Ferguson, Missouri, elected its first Black mayor on Tuesday. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Councilwoman Ella Jones will now lead a city that has seen high-profile controversy in recent years. Jones secured 54% of the votes in the city's mayoral election, the Post-Dispatch reported.
“It’s just our time,” the mayor-elect told reporters. “It’s just my time to do right by the people.”
Jones said her election will bring inclusion for the Black community of Ferguson.
1. Jones Succeeded In Her Second Attempt At A Mayoral Run
Jones, who is also the first woman to become mayor in Ferguson, succeeded in her latest attempt after she unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2017. Following her initial loss, Jones said many Black residents didn't believe that she would bring about the necessary changes.
“If you’ve been oppressed so long, it’s hard for you to break out to a new idea,” Jones said at the time. “And when you’ve been governed by fear and people telling you that the city is going to decline because an African American person is going to be in charge, then you tend to listen to the rhetoric and don’t open your mind to new possibilities.”
2. She's Not One To 'Get Along To Go Along'
Ferguson jumped into the national spotlight in 2014 when a white officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. Protests broke out in the city after Darren Wilson killed the 18-year-old. A grand jury and the Department of Justice didn't prosecute Wilson, but he later resigned, according to The New York Times.
Jones, who became the first Black woman elected to the Ferguson City Council, didn't see eye to eye with some of the protesters at the time.
“I don’t get along to go along,” she said. “If I see something that needs to be addressed, I will address it.”
The city councilwoman ran for mayor with the promise of making changes in the city's policing practices to prevent tragedies such as the case of Brown. In regard to similar events taking place due to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Jones said she supports the peaceful protests but condemns violence.
3. The New Mayor Faces Several Challenges
As she prepares for her new role, Jones will tackle multiple issues. The new mayor will be trying to help the city bounce back as the coronavirus leaves a devastating economic impact. She will also be looking to help businesses recover from the damages they sustained during recent uprisings.
According to St. Louis Public Radio, Jones said the city faces a $1.3 million deficit.
“Something happens in the country, our hearts bleed like everybody else,” Jones told the radio station. “But we do not need to bleed with our businesses. We have people who are out of work. We’ve just come through a pandemic.”
4. She's Prepared To Do The Work Of Being The City's First Black Mayor
As the city's first Black mayor, Jones said she will be required to do more.
“When you’re the first African American woman, they require more of you than they require of my counterparts,” she said. “I know that the people of Ferguson are ready to stabilize their community. And we’re going to work together to get it done.”
The new mayor said her city became the center of attention after Brown's death but that racism is a problem around the country.
“A lot of times we’re considered as ground zero. But it’s just heartbreaking,” Jones said. “Racism is just apparent all over the country now. It has reared its head again. So we’ve got to work to try and bring people together, work together and try to make this a better community for all of us.”
Jones plans to address racial issues in meetings with the Department of Justice and other key leaders “to come up with a better plan of action.”
5. She Has Lived In Ferguson For Four Decades
A Ferguson resident of over 40 years, it's safe to say Jones knows the city she's about to preside over rather well.
Prior to her involvement in the city's government, Jones worked within the pharmaceutical industry after graduating from the University of Missouri at St. Louis with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, according to FergusonCity.com.
Jones also became the city's first Black councilwoman after being elected to the council in 2015, according to St. Louis Magazine. As councilwoman, she sat on the city's human rights, traffic, landmarks, senior citizens, parks and West Florissant Business Association commissions and boards.
Although the council only had one Black member in 2014, four out of its six current members are Black, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The protests following Brown's death also paved the way for the Black Lives Matter movement and forced the federal government to get involved. After the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into Brown's death, Ferguson entered a federal consent decree in 2016, leading to municipal court reform, NPR reported.