Taking action

September 10th, 2019 Posted in From Our Alumni
Young alumna focuses political experience on upcoming presidential campaign

By Laurie B. Davis

At the age of 23, Sydney Jones (A/L, ’19) already has worked at the local, state and federal levels of government politics and policy. Jones took every opportunity at The University of Toledo to learn about government service and immersed herself in the current issues that drive America’s political system.

Sydney Jones, center, poses with a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who became gun safety advocates following the shooting at their school on Feb. 14, 2018.

“I’m most passionate about how we can improve people’s everyday lives,” says Jones, “and I think government service is the best way for me to do that.” She believes in activism but says her skills align best with public service. “The two complement each other,” says Jones. “You need activism to push the conversation into the public arena, but you need government action to put policy ideas into law.”

Setting up for success

Jones says UToledo faculty members helped her realize her potential in politics. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now if it weren’t for the professors in the political science department at UToledo,” says Jones, who also took courses in the Jesup Scott Honors College.

During her swearing in ceremony, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio invited her staff to join her for the photo with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sydney Jones is at the far left.

“I think my professors took the time to get to know me as a student and as a person. That type of encouragement and that type of focus is what sets you up to be successful once you’re out of school,” says Jones.

An internship with the Ohio Democratic Party and a semester off to work full-time for the organization led to coordinating a major voter registration effort in Toledo for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. At first, Jones turned down the full-time job offer to focus on college. “They kept asking me, and I kept turning it down, and then I told myself, this is too big of an opportunity to pass up,” she says. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because I thought, at the time, we were going to elect the first female president. I don’t regret it at all.”

Sydney Jones poses outside of the Washington, D.C. office of Marcy Kaptur, U.S. Rep. from Ohio.

As a field organizer for the campaign, Jones set up phone banks to raise awareness for the candidate and to identify what issues concerned Toledo voters. Talking with Toledoans was Jones’ favorite activity. Conversations sometimes triggered an interest where at first there was none, she says. “I found that to be the most exciting part.”

The relationships Jones established during that campaign were important enough to her to continue her political involvement locally. She became a field director for a Toledo City Council campaign and joined the Lucas County Democratic Party.

Doing the work

Jones began to learn the local angle of politics. She talked with people at forums on community policing and other topics. She discovered how a local hospital system started the Market on the Green in the Uptown neighborhood of Toledo, formerly designated a grocery desert. “As dire as presidential campaigns are, they only happen every four years, and we need to make sure we’re doing the work in between,” says Jones, especially at the local and state levels. “I don’t think people realize the impact that local and state policies have on their everyday life,” she adds.

Sydney Jones poses at her desk on her last day of working for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Jones also had an internship with Marcy Kaptur, U.S. Representative of Ohio. She says good timing and having proven her skills as an intern helped her earn a full-time position in Kaptur’s Washington, D.C. office. She began as a staff assistant and was promoted to legislative correspondent, responding to constituents. “She’s been in office for more than 30 years,” says Jones of Kaptur. “She has a very clear message and a very clear voice. I was expected to capture that,” says Jones.

Jones’ latest role in the U.S. Capitol has become a “fast-paced, challenging and fun” job as a research analyst for the presidential campaign for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California. “It’s a new and different experience for me because all of my experience with campaigns has been doing community organizing,” says Jones. “This is at the headquarters.”

Jones says her latest role in the U.S. Capitol is a “fast-paced, challenging and fun” job as a research analyst for the presidential campaign for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California. Photo credit Brendan Kownacki

As with any political campaign, candidates don’t share their strategies with their opponents, and Jones cannot share specifics about her work for Harris, but she did speak as an American voter.

“For me, the most important thing for this election is restoring power to American citizens,” says Jones. “I want more transparency in this election. I want to elect a president who will bring people into the process of the American political system.”

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