The first time Mayor Nicole Dailey Jones considered a career in politics, she was in junior high school. Her father, who had worked in factories his entire life, had lost his job for the second time. She remembers watching TV with her parents, Greg and Arlene Dailey, in their small bungalow in Parma on Parklane Drive when she heard a disturbing message.
“The president at the time was doing an interview and made a comment about how if people are unemployed, it’s their own fault and they’re not trying hard enough to find employment. Watching my parents’ faces while that comment was being made on TV shocked me because my parents are two of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” she says, crediting them with giving her the opportunity to become the first person in her family to attend and graduate college. “It all came to a head and clicked with me that if I ever had the opportunity to be elected to anything, that I knew I would remember that moment at all times and make sure that the way that I treated whomever I was representing and whatever decisions I made in office would be reflective of the fact that every person out there is doing the best they can.”
Passion for Politics
Jones’ desire to effect change through government started at St. Francis De Sales in Parma, where she served as the vice president of student government. At Parma
Senior High School, she served as the president of her freshman, sophomore and junior classes, as well as senior president of student government. At Ohio Wesleyan University, where Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, government and international studies, she also participated in student government and was elected president during her senior year.
During college, Jones spent a semester in Washington, D.C., working at a strategy firm, where she saw firsthand how policy was influenced through different groups and organizations. She also interned for Mary Boyle, who was running for U.S. Senate in the state of Ohio, for two years during college. Upon graduation, Jones got a job in the U.S. Senate, where she learned how the legislative process worked.
“I had a great experience in D.C., but it was always in the back of my head that I wanted to return to Ohio and serve in the local government,” she says. “The best way to effect change was to be right here in my own community.”
When Jones moved back to Ohio, she chose North Olmsted as her new home and wasted no time getting involved in various volunteer boards and commissions within the city. When a position opened on city council, she ran and was elected as the Ward 3 representative, where she served for six-and-a-half years before being elected and serving as city council president for nine years. During her more than 20 years of experience in municipal, county and federal government, Jones also worked as a congressional aide to democratic U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur.
“Through all of those positions, you have the opportunity to make your own connections with different people and organizations that help shape who you are and the way you approach problem solving, but also just observing,” Jones says. “You can learn a lot from how others around you deal with situations and have the opportunity to see a lot of different leadership styles. All of those experiences combined have been helpful leading up to this moment to serve my community as mayor.”
Growing a Greater Community
One of the aspects of North Olmsted
that Jones appreciates most is its ability to change while also remaining true to its roots. During the 1970s through 1990s, the city experienced a tremendous growth period. Now, Jones is focused on what the next 20 years will hold for North Olmsted, which includes taking action to refill storefronts, attract new businesses, rebuild the city’s streets and invest in quality city services.
“Retail is not going to look the same as it has in the past,” she says. “That’s one thing I heard as I was running for community office and sitting on city council and observing the changes that have been taking place. It’s been a really big challenge navigating how to position the city and allow for economic development and how we shape that and what kind of policies the city can implement to ensure that our trajectory into the future isn’t stagnant — that we’re not letting things happen to us — we’re shaping the future.”
A different kind of mayor — that’s the platform on which Jones ran and the reason she believes she was elected.
“I think that the feeling in the community was that we had remained stagnant for a long time and needed a fresh start. We needed to have some new eyes on challenges that our community was facing and present some solutions to those challenges,” she says. “I believe that cities that continue to evolve and look at problem solving all of the time are the ones that are setting themselves up for success. Now is the time to make those changes and five to 10 years from now see some real change.”
Jones also is honored to become the city’s second female mayor and hopes to continue to inspire other women to pursue their goals and dreams through her service. What advice does she have for those looking to follow in her footsteps?
“I always encourage all young people to serve their community — no matter what that looks like,” she says, adding that communities need people to be leaders in so many ways, whether that’s serving on boards and commissions, volunteering through churches or other organizations or participating in groups such as the Junior Women’s Club or local garden club. “All of those organizations make a community a wonderful place to live. I want young people to know that there’s leadership opportunities everywhere. Serving your community doesn’t mean you need to be elected to city government.”
No Place Like North Olmsted
When Jones and her husband, Daniel Jones, decided to move back to Ohio, they considered many communities near her hometown of Parma. What attracted them most to North Olmsted is the big-city amenities coupled with small-town charm. Everything is connected for those who live and work in the city.
“The proximity to whatever type of service or need you could want is amazing,” says Jones, who has lived in North Olmsted for 21 years. “You have access to anything you could possibly want to get to, such as retail or any services you might need. Medical services, the airport, freeway systems — everything is connected to you in North Olmsted.”
Jones also appreciates the city’s proximity to the Cleveland Metroparks, which her family of seven enjoy greatly. Her five children, all of whom attend North Olmsted City Schools and range from a third grader to a high school senior, are involved in scouting and spend a lot of time outdoors. The family also is active in St. Clarence Church, and Jones is an active PTA mom.
When it comes to managing a household and a city, Jones says it’s all about staying organized, finding balance and having a strong support system.
“My husband, parents and all of my children and their friends and families, we all help each other out,” she says. “That’s something I’m so thankful for in North Olmsted — the people around here and the people my children are growing up with — it’s such a great thing.”