Remarks on Charles Jones’ Retirement: Dr. George Frederickson

Charles Jones Retirement Reception remarks by George Frederickson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas


Charles Jones

Charles Jones, former director

I am sure you will all agree that Charles Jones is a serious man. He is a man of high purposes.  Charles Jones is a man to be reckoned with.

How do we know this?

First, there is the matter of his name.

He is Charles Jones.

He is not Charlie Jones.

He is not Chuck Jones.

And he is certainly not Chucky Jones.

Charles Jones, a serious man, a man of high purposes, a man to be reckoned with.

In his early years Charles lived in Arizona and New Mexico. Then, at about age 12, his family moved to Los Angeles, but not just any place in L.A., they moved to the San Fernando Valley.

You have all heard of “valley girls.” Well, the “valley” in “valley girls” is the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.  Valley girls tend to be blond, toned, tanned, well dressed and to spend a lot of time at the mall, and to be, as the song says, material girls.  And they have their own language.   Like totally rad, what—ever.

You may not have heard of “valley boys.” Valley boys are trim and fit, avoid fried foods, and have good hair.  They eat avocados.  Avocados grow like kudzu in the San Fernando Valley.

Valley boys and girls do not go to movies, they go to films, and especially to film festivals.

Charles graduated from Van Nuys High School, in the heart of the Valley. Other distinguished valley boys who graduated from Van Nuys High School include:

Clint Eastwood

Robert Redwood

Don Drysdale

Stacy Keach

Do you see where Charles Jones fits here? Lean, well dressed, good hair, avocados.

Who else graduated from Van Nuys High School?

Natalie Wood

Jane Russell

Marilyn Monroe

I rest my case.

After high school Charles completed two years at Pierce College in the Valley.

Charles then moved to Lawrence and enrolled in the University of Kansas, majoring in biology. There are rumors that a young lady may have influenced  Charles’  decision to move to Kansas.  But never mind.  Far be it from me to monger a rumor.

Not long after coming to Lawrence, Charles befriended Francis Horowitz, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies at KU. Over the years Dr. Horowitz became Charles’ good friend, wise mentor, and muse.

After graduation Charles took a position in the government of the State of Kansas, initially with the Kansas Corporation Commission. He steadily advanced in the range of his responsibilities and accomplishments.  His final position in state government was four years as the Director of Environment Agency in the Department of Health and Environment in the administration of Governor Joan Finney, where he was responsible for more than 400 employees and a budget of more than 40 million dollars.  At the completion of the Finney administration in 1995, and after XXXX years of state service, it is safe to say that no one knew more about Kansas environmental policy than Charles Jones.

Along the way Charles stepped away from state government for two years, 1987 and 1988, to earn an MPA degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While there he took a particular interest in transformational leadership.

After the Finney administration, Charles consulted for a couple of years. Then, in 1998 he was elected a Douglas County Commissioner.  It might be said that Charles was a bit over prepared for a position on the county commission.  He was twice elected and served for over 5 years.

In the midwinter of 2003, I was summoned to Strong Hall where I was given the bad news that the wonderful Joe Harkin was resigning as Director of the KU Public Management Center. I was asked to serve as Interim Director of the Center and as Chair of the search committee for a new director.  It was during the course of searching for a new PMC director that I first came in contact with Charles.  He was appointed the new Director on August 1st, 2003, just a month shy of 11 years ago.

Over the course of that 11 years, Charles and I worked together on sundry committees and projects, and seldom missed an opportunity to talk about public administration, about leadership, about Kansas, and about politics.   We often lunch together, with Charles ordering something with avocado in it.

Charles has become a valued member of the faculty, a voice of reason and insight. He is often the source of different and original ways of looking at things.  As a faculty member he carried essentially a full teaching load while directing the PMC.  And, his teaching is superb.

As I reflect on the past 11 years it comes to me that Charles was simultaneously teaching transformational  leadership in the MPA curriculum and practicing transformational leadership at the PMC.  Transformation is about change and betterment.  Charles is a man who practices what he preaches.  Here are some of the transformations that Charles led:

  1. Shifted the organizational arrangements for the PMC from Continuing Education to what is now the School of Public Affairs and Administration.
  2. Greatly expanded the number of students in the Certified Public Manager Program, most particularly increasing the number of city, county and other local government CPM students.
  3. Significantly increased the number of CPM students who moved into the career MPA program.
  4. It is safe to say that the University of Kansas now has one of the top CPM programs in the country.
  5. Moved the day-to-day operations of the PMC from Topeka to the central offices of the School of Public Affairs and Administration in Wescoe Hall on the Lawrence Campus.
  6. Relocated the PMC Topeka classrooms to the Brown v. Board of Education building.
  7. Established the Law Enforcement Leadership Academy in conjunction with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.

I know a few things about the glacial pace of university change and can say absolutely that this rate of change is astonishing.

As I said earlier, Charles is a serious man. Charles is a man of high purposes.  Charles is a man to be reckoned with.  Douglas County is better because of Charles Jones.  The state of Kansas is better because of Charles Jones.  And, the University of Kansas is better because of Charles Jones.