Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in economics from Loyola University; Master of Public Administration from Drake University
Hometown: Shreveport, La.
If you find yourself dealing with Joseph Jones, expect to be treated with respect.
Jones, who recently became the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s senior vice president of government relations and public policy, says his philosophy in working with people is simple: Follow the golden rule.
“I try to just generally treat people like I want to be treated,” Jones said. “I’ve learned that you can work through almost any issue, and even if that means you end up agreeing to disagree, if you are polite and you can be collegial, you can usually talk to someone about anything.”
A Des Moines transplant who now calls the state “home,” Jones takes over a position previously held by Matt Hinch, now the chief of staff to Gov. Terry Branstad, and Jay Byers, now the CEO of the Partnership.
Jones most recently worked as a legislative assistant for the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in Washington, D.C. He previously worked as the director of government affairs for the Iowa Finance Authority and senior communications specialist for the office of the governor and lieutenant governor under the Tom Vilsack administration.
As he starts his stint at the Partnership, Jones has to hit the ground running for the 2014 legislative session.
What brought you to Des Moines?
This is my third time moving to Des Moines. I moved here in 2002. I was living in Georgia. I took a leave from my job to go work in a place I had never been before without using any help, and just take whatever job I got. And I ended up coming to Iowa, not knowing anyone. Loved it. I worked a campaign for four or five months, and then when it was over went back to Atlanta and back to my job and realized about a month into it that I really, really liked Des Moines so much more than being in Atlanta. So I packed up everything, quit my job, and moved to Des Moines the second time.
What is it about Des Moines?
Well, I thought it was nice to be in a place where people were nice. They were friendly. They were open to new people coming in and learning. And there was this welcoming atmosphere, where I felt like there wasn’t a good ol’ boy system, there wasn’t these things that I saw in other places that I lived where people were kind of iced out of being able to participate until it was their time. And then, I had all those same amenities that I had in Atlanta, but 4 million fewer people to deal with. It was kind of a win-win, and I could afford to visit Atlanta and New York and all those other places but then come back here and have a seven-minute drive to the airport.
Why did you come back to Des Moines this time?
This time was just an excellent opportunity. I think it was the timing with Matt being asked to move to the governor’s office and with the position being open. Of course, I’ve been in D.C. for nearly three years now, and we all know Sen. Harkin is retiring, so I kind of have to start thinking about what’s next for me now, and Iowa is my home, my adopted home. None of us can choose where we’re born, but we can choose where we live. I wanted to come home eventually and this is a fantastic time to do it and still be able to do the type of work I like to do and network with people to really get the message out there about what we do here in Central Iowa.
Why did the Partnership in particular interest you?
I thought it was a good combination of federal and state work, which are the two places I’ve done most of my professional career, working in state government, in a few different capacities, and then working in the federal government as well. And I’ve found that that’s kind of my niche. I’ve always known that I wanted to work with or in government. I like what government can do, its ability to help people, and to help grow a civil society where we take care of each other but we also are prosperous and we all succeed. And so, I like that aspect and the history of it too. This job incorporates a lot of those things.
What did you know about the Partnership coming in?
My impressions of the Partnership were all very good. I’d hear a lot from other people about what the Partnership has been up to in the last couple of years. I’ve had interactions throughout my time working for state government with the Partnership and folks who work for the Partnership. And while I’ve been in D.C., one of my jobs in Sen. Harkin’s office was to coordinate chamber visits. So every chamber we have in Iowa that came out to D.C., I was kind of the point person for our office. So I got to see firsthand all the updates that were coming from the Partnership, what’s been going on in Central Iowa, and amongst their umbrella and affiliate organizations. The things that they were planning to do, and how for so many organizations and people and businesses, (the Partnership was) kind of the glue that held everyone together and everything together to push and move Iowa forward, especially Central Iowa.
What have you learned that you think will help you in this role?
I think my general philosophy overall is just the golden rule. ... So that’s No. 1. No. 2, I would say, I believe that there’s a lot of common ground when we’re talking about doing what’s right and what’s good for people. I learned that in my time here (in Des Moines) but also in D.C., where we would get together bipartisan groups of people where we’d discuss an issue and we’d agree on 80, 90 percent of the stuff. It’s that 10 percent that made the news. But everything else were things that ... we believed we were doing the right thing. ... I approach policy that way, believing that we were generally all there for the right reason and trying to do what’s best for people overall and our communities overall.
What story about you might people find interesting?
It is interesting I’ve been to 95 of 99 counties. And so, I think, here’s an interesting thing: A lot of my friends here that I’ve worked with will reach out to me and ask questions about different parts of the state. “I’m going to go to Dubuque tonight; what hotel should I stay in?” or “I’m going to go to this place; where would you say is the best pizza?” Or whatever the thing is.