Destined for Public Service
By Krista Rinehart, CSG National Leadership Center Coordinator
For Arizona Rep. Russ Jones, public service was his destiny.
“I was raised to believe we each have an obligation to serve to the extent our personal, physical and financial resources allow us,” said Jones. “There are many different service organizations I’ve been associated with. The political arena was a logical extension of those activities.”
Jones has to look no further than the examples his father and grandfather set in that regard. That led to his efforts to give back to his community, from service on area boards to service in the state legislature. He also has dedicated a good deal of his life to service in the armed forces. A former member of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, he is a major and pilot with the 508th squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
Jones’ personal experiences guide his leadership and service in the legislature. A licensed insurance broker, he has used his history as a successful small business owner to help steer his state through the current economic downturn.
“As a businessman who’s survived a number of recessions over the years,” said Jones, “I believe we can recover our economy without a huge infusion of public monies. I will continue to advocate for more public-to-public and public-to-private solutions.”
He advocates for Arizona to stay the fiscal course it has laid out.
“We need to live within our means and continue to responsibly balance the state budget, as is required by our state constitution,” he said. “Secondly, we need to strive to create an environment conducive to business investment and capital formation in order to stimulate private sector creation of new jobs. Finally we need to find innovative ways to address our crumbling state transportation, education and public infrastructure.”
Jones also is interested in another hot topic in the legislature: illegal immigration and border security. Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 has garnered a great deal of attention and Jones and his colleagues have spent recent weeks examining the Supreme Court ruling that struck down portions of the law. The legislature, Jones believes, is in a holding pattern until it can determine what impact the remaining portions of the law will have on the state.
“At this point, I don’t believe additional legislation is called for until the dust has settled and those portions of SB 1070 that remain in force are given a chance to be fully vetted,” said Jones.
One aspect of the legislation Jones says will need particular attention is the guest worker program and the potential need to police it.
“I believe that for there to exist a viable guest worker program, a policing component is necessary,” he said. “The portion of 1070 recently upheld provides what I believe is a good faith attempt by Arizona law enforcement to establish basic rules of engagement, if you will, for nonfederal officers to apply when confronting individuals, during the course of their regular duties, who may be in the U.S. without proper authorization.”
Budget issues and immigration policy are two very contentious issues that highlight the growing partisan divide across the country. From his experiences in the legislature and running for office, Jones sees a need for systemic changes, such as a less political means of redistricting, in order to combat some of the partisan rancor that is infecting politics.
“Having just experienced dramatic redistricting, my observations lead me to believe that partisan application of redistricting required by the census, coupled with term limits, are creating a more partisan legislative environment,” said Jones. “The moderates are abandoning our two political parties to become independents, which removes what otherwise would be a moderating effect on both parties.”
In addition to creating more polarized parties, Jones suggests the growing independent voter block may be playing a role in the declining participation rate in elections across the country. He suggests a more open and convenient political process in Arizona to help engage more people.
“Too many moderates from both sides are opting out of the process and thus abandoning our traditional two parties to extremes on both sides of the political spectrum,” he said. “Short of abandoning the two-party system, I’d like to see if we can find a way for the independent voter to participate in primaries. Although the current Arizona system allows for that, the advent of early balloting has made the process too cumbersome.”
Jones, who describes his leadership style as “inclusive and by example,” was recently selected to be a part of the 2012 Toll Fellows class.