By Johnny Jackson
State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Ellenwood) -- recently elected chairman of the Henry County Legislative Delegation -- vows to make educating young people a top priority during this legislative session under the Gold Dome.
"We have a crisis in our school systems," said Jones, who added that he plans to air issues concerning education as part of his new leadership responsibilities.
"My job is to bring these issues to the forefront," he said.
The Ellenwood resident serves a district of roughly 180,000 constituents between DeKalb and Henry counties. He is also chairman of the DeKalb County State Senate Delegation, and was asked to serve a second term as chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.
"It's a great honor that comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility," said Jones. "I pledged that I would do my best to promote the values of the [leadership offices], as well as be responsive to our citizens."
Jones acknowledged that he is continually inspired by the experiences he encounters being an elected official. He recalled the case of Eli Mahone, a teenager living in Morgan County, a north Georgia fishing community.
"Eli Mahone was locked up," he said. "This kid had a 2.5-inch fishing knife at school one day, and he did the right thing. The kid turned the knife in at 8:37 a.m., but he was arrested later for having it at school."
Jones described the incident as an injustice to a student who tried to do the right thing, after his mother inadvertently left the knife in his book bag. "That will never happen again in this state," said Jones, pointing to the legislation he co-authored and sponsored in 2010. Senate Bill 299, he said, attempts to stop school systems from sending students to detention centers for minor infractions, and gives students a second chance.
Jones echoed the bill's objectives to a large crowd of citizens attending the Henry County Branch of the NAACP's Annual Martin Luther King Day Program, held Monday.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," he told the crowd, quoting the late civil rights leader. The state legislator said he believes there is a strong connection between the penal system and the educational system, and opportunity.
"There is a connection between dropout rates and prison incarceration rates," Jones said. "We are incarcerating and locking up too many people in Georgia. We've put police in schools."
He said he has observed that, the more informed citizens are, the less likely they are to be incarcerated. "An educated society is a much more informed society," he said. "Education, that's the bedrock of our community. Without an education, society would crumble."
State Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) is the former chairman of the Henry County Legislative Delegation. Davis did not seek re-election to the post: "It has been a great honor to serve as the Henry County Legislative Delegation Chairman," he said. "I wish Senator Jones the best, and know that he will work hard to meet the needs of residents, and goals of the locally elected officials," Davis said. "He has my continued commitment to assist during this transition and beyond."
Jones was the valedictorian of his West Fulton High School (Atlanta) graduating class in 1977. He received his MBA in finance and accounting from Columbia University in 1986, preceded by a bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980 and rose to the rank of captain.
He is president and owner of Legacy Ford of McDonough, ANSA Automotive of Macon, and Legacy Chevrolet-Cadillac-Saab of Columbus, Ga. He was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 2004.
"I'm an entrepreneur, first and foremost," said Jones, who became a business owner in the late 1980s. "Looking back, 22 years ago, I would say it was the right decision to make."
In the State Senate, Jones serves on the Interstate Cooperation Committee, the Retirement Committee, the Special Judiciary Committee, and the Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee.
He is a deacon at the Shiloh Baptist Church in McDonough, and has held several community offices in Henry and DeKalb counties. He lives in Henry County with his wife of 22 years, Gloria, and their three children, Emanuel II, 20, Elam, 16, and Emani, 14.