Jewell Jones is a city council member who still needs to finish his homework each night, but he has big ideas for improving his community.
The 20-year-old made history when he was sworn in Monday as the youngest person to ever sit on the City Council of Inkster, Michigan, a town nestled on the outskirts of Detroit. Jones, who represents the city’s 4th District, is also a full-time student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
A lifelong resident of Inkster, Jones began dabbling in local politics when he was about 8 years old. “My parents would drag me around to different things in the community. I was very involved in my church,” Jones told The Huffington Post. “Serving the people in this capacity has always been pretty natural for me.”
In the past few years, he has been even more active and helped out on political campaigns for Michigan state Sen. David Knezek (D) and Inkster’s Mayor Hilliard Hampton.
Jones said that what started off as a joke with one of the councilmen in his district blossomed into a serious City Council campaign. “I told him maybe I could run and he kinda took it seriously,” Jones said. “And I went ahead and threw my hat in the race, got all the signatures that I needed to get on the ballot and this happened.”
Finding balance between the campaign and being a full-time student was the difficult part. On top of majoring in political science and finance, Jones is involved with several on-campus organizations — including the Army ROTC, Black Student Union and Student Veterans Association.
“I was taking it day to day, but it was just a daily challenge of seeing if I focus on the campaign right now, or should I focus on school,” the newly minted councilman said. “But my support system was really good.”
Some people have questioned his experience and ability to lead, Jones says, because of his young age. But he isn’t worried about being unprepared. “I have quite a lot of responsibility and roles right now that I’ve had for quite some time now,” Jones said. “It kind of molded me to be good at this job.”
Jones, a junior at the university, still plans to graduate in the spring of 2017.
Knezek, who is the youngest senator in Michigan at age 29, says he met Jones when the councilman was 16 and immediately saw his potential for leadership.
“We need more Jewells in politics across this country. We need more young people who won’t simply settle for sitting on the sidelines complaining about how others are running things,” Knezek told HuffPost. “I was so happy when Jewell won and I look forward to working with him to make Inkster the best place to live, work, worship and raise a family. The future is bright with young leaders like Jewell Jones stepping up to the plate.”