Sheriff Jay Jones serves the citizens of Lee County — one person at a time
By Kate Asbury Larkin
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team; Fred Astaire was told he could not act or dance; Walt Disney was told he had no imagination; and a junior high school boy from Montgomery was told he did not get the job as a school crossing guard.
The successes of Jordan, Astaire and Disney are well documented, and now you are going to learn of another man who did not let his first failure derail his dream.
Meet Jay Jones. Tin Man. Superman. Sheriff. A man with impeccable character who wakes up every day ready to serve others, both on and off the job.
Jones was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but moved with his family to Montgomery at an early age and was raised in the capital city. It was during his years at Bellingrath Junior High School that he got the bug for law enforcement, but never seemed to be able to get his foot in the door.
“When I was in junior high school, I applied to be a school crossing guard, but I didn’t get the job,” says Jones. “My interest remained strong, and it turned out that through scouting and my involvement with an Explorer post I was able to get a little taste of police work with the Montgomery Police Department, just enough to strengthen my desire.”
After high school graduation in 1972, Jones enrolled at Auburn University, declaring a major in law enforcement. His senior year, he secured an internship with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office where his first assignment on his first day was to clean the bathrooms.
“I was proud to do it,” he says. “After about a week, I got to talk on the radio, then a little later, I got to serve meals to the inmates and answer the phones. Eventually I worked up to Academy, Yellow Dot, Are You Okay, Project Life Saver, RAD self-defense classes for women, and the school resource division which provides education and law enforcement liaisons to schools throughout the county.
But when you talk to Jones, these are not at all the things he wants to talk about. He does not complain about the many challenges of the population explosion, how it spreads available resources, or the ways the Internet and social media have changed society and how it impacts law enforcement. He brushes over the incredible accomplishments and successes of himself and his agency. What Jones wants to talk about are the people he leads — and those he serves.
“What I love most about being in law enforcement is the opportunity to have a positive impact on somebody’s life,” says Jones. “This is a profession where you don’t always catch people at their best, but it can also be gratifying when you can help someone with their plight in life.”
Jones instills that same attitude in his 71 sworn officers and his support staff.
“Our agency is a very close-knit family, and that is so important to me and to all of us,” says Jones. “We sincerely care about each other, respect each other and help each other both at work and in our daily lives. It is what is expected within the sheriff’s office, and I seek out those who want to be a part of that. As a team, we all have the same expectations on the job; to treat others the way we want to be treated — with compassion, respect, dignity and professionalism.”
Another favorite subject for Jones to discuss is his new four-legged — wait — make that a three-legged friend, who took a most unusual journey to end up in Alabama.
While patrolling the streets of Memphis, Tenn. last spring, two police officers found the lab-mix puppy in a rough section of town. He was in distress, thin and hungry. The officers shared their sandwiches and decided to rescue the dog from despair. They gathered him up, took him to a local veterinarian to be checked out, had him micro-chipped and found him a home with a friend in the area. End of story.
But, not so fast. Several weeks later, the officer whose name was on the micro-chip was notified that the dog had been found again, this time seriously injured. He had head trauma, broken ribs and his front leg was just dangling, most likely the result of being hit by a car. The vet said the leg would need to be amputated, but such an extensive surgery would be expensive. Undeterred, the officer began raising funds and in the process, called his friend and former co-worker, Jennifer Bosler, now with the LCSO. She called on her vet friends in Lee County and found a group who would perform the surgery at a reduced rate. Bosler met the Memphis officer somewhere along Highway 78, brought the pup to Lee County, and Jennifer Elrod of the Opelika Animal Hospital performed the amputation.
Intrigued by the story, Jones offered to keep the dog for a few days during his recovery, and it was love at first sight. Now named Memphis in honor of his roots, Jones and his wife, Judy, welcomed a new family member, who now jogs with the sheriff every day.
“Having three legs hasn’t stopped him at all,” says Jones. “He loves to gnaw on ball caps and is usually waiting when I walk in the door with his latest selection — despite the fact that I do my best to secure them. Nothing slows him down; he’s active, happy, healthy and loved.”
There is one other love of Jones’s life — his family. Married to the former Judy Horne of New Orleans, also an Auburn graduate, the couple has four children, Melanie, Eileen, Gina and Nick, and three grandchildren. Jones seizes any chance to spend time with family.
The one thing that impresses me most about Jones is his unblemished reputation. Most anybody in Lee County will tell you Jones will be re-elected as sheriff as long as he wants the job. In this day and time, you just do not find that kind of respect and admiration, but Jones has earned it through each and every life he has touched, and the concept for his success is simple: just take care of each other.
To visit the Lee County Sheriff’s Office website, go to www.leecountysheriff.org.