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Interview with David Jones,  April 13, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with David Jones,  April 13, 2006
April 13, 2006
A 25-year resident of Wilmington, David Jones was born in 1935 and raised in New Bern, North Carolina, where his family owned and operated a boardinghouse. Together with his brother, he built one of the strongest independent retail stores in the Carolinas at the time, with seven furniture and appliance stores in the Fayetteville area. Mr. Jones has served as head of the Department of Human Resources and Corrections in Raleigh and as mayor of Wilmington from 2000-2002. He is also the owner of Pawn USA stores.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Jones, David Interviewer: Parnell, Gerald Date of Interview: 4/13/2006 Series: SENC Notables Length 45 minutes

Parnell: I am Jerry Parnell from Randall Library and Special Collections and we're in the office of David Jones Investments in Wilmington and we're going to talk to Mr. Jones for our oral history project. To begin with Mr. Jones, if you'll just state your name and give us some personal background, your birth date, something about your family and your brothers and sisters and things like that.

David Jones: Sure. Uh.. My birthday is September the 18th and I was born in 1935. Uh.. I'm 70 years of age. Uh.. I was born in New Bern, North Carolina uh.. by uh.. Julia uh.. Jones, my mother, and Asa, A-s-a Jones. Uh.. I have five sisters and uh.. s- three brothers, a total of eight. Uh.. There's only uh.. four still livin'. Uhm.. My mother ran a boardin' house all her life and my daddy did uh.. trivial labor. They were very eh.. solid, religious people and whatever has happened to me good in life I give them credit, them and God. Uh.. The things that I've messed up on I take credit for that but they were people who had strong principles, high, strong work ethics and they were people who-- Uh.. I was very fortunate. Uh.. Back in them days in eastern North Carolina a lot of- uh.. there was a lot of prejudice. Uh.. I was fortunately raised in a home where there was no prejudice. Uh.. We had a lady who uh.. worked with my mother in the boardin' house named Hattie Medjet[ph?] who we loved like part of the family and Hattie worked there until Mother passed away and- and she could not go back in as she was a black lady- she could not go back in the house because it was just too much on her because her and Mother-- It wasn't like she worked for Mother. They were- They were just extremely close friends and of course after Mother passed away Daddy lived about five years. Uh.. He really died the day she died but he didn't stop breathing 'til five years later because that was his soul mate for life. Uhm.. Hattie, uh.. we stayed in touch. Matter of fact, (clears throat) uh.. my brothers and my sister and myself after Mother passed away and Hattie, uh.. I sent her a check every day of every month of her life until she died. When she came down with cancer Hattie uh.. the last uh.. year, year and a half, I went to New Bern and uh.. we air conditioned her house and took care of the- uh.. all that expense and also uh.. uhm.. gave her her check right on up 'til the day she died so Hattie was part of the family. So we never knew what it was to look at somebody's color or h- and judge 'em. We judged people on who they were as individuals and that's a characteristic that I developed after my mother and my father uh.. and uh.. I'm very much that a way. I'm proud to say my two sons, which I have one-- Uh.. Pete is 47 and Scott is 43. Uh.. They brought me the greatest h- joys of my life in my grandchildren. I have a granddaughter that's a junior at UN s- uh.. C uh.. Wilmington, uh.. Candace. She'll be 22 this month. She's reminded me of it several times. (laughs) And I have uh.. a grand- uh.. uh.. a little granddaughter, m- my son remarried, uh.. her father, and I have a little 5 year old granddaughter who is the apple of my eye and then Pete uh.., which is the president of Pawn USA stores. We have seven of those and Pete is general manager and president of that operation, uh.. does a great job, I'm real proud of him. Scott works in retail in Durham and- and I'm extremely proud of him as well but it's- uh.. it's been a great life. Uhm.. I have said many a time I feel so fortunate, number one to have been born in America where opportunities are at your fingertip. You must prepare yourself for it mentally and you've got to prepare yourself for be willin' to work hard. I don't really judge success in people by how much money they have. I think success is what a person has accomplished with their lives and how happy they are with their lives. Uh.. That is- to me is what success is all about. I've seen people extremely wealthy that's miserable so uh.. I don't like ever- I want people to like me for who I am and what I am, uh.. not what I mu- uh.. they think I may- uh.. may have monetarily. The grandkids of course like I said and then Pete, the oldest son, has got two sons. He's got one 20 and uh.. he has another one that's turning 16 this month, uh.. they have been nothing but a joy to me. Matter of fact, one of my sons mentioned to me not long ago, says Dad, you know, you didn't treat us like you treat these grandkids. And I said well, that's very easy to explain: You are not perfect, they are. So it's- it's- uh.. they are my buddies and everybody who knows me know that uh.. wherever uh.. they see me uh.. they'll see some of my grandkids. Uh.. So they've been a real joy to me in my life. The other part-- I'm sorry.

Parnell: No, I was gonna, before we get too far, I wanna jump back to something you said about the boarding house.

David Jones: Yeah.

Parnell: Um, Hattie, did she help your mother in the boardinghouse--

David Jones: Sure did.

Parnell: --the cooking and the cleaning and all of that?

David Jones: Absolutely.

Parnell: How was she viewed by your boarders?

David Jones: Part of the family. We- We really-- Uh.. Our whole home uhm.. had so much love in it and the boarders, Mama would feed 25, 30 people three times a day, we would have that many boarders in the house. I never knew what it was to have a room by myself uh..--

Parnell: Was it the boardinghouse that you grew up in too?

David Jones: Yes.

Parnell: It was a fairly large house?

David Jones: Eh.. Yeah, a fairly large house, bu- a pretty simple house but uh.. I wouldn't have traded it. Uh.. I have said many a time, and no disrespect 'cause I respect all these families that I'm fixin' to say, but if you'd uh.. took the Kennedys and Firestone and the Rockefellers and the Duponts all together I would not have taken my life and traded it for all of 'em put together because Mother and Daddy.. taught me the principles, my faith in my God and how I should treat my fellow man. So yeah, Hattie was- was part of us but it was one big, happy family, our boarders. I know after m- Mother- uh.. all of the time on Mother's Day and Christmas we'd get calls from eh.. boarders that had been with us. They would send her Christmas presents and flowers and I never will forget uh.. we tried to get at one of the boarders that had been- stayed in touch with her when Mother died and uh.. he didn't know she had died and he lived in Norfolk and he came to town and my father was sittin' on the front porch and uh.. I was sittin' on there with my brother and when uh.. he came up he was so excited and he came over and he said where's Mama? And uh.. when uh.. we expressed to him that she had passed away he become extremely emotional because he didn't know so (clears throat) we never what it was to sit down and eat a meal without a bunch of people at the table.

Parnell: Was your family from New Bern originally?

David Jones: Yes.

Parnell: How far back--

David Jones: Well, my family came out of Onslow County. I was the only one in my family that wasn't born in Onslow. I was born in Craven or in New Bern but they were from that area.

Parnell: Were you the youngest in the family?

David Jones: Yeah.

Parnell: You're the baby.

David Jones: Yeah. I liked to kid my brothers and sisters all my life and said s- they saved the best to last but see, they kinda resented me when I was born. They admit- They admit that throughout the years because Mother was 44 and that was uh.. then by all standards too old to be having children so they didn't know about me when I first came in this world but uh.. we kid about it to this day and that's- that's why I say- I tell 'em they saved the best to last.

Parnell: I assume you grew up working in the boardinghouse also.

David Jones: Well, working in it but, you know, I started to work when I was 12 and so did my brother. Back then the uh.. bowlin' alleys uh.. had manual pins and it wasn't automatic, it was manual. Th-- I had that job. Cherry Point Marine Base was about 20 miles away and Camp Lejeune and we had a tremendous influx of military comin' in and Wilton[ph?] and myself was quite uh.. entrepreneurs and we- uh.. we had shoeshine kits and we did a lot of shoe shines and back then we lived right at the train stra- station in New Bern and back then the troop trains would come through with troops. They wasn't allowed to get off so this was when I was like 14 years old we started this. The-- Uh.. They couldn't get off so what- we had set up account with a grocery store- Penicks'[ph?] drug store there, and we'd set up an account with Parrot's[ph?] grocery store there and we would get a lot of the sandwiches and nabs and stuff and go out and then sell while that troop train was there for about 20 minutes and, you know, made good money. Uh.. It was amazing how much we made. And so we- we've done that and then we- uh.. wi- whatever. Then later on I started w- d- in the Penicks' drug store delivering prescriptions and Mr. Penicks was a great man to me, a great friend, and then I worked in Parrot's food store until I- I was 18 years old. Uh.. I worked in the meat department and all the other departments so- and it was relative close to where I lived so it's- uh.. it was a wonderful time.

Parnell: Where did you go to school?

David Jones: I was born in-- Uh.. I was r- went to new- public schools in New Bern. Mother had cancer and with us with limited means-- That's what we say today, oh, economically deprived. Back then we called it poor and that's what we were, poor but proud people. Uh.. In the last year I was quite active in high school, uh.. s- uhm.. I hold a lot of great honors in uh.. football and I played in the Shrine Bowl uh.. in 1955 and- and uh.. also uh.. East, West, uh.. News Observer All Star Team, I was that, and I had a lot of offers from colleges but Mother with cancer I felt that I had to take care of family so I never went to college. Maybe that's the reason I am such a major supporter of the higher educational uh.. system, uh.. ha- the entire public school systems. So- and probably hold some eh.. very unique and- and distinct uh.. privileges that people in my uh.. background never had the opportunity. I was good in music. I could do music arranging when I was 14 years of age. I was so good in it that Craven County Board of Education without any degree hired me as assistant music director of the entire county program. Must have.. done a good job because before the year was out Dr. Pew,[ph?] Robert Pew who was superintendent of the schools, he had offered me a new contract. At that time my brother had- was in the military uh.. at Fort Bragg. He had started a little TV repair place and we decided that we wanted to try going into business. Uh.. That uh.. was America, the opportunity. We had no money. I never will forget the little bedroom we rented was $65 that month. We couldn't pay Mr. Hollin,[ph?] W.E. Hollin, which was a real friend to us. We could not pay the $65 'til we sold something. Back then uh.. the banking system was not as sophisticated as it is today. Uh.. It is-- Uh.. Back then you could write a check and it would take a while to clear. Well, we'd take uh.. our station wagon with a old trailer and go to Norfolk, Virginia and we uhm.. would buy a load of TV sets, uh.. Price's in Norfolk was a big electronics store, come back, we'd clean 'em up, we had a repairman and (audio glitch) repair and I did uh.. w- washing machine repair and we would clean them things up and you get 'em out and pray that that check didn't clear.

Parnell: Before you made--

David Jones: Yeah. That's the truth. I'm-- This is all f- 100% honest. So we- uh.. that's how we started. Well, we were fortunate there 'cause we built one of the uh.. strongest retail independent stores in the two Carolinas. We had seven of 'em.

Parnell: Was this in--

David Jones: Fayetteville- Fayetteville and Spring Lake. We had seven furniture and appliance places. You know, one year we were 35th in the nation for Magnavox, just electronics, and that's just one line we carried. We were the largest dealer in Noridge[ph?] and Fetters[ph?] and other appliances.[ph?] So we had a very interesting life and that- we spun off from that into real estate. Real estate has always been-- A lot of people who know me personally noticed my involvement in real estate. People uh.. who don't know me well thinks maybe the seven pawn shops but that's a small part of my- of my investments. So throughout the years uh.. we have- uh.. I've been in the auto parts business, I've been in the automobile- uh.. -bile business, uh.. I've been in uh.. real estate which I'm in- in now. So eh.. you name it, some time, and then uh.. as you probably- or uh.. you may or may not- not uh.. know uh.. the former governor from '72 to '77 was Governor James E. Holshouser. Without question he and Pat, his wife, become friends of mine before he ran. When he ran for governor I got involved because I believed in- in him so much as I do today. When Governor Holshouser upset Skipper Bowles we had no money, Skipper had millions. We couldn't-- The people couldn't even pronounce-- He had less than a 5% name recognition factor, Jim Holshouser. People couldn't even pronounce his name. They called him Halfhouser, Holhouser, eh.. everything that you can imagine.

Parnell: He was a college professor.

David Jones: Well, no. He was a lawyer- He was a lawyer and Jim is the same age I am. We were 36 years old uh.. at that time and Jim was a little mountain boy from the mountains and of course Pat, his wife, is a sweetheart. Her daddy was a Presbyterian preacher. We become close friends uh.. during the campaign- uh.. before the campaign, during the campaign. Well, I l- think I was one of the first that he asked-- When we uh.. won, which was a shock to everybody, when he uh.. had me in Raleigh in the transition office and I think I was one of his first appointees and uh.. we were talking about the different cabinet uh.. level positions and he said "I'll tell you what I'd like for you to do, I'd really like for you to take the Department of Corrections," which then it was called the Human Res- uh.. Department of Human Resources and- and Corrections. It was the adult prison system, the juvenile system, probation and parole, the third largest agency in state government. He says "I'd like for you to take that," and I looked right straight at him, uh.. kinda like this.[ph?] I said "Governor, why would you want me to take that?" He says "I know you and I know the Department of Corrections has been on the back burner and we need to put it on the front burner because there's problems and there are going to be major problems if we don't address it and I know you can sell it to the people of the state." And I said "Well, let me assure you that I will do the best job but I want to tell you that the only thing I know about corrections is I'm lucky I'm not in it." (laughs)

Parnell: You had no political experience at this time. Correct?

David Jones: No, none at all really, but he wanted somebody that was a proven businessperson and my track record has been pretty good all my life. He wanted somebody he could trust 100% and I had developed a strong relationship with the general assembly. I'm not a partisan politician. Some people-- I'm a Republican but people get mad at me because I support Democrats. I've always supported who I feel to be best. I've become good friends with every governor since then. Uh.. I was uh.. extremely-- The first time in 72 years a Republican administration had been in Raleigh so you can imagine going for- the general assembly how I would feel and there wasn't enough Republicans then in the general assembly. You could uh.. put 'em in a telephone booth but my relationship and my honesty, and I'm just saying to you what they have said to me publicly and privately-- They knew they-- Uh.. At first-- The first year I'll never forget what the Capital Press Corps said to me: "We thought you were fake, we did not believe nobody in politics could be so honest." And after that year I had no problems at all. We made some major changes, caught some flak because of the changes, but the thing I'm extremely proud of, we really put together a great team. Some of the employees he had uh.. working in the Department of Corrections all their life, Ralph Edwards, which- which retired, director of prisons and all, Ralph to today is one of my closest friends. Uh.. We were fortunate to bring in some people uh.. like Don Torpa[ph?] from Burlington Industries on leave of absence I brought in because the medical system was antiquated, outdated. Uh.. I brought a fellow named Dick Kahl.[ph?] I went to Washington and uh.. I knew the field services, which we had uh.. all these prisons were similar to a military field services. So I met Dick Kahl in Raleigh. He was fixin' to retire. He was a colonel and it's what he did for the military. Dick was- was from Irwing.[ph?] It was a natural mix. We brought Dick in and uh.. the medical system when I was there uh.. the inmates would be given their medication in f- in- in- in- uh.. from nonqualified people, wasn't qualified to do it. Field services was absolutely zero and I feel very strong and I felt then that irregardless of a person's crime, what they committed, if the state did not provide humane livin' conditions then who's the guilty one? And I felt very strong about that and brought Dick in. We had our medical system accredited while I was there in four years. We had our denta- dental system accredited while I was there 'cause we worked with the medical hu-- doctors and all throughout the state, the dentists and all. What we did is simply what you have to do in life, we had to involve people. We wanted to be part of the process of the solution, not part of the problems. (phone rings) So that was absolutely essential that we develop that relationship. Training in the Department of Corrections just did not exist.

Parnell: You're talkin' about training of--

David Jones: Of the employees-- staff. They were hired at the maximum security prison in North Carolina. (busy signal) They were hired and put to work the same day with no training. Now that uh.., you know, you think God, how- how bad can it be? So we brought in uh.. Don Torpa from Burlington Industries as my deputy, we brought another feller in uh.. from uh.. Burlington Industries. We had 18 major industries, canneries, farm operation, paint plant, sign plant, uh.. never-- Uh.. It was self-generating funds. It was always a continuous struggle to get by. The second year I was secretary of corrections we give back to the general assembly over a million dollars and contributed back to it and I guess it still does to the day every year. Because we streamlined it- we streamlined it and uh.. we made it profitable so that that money could go in other areas. We got more money than any 12, 13 years put together for the general assembly during the period of time when interest rates was 21%, when there was gas lines, where there was a major recession. But we did it because we, number one, told the truth. We came in prepared. We did develop the first 15- 10, 15 year plan projection of population. I never will forget in a appropriation meeting when the senator from Asheville says David your figures are a joke." I said "What do you mean, Senator? He said "It is impossible for it to do what uh.. it- you say." I said "I hope I'm wrong and I hope you're right. Ralph Edwards retired 15 years later. He called me about coming to his retirement, he says "I want to tell you there were six inmates off of what you had projected." And it wasn't because I was that smart, it's because I had surrounded myself with smart people. I also implemented in government, it's never been done s- since or before, I worked with the instituted government and we put in MBO in, management by objective. They said it couldn't be done but management by objective means that you have to go down to the lowest paid employee and get them involved in preparing the budget, preparing the plans, then they feel responsible. If you go sit in your Eiffel Tower, in your big office, and expect the people in the field sending them law-- uh.. rules and you- they're gonna make it work for you? No. You got to make 'em feel like "Okay, you helped developed this plan and now it's up to you to lis- make it happen."

Parnell: That's true with all the--

David Jones: It's true- It's true in life.

Parnell: Where did your business knowledge come from?

David Jones: Practical experience, now understanding that well, I never went to college, I went to American uh.. uh.. col- uh.. American Institute of Management, North[ph?] Institute of Management, and I was there eh.. uh.. for three years in the summer. Uhm.. Must have done pretty good there. I was speaking uh.. just at random. They had asked us, people from all over the world, they wanted some people to speak on promotion and motivation. One of my competitors had heard me speak one time and uh.. they asked me would I participate. Well, there was about 15 people and all of them was prepared and this was two days off. I went before that convention and spoke on promotion and motivation. I got over 90% of the vote uh..--

Parnell: You motivated 'em.

David Jones: Motivated 'em, won it hands down, so- uh.. and then my experience has been, which is today that has never changed, I surround myself with people who have talents that I don't possess. I try to set us- our goals together and we periodically, as we do in our company's (phone rings) ____________, go over those goals and making sure that we are moving in those directions constantly but again it's not dated, it's our team. Mayor was no different.

Parnell: But before we get into the mayor, let's backup a second. Um, you and your brother had the seven--

David Jones: Two brothers, yeah.

Parnell: --two brothers had the seven appliance stores in Fayetteville--

David Jones: Furniture stores and appliances.

Parnell: --and so that was successful, you sold 'em and various other things.

David Jones: Well, when I went into state government my brother-- I left the business and then he left but he's still back in it. He's got two stores in Myrtle Beach and uh.. Wilton's two y- and a half years older than I am and he and I uh.. are real close. All my brothers- my brothers- two brothers and sisters, we were real close, but- and when we meet we look at each other and say "We're both crazy," because we still work. Uh.. Uh.. Wilton'll work 10, 12 hours a day and so will I but you know what? We- We enjoy work. It's not the money. Naturally, we will want to be compensated for our efforts. But it's like one of my sons asked me not long ago. He said "Daddy, wouldn't you like to be a billionaire?" And I said "Yeah, I would, Scott." "Why?" I said, "I could have- I'd have a lot more money to help people with." And that's the way I look at it. I'm extremely proud that we give over 20% of our income away every year--

Parnell: That's pretty good.

David Jones: --supporters of UNCW, uh.. scholarships, foundations at Cape Fear Community College, support scholarships at Southeastern, it just goes on and on and on. And- uh.. and so many charitable organization, the hospice. Uh.. I just gave 'em $30,000 to build one in Whiteville or helped build. So the money- and this is what I've tried to instill to my son, uh.. money is uh.. only as good as what you can do good with it.

Parnell: What brought you back to Wilmington or what brought you to Wilmington?

David Jones: Well, you know, I have always said that God has a master plan for me and uh.. I've got to the point I never question Him 'cause I don't know where He's gonna carry me next. Uh.. When- When I got through in Raleigh and moved back to Fayetteville and I had a son from a previous marriage, my two sons had come down here to live with their mother and their uh.. stepfather in a business and uh.. that was not going well uhm.. so we started a little business and I come to help him get started something in Wilmington and with the idea that I was gonna probably go to New Bern someplace and- uh.. on the eastern part of the state. (clears throat) And things just started falling in place and it's just one thing has gone into another and uhm.. I've been very fortunate. Uh.. Uh.. God's been kind to me, better than I deserve, and uh..--

Parnell: Your business now with Pawn USA--

David Jones: That's a small part of it.

Parnell: A small part of it but that's, I think what you're probably known in the public, as the owner of Pawn USA.

David Jones: The-- But the people, yeah, in real estate.

Parnell: How long have you had Pawn USA?

David Jones: Well, when I come to Wilmington in 19 s- 80 we were in gold and silver. Remember when that was so popular? We had a bunch of that and I started on Market Street in a little place that now is Jones Plaza Shopping Center. And we expanded from there, over here and I built this shopping center, and then uh.. we are three here and we have one now in Wallace, one in Whiteville and one in Shallotte, and I personally am not involved much in 'em anymore except for the money end. But uh.. my son does a great job, he- and I'm an- extremely proud of him, and Janet, which she's part owner with me now and Janet s- and myself's been working together over 40 years, the lady who uh.. runs my internal end. Again it's teamwork. You know, in this office we have uh.. four ladies and us men can take the ego trips all we want to but the ladies are the one who does the work. They're smart ones. You look in to a law firm, you look into a accounting firm, you look into my firm. Uhm.. I'm glad to see women have started coming on their own because they've been running this country for a long time. And I said the smartest businessperson I have ever met, and I've met by- eh.. had dinner with- uh.. at the mansion with uh.. the president of the Bank of Tokyo and- and- and General Motors, you name it, I've been around 'em, but the smartest businessperson I have ever known, second to no one, was my mother. She ran a boardinghouse, she raised eight kids, I never heard her complain in my life.

Parnell: Those are both big jobs.

David Jones: And she held it all together. Now you tell me that's not organizational ability. That's the best. (phone rings)

Parnell: So, after you come to Wilmington, you have your business going, how did you get back in politics?

David Jones: I'd never been out of it. Uh.. When I got involved in it was in Raleigh. I realized that you can stand on the sidelines and complain or you can get involved and make a difference. Uh.. When I came to-- Uh.. Eh.. Back in '77 I came back to Fayetteville from eh.. Raleigh and down here in 1980 and I just started looking around and- and I'm all getting involved because I want to m- be part of the solution, not part of the problem so- eh.. and especially my position of- that I am not a partisan politician. Now I'll admit if uh.. two- two people are running for a certain office and they're both equal I'm gonna probably go Republican but I'm not gonna take one that's not qualified over the other. I look at the person as individual and that's the way I support it and that's the way I finance it and we put out a lot of money in campaigns because I believe in the process and they got to have money to run.

Parnell: You were mayor in Wilmington from--

David Jones: 2000.

Parnell: --2000, 2002, one term.

David Jones: Just-- Yeah.

Parnell: What about before that? Were you in an elective office?

David Jones: No, no. A lot of boards and commissions but--

Parnell: That was your first elective office--

David Jones: Right. Uh huh.

Parnell: --and just had one term and decided not to run for reelection.

David Jones: I got hurt. Uh.. People close to me knows it but I got hurt real bad physically. About six months before my term was up I had had minor knee surgery. I was in my hu- house which was a pretty big home and uh.. upstairs on crutches, which I shouldn't have been, about four nights later and I fell down 21 flights of steps. Uh.. They thought at first I was dead and then they thought sure I had a broken neck but it cracked both sockets and broke all the bone structure in the front part and split the plates in the back and I had to go through three surgeries and hurt for three years of my life. Never missed a council meeting even though some time I was in so much pain and never took any drugs other than during the operation and right afterwards. So that's- uh.. that's why I didn't run but one term. Uh.. I- I don't think nobody would- uh.. even would uh.. filed against me. I think we had done that good a job.

Parnell: You were very popular.

David Jones: Yeah, and I don't think so but uh.. I just- I just had to get well.

Parnell: What do you think your greatest accomplishment--

David Jones: We're not far from it, Legion Stadium, uh.. they talked about it for 20 years, in two years. People said "Well, you got to be in office for 10 years to get stuff done." That's a excuse, not a reason. Uh.. In two years we funded it, we built it, no tax increases, reclassified every position in the city government because the people were not being paid what they should, did all of that, reclassified every position and never raised taxes. They had a surplus when I went in of about $8,000. When I left we were around 20- I mean 8 million. When I left we had over 24 million, didn't raise taxes, paid our way on everything. So again we involved the people and I said to the employees "I'm gonna look out for you, now you're gonna have to look out and help me." And it was a good- uh.. good working relationship and that's exactly what happened. I went to bat for them but I did the same thing at the Department of Corrections. The old timers will tell you today I'm the only man ever in state government to get two raises over and above the state raises for the Department of Corrections but I did the same thing there, completely reorganized, reclassified every position to justify more money for uh.. the employees, but I did that for more than two years. Bond rating, which is very important, we got it improved first time in years, when I left office around $24 million because we had come- become so financially sound our bond ratings had improved, which saves millions on interest. And at the same time it put us in a position where if you have a major catastrophe I had the money to take care of us, two years.

Parnell: I'm not sure what it is now, it's not that much I don't believe.

David Jones: Well, it should be around-- Uh.. I haven't looked at the recent budget but they are going through some problems now that uh.. is not the fault of this administration, uh.. a aged sewer system which is gonna- who knows what it's gonna cost? We got to fix it though.

Parnell: They'll have to.

David Jones: Uh huh. Turnover rate, when I went in the Department of Corrections they couldn't even get correction officers. I reclassified those uh.. positions. Probation and parole officers were hired because of the politicians. I had established when I was there that you had to have a four year degree upped that, the same way with the employees here, pushed the standards up, the expectation up, and I got the salary to go with it. Our turnover rate dropped probably over half in the city of Wilmington after implementing that in and, you know, in any business uh.. when you have a high turnover rate you cannot be very efficient.

Parnell: You're always training people--

David Jones: That's right.

Parnell: --spending money on training.

David Jones: That's right.

Parnell: You've been in Wilmington now 25 years or so--

David Jones: Yeah.

Parnell: --and you're a native of southeast North Carolina.

David Jones: Right.

Parnell: What are the biggest changes you've seen here?

David Jones: The greatest change for the best, for the better part-- A lot of people say "Well, the movement of people in, all the traffic, all the problem." Our greatest asset is our diversity of our people, not whether they're white, black, Indian, but we've brought people in from all over the world in to Wilmington to live. They're brought a lot uh.. expertise in and they've also brought a lot uh.. money in. So therefore we broke out of the old shell of a plantation thinking and we are able to involve people with backgrounds of diversity and I think we've done it pretty well.

Parnell: What is your proudest accomplishment?

David Jones: My grandchildren (laughs) in all honesty. Uh.. I don't ever stop and think. I have so many blessings. Life has been so good to me that I can't single out one thing except what I said earlier, thank God for my mother and father and they raised me- the way they raised me, and thank God that I was born in this great country called America. That's the two.

Parnell: (inaudible)

David Jones: Yeah.

Parnell: What have you accomplished with your life? Anything in particular you haven't done you would like to do?

David Jones: Well, probably a lot of things but, you know, I- I guess my uncle which passed away here in Wilmington, quite a prominent businessman, quite a uh.. respected man, name was Wilbur Junior[ph?] Senior. My brother and myself came in from Fayetteville when he passed away. And he was at Andrews Mortuary and Wilton and myself stopped by there before we ever went to their house. I never will forget. We was standin' there and this elderly gentleman on a cane came up, very feeble, side of Uncle Wilbur's casket. And he looked down and he didn't know who he were, and he didn't care who he were. He says "He was a good man." Now that's all you had to know to know he had been successful. And that's all I'd want my grandchildren and their children and their children children, uh.. t- thing I want 'em to remember me most is how much I love 'em and how much I believe in this process of America, the free enterprise. I want my grandkids and all to remember me that if Davy Jones said something you didn't even have to question it, he was that honest.

Parnell: What a good way to be remembered. Do you have anything else you'd like to say? We're gettin' close to the end of the tape.

David Jones: No. My love for the university and for education. I told uh.. former chancellor Jim Leutze one time if we ever built condos around the university I'd buy the first one so I wouldn't have far to go. But I think our educational system, and no one has a greater respect for it than- not only in the high schools and- uh.. but the people in the educational system are really the mechanism to make people's dream become reality if they're willing to sacrifice. So I think uh.. our greatest asset is our diversified people. The most important ingredient to our economy, to our quality of life is gonna be based on how much commitment have we made or how much commitment will we make to the educational system of our young people.

Parnell: I want to thank you for talking with us today. Thank you.

David Jones: You're certainly welcome.

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