The election of Tishaura Jones as the first Black woman mayor of St. Louis drew loud cheers from people in California. That’s because Jones boasts deep ties throughout the Golden State despite her impressive career in Missouri.
A dynamic and determined professional, Jones was voted in on April 7, by an overwhelming majority of the St. Louis populace. Her swearing-in ceremony takes place on April 20, and as the city eagerly awaits her tenure, Jones’ West Coast family expressed delight over her accomplishment.
“Tishaura has made us proud,” beamed her cousin, Ed Harris, a longtime Southern Californian. “We are from a large family and we’ve all watched her climb [in her career] with the utmost of respect and honor for her to be one of us.”
Jones’ mother, Laura Whitfield Jones, and Harris’ mother, Dorothy Whitfield Harris, were sisters, so the cousins and all of their many relatives were well acquainted with one another and quite supportive of each family member’s aspirations, said Ed Harris. In his opinion, Mayor Jones’ achievement “represents our aunts and uncles,” which was comprised of 12 siblings.
The political career of Tishaura Jones was already inspiring before she became mayor. A native of St. Louis, she was first appointed in 2002 to the Democratic Party Central Committee to represent the city’s Eighth Ward. Six years later, Jones successfully ran for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.
She made history in her second term in 2010 by becoming the first African American and the first woman to be named assistant minority floor leader. While serving in the legislature, Jones also worked for 15 months as vice president of finance for Blaylock Robert Van, a minority-owned investment firm in Oakland, California. In 2012, Jones achieved another milestone as the first woman elected as St. Louis treasurer.
Jones earned accolades for expanding the role of the treasurer’s office and implementing innovative programs. For instance, she united with Operation HOPE, a nonprofit financial literary group, and five local banks to create a HOPE chapter in City Hall. According to John Hope Bryant, the organization’s founder, the city incurred “no direct cost” for the program “thanks to Tishaura’s brilliant thinking.”
First running for mayor in 2017, Jones narrowly lost the Democratic primary, but she didn’t give up her dream. Although reelected to a third term as treasurer in November 2020, she mounted another campaign and emerged victorious in 2021 as first Black woman mayor in the history of St. Louis.
Recalling her trajectory, Harris noted, “Tishaura’s passion and leadership qualities were prevalent at an early age. Her goal was always to speak for the forgotten and invest in the ‘left-behind’ in the Black and Brown communities.”
Jones echoed that feeling in her thank you message to the St. Louis community where she stated that she was “done avoiding tough conversations.” With firmness, she insisted, “We are done ignoring the racism that has held our city and our region back. I made the same case four years ago and came up short. But I made peace with the fact that I would rather lose another election than stop having tough conversations in every corner of St. Louis.”
As part of her mission to eliminate “historical racial barriers and racial divides,” Jones wrote that she will focus on “rebuilding and redeveloping our neighborhoods with communities and not to them, addressing the inequities in the delivery of our city services, and reforming our broken city government to be transparent, accessible, and open to you — the taxpayers and residents of the city of Saint Louis.”
Her concluding remarks stressed that her administration’s intent is to propel the city forward by preparing “for the realities we are facing in the 21st century, and to restore peace, security, and prosperity to every neighborhood in our city.”