This relationship and willingness to collaborate has not only helped improve programs, mobilize resources, and create more innovative and effective ways to educate the public, but has also helped through difficult times.
In 2020, when the debate about interracial relations was a national issue, Jones, whose son is a white police officer, and McKinney, who is black, not only had a series of deep personal conversations, but opened the case to all lengths. He encouraged everyone in the organization to take a closer look at their own biases and talk to each other about the outstanding issues around race relations in America.
One forum where they had that conversation during their ongoing sessions was “Ask Ed and Ray Anything,” where everyone is encouraged to submit anonymous questions and the two answer anything. Events are held several times a year as a way to connect with everyone in a large organization.
Jones never faltered during sessions, even as hundreds of people followed and asked their leader tough questions on a range of topics related to employment, raises, COVID-19, and more. But they always thank Jones for his frankness.
“To have that willingness to hear what the field has to say, whether it’s good or bad or ugly, and to open yourself up that way right away, is indicative of your confidence in your abilities as a leader,” said Lonnie Johnson, who oversees 107 Locals. Guidance offices as assistant manager for field operations.
He had the courage to stand up for what was right.
Jones’ influence has reached far beyond Virginia’s borders. Over the past decade, he has worked on a national scale to ensure that his entire Cooperative Extension system continues to make a lasting impact on America for generations to come.
He has been a member of the Leadership Advisory Board of the Policy and Organization Steering Committee, a member of the National 4-H Board of Trustees, chair of the Leadership 4-H Policy and Organizational Steering Committee, and chair of the Extended Committee on Regulation and Policy.
His service received the Leadership Excellence Award from the Southern District Extension Managers Association in 2020. Last year, he received the Ruby Award for Service Excellence – the highest level of recognition from Epsilon Sigma Phi, one of the oldest organizations in extension professionals – for his outstanding leadership and innovative thinking. and his exceptional, ongoing 37-year performance in collaborative mentorship.
These patriotic relations often found him working alongside Jennifer Cirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council, the largest youth development organization in the United States. While they worked together on expanding 4-H and how to make it a talent pipeline, they also had some sensitive issues to address, such as 4-H’s policy for the inclusion of transgender youth.
“It’s all about Ed,” said Serangelo. “He had the guts to stand up for what was right. He was the spokesperson for the extension values.”
After a long day of hard work, Serangelo texted Jones to ask why he put so much effort and passion into his work. He replied with a picture of his grandchildren.
“He said he wanted the world they grew up in to be a better place,” she said.
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