BEVERLY — Fort Frye High School students had a special assembly Monday to learn more about government at the state level when Ohio Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, visited.
Jones, who spent 23 years as an agriculture teacher and was an FFA adviser, has an educational background that he brought to his new position. He said he never had an interest in politics growing up and went into the job without any preconceived ideas.
He spoke to the students on the basics of what he does and about major current issues.
Jones said he and his opponent in a prior election, whom he knew and had worked with in the past, decided to run a civil campaign.
“It doesn’t have to get ugly,” he said. “We see that too much in politics at the federal level.”
Jones said representatives at the state level are limited to four two-year terms. He is majority whip.
He said lawmakers’ primary purpose is to be problem-solvers for constituents.
“We wear a lot of different hats,” Jones said. “We get the opportunity to meet a lot of people.”
He cited the importance of learning about a lot of different areas and finding someone who knows more about things that you don’t.
Skills he learned in FFA and parliamentary procedure events helped him learn how to run meetings and still help now, Jones said.
“What happens at the county and state level in politics will affect you,” he said.
Students had an opportunity to ask Jones questions about his job and current events, including redistricting.
“Redistricting is really affecting me and my colleagues,” he said. “A constitutional amendment is changing the way the maps were drawn, and it has been nothing but a nightmare.”
Jones said that while early voting has already started for the May primary, neither himself nor his colleagues are on the ballot because no one knows what district they will represent.
“There will be two primaries then; ours will be on Aug. 2,” he said. “And that’s the challenge because a special election usually gets a low voter turnout.”
He talked about COVID-19 pandemic, and the differing opinions on masks and vaccines. He said at one point he and his colleagues were on the phone with the governor every week to be updated.
“You won’t always agree with everyone,” he said. “You have to learn to listen to understand and not to react. I don’t always agree with the people in my party, and I agree with some (in the other party) on some issues and disagree with others. We have to learn to agree to disagree. It doesn’t mean that anyone is right or wrong; we just disagree.”
Students also asked about tough decisions he had to make.
“Raising the gas tax was difficult,” he said. “It went up 10 cents for gas and 19 cents for diesel. That was difficult and not something I wanted to do. I did agree because that money was going to fix roads and bridges.”
Jones noted that he pushed for more of the money to go to counties and townships and not all to ODOT.
He said politics has been very rewarding.
“You don’t get involved for the money; I actually took a pay cut originally. But you get to meet and work with so many people. There are good days and bad days too,” Jones said.
He told students to remember: “You can outwork 90 percent of the people you will meet.”
The students were working to fill out a questionnaire for class about public speaking, including the job of a presenter, topics covered and civic duty.