Councilwoman Patsy Jones reflects on two decades serving on city council
By Rebekah Martin
A lot can happen in 20 years, and Patsy Jones, Opelika councilwoman, knows that more than most. Jones was recently recognized for her two decades of distinguished public service – serving as the representative for Ward 1 on Opelika’s city council since 1995. Her accomplishments are numerous, but her beginning was a humble one.
Jones was born, and has lived her entire life, save her college years, in Opelika. The fourth child of Edgar and Josephine, Jones credits her parents with instilling in her the values that made her who she is. “My parents were all about giving and making a difference. They were always working to make life better for their children,” Jones said. “As a result of that, they gave me and my siblings certain values and really stressed the Golden Rule.”
Jones graduated from J.W. Darden High School in 1969 and moved to Montgomery to further her education at Alabama State University. Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in 1972 and her master’s degree in 1979, both in secondary English education.
After finishing her undergraduate work, Jones began a job at the Educational Testing Services in Auburn where she worked until beginning her teaching career in 1974. She spent the next 24 years in Tallapoosa County schools, first at Edward Bell High School and later at Dadeville High School, where she taught English. Jones said she believes her years as an educator continue to impact her career in local government through the way she builds relationships with her colleagues and constituents.
In 1992 Jones was appointed by then-mayor Bobby Freeman to the Opelika Housing Authority – the first woman to ever be appointed to that board. It was during her time there, she said, that her interest in local politics was sparked. “I learned about federal funding and the way municipalities work, which led to being further involved in the community,” Jones said. She began to build a rapport with those who would later elect her to represent them on the Opelika City Council.
Jones’ political career began in 1995. Councilman John Andrew Harris was elected to the Lee County Commission, leaving an open seat on the city council. Jones said she decided to run for the position because of the good she thought she could do. Two other candidates ran for the seat, but Jones was elected with no need for a run-off. She has since been re-elected five times.
Jones first ran on the platform of the importance of education as well as the ideas behind progress and economic development. The first few years of her tenure, Jones worked with city council to bring varying industries to Opelika, resulting in the growth in local jobs. In her two decades on the job, Jones has seen the addition of the Grand National golf trail and its hotel, as well as the development of the biggest retail center in East Alabama, Tiger Town.
A proponent of education, Jones also aided in building a relationship between the city of Opelika and Southern Union State Community College in an effort to provide city employees with the opportunity to advance their studies. “I’ve always been an advocate for making people better,” Jones said. “I believe education does that.”
The members of the city council and Mayor Gary Fuller showed their appreciation for Jones with a reception held in her honor before the Feb. 3 council meeting. “I did not expect to have such a nice reception,” Jones said. “These people that I work with are people with great values and pride. We’re not only council members; we’re really friends.”
At the council meeting, Jones made sure to mention she has no plans to retire just yet. Jones said she plans to continue to work toward progress for the city she calls home. “I believe I still have 20 more years in me,” Jones said.
Jones said she has been successful due to a culmination of people who have cheered her on and supported her from day one. “When I think about the last 20 years, it feels good to know that people invested in me and have given me the opportunity to help bring about the positive changes we’ve had in this city,” Jones said. “It’s been a great honor.”