivated you to run for state representative?
A: People. People in general. I know my parents planted the seed by dragging me around to different events when I was much younger, but I think as I got older just talking to people in the community and hearing feedback from them. Also seeing the condition of things from when I was growing up in the city—the resources and services were steadily on the decline. I think that’s what really motivated me to run.

Q: Were you surprised after finding out you were elected?
A: I wasn’t super, super surprised. During the campaign you do what you need to do; you know, you cross your t’s and dot your i’s. That’s what we were expecting and I was excited for it because things weren’t looking very promising for a lot of other Democrats that evening—it was kind of tight. We were still excited at the same time and we were hoping to win.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a state representative?
A: I definitely want to stress the importance of education in my district because we’ve had a big issue with schools being dissolved. Besides that, we really want to take the focus from broad politics down to the individual level in the community. I know income inequality is a big issue. We’re definitely looking to do more activities that are focused around strengthening families, around individuals who want to start businesses and individuals who want to better themselves. We really want to make sure we’re getting down into the households and actually making an impact on that smaller level.

Q: You’re currently serving on the Inkster City Council. How do you think this role has helped prepare you for this next step?
A: Learning about people to a greater extent. There are seven of us—including the mayor—in the local government in Inkster, and everyone is different. It’s opened my eyes, and my perspective continues to grow and change.

I also believe building a network from the city council has prepared me. I joined the Young Elected Officials Network and a few other organizations. Expanding my network and talking to different mentors and different people from all over the nation and figuring out what they’re doing in their hometown and in their communities will help me at the state level.

Q: Are there any other experiences you’ve had that you think will help you serve in this new role?
A: I’ve been going to church for a long time and I’m a senior deacon—I’ve been around people my entire life. Besides that, Army ROTC has helped me with discipline and teamwork. I try to stay busy so I’m involved in a whole lot of stuff and it’s all centered around people. I think me being a people person in general helps me navigate.

Q: How has your time at UM-Dearborn impacted your career?
A: It’s definitely helped me. We have a very diverse campus. You’re not necessarily forced to interact with people, but you’re definitely going to be rubbing shoulders with all kinds of people from all over the place. I think getting those different points of views and being able to communicate with someone you normally wouldn’t have even talked to—it’s changed my view of life.

Q: What plans do you have for yourself in the future? May we possibly be able to call you President Jewell Jones someday?
A: I believe anything is possible. I know I can definitely see myself at the national level, but I’m not sure exactly where yet. I have this broad goal of being able to do whatever I can, whenever I can, to help whoever I can. I don’t know what it looks like yet; I don’t know if that’s senator, congressman, president or just some kind of business owner. I really don’t know yet, but it’s possible. I’m only 21. Fourteen years will be plenty of time for me to get a lot more experience and it’s definitely possible—2032!

Q: What advice would you give to other young people who want to run for office?
A: Get involved now. Start learning as early as you can. I always tell young folks people are looking for young ones to take under their wings. It’s easier for us to navigate too because we’re young and people are definitely more welcoming, when you get older there’s more bickering.

The more you learn now, the better position you’ll be in when you’re older. We need to focus on looking out for everyone else; we’re all a team, we’re all going to be doing something together—make sure to support your peers.

Q: In addition to serving on the Inkster City Council and running this campaign, you’re also double majoring in political science and business and an ROTC member. How do you manage your time?
A: I don’t necessarily say I manage it. I have a calendar and it has everything on it—it’s sporadic. It’s organized, but sporadic. There’s a lot of bouncing around and random phone calls, so I might end up nixing something and going somewhere else. I sit there and figure out what’s important, and do it at whatever time, and that’s kind of how the day goes; it’s all a blur—it never ends. I may wake up at four one morning and may not stop for a few days. I don’t necessarily say I manage time, I just kind of go with the flow and try to squeeze in as much as I can. Especially while I’m young and have this energy, I want to make sure I’m using it.

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