Engage STL Gephardt News

Tishaura O. Jones shares journey to STL mayor’s office in special Civic Café

Part of the weekly Civic Café series, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones spoke to a crowd of WashU students on Tuesday about the events and inspiration that led her to the office. 

As a special part of the Gephardt Institute’s Civic Café event series, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones spoke to a crowd of more than 100 WashU students on Tuesday about the journey that inspired and led to her political career.  

“I wake up every day excited to go to City Hall, because I get to be Mayor of the city I love,” Mayor Jones—the 47th Mayor of St Louis and first Black woman Mayor of the city—said. “I get to shepherd St. Louis through a time where there are unprecedented resources available to tackle some of the old [issues] that we haven’t had a chance to tackle before, to right historic wrongs, to make investments in communities that haven’t been invested in for decades.” 

Each week’s Civic Café is held in one of three formats: Civic Skill-Building Workshops, Democracy Dinners, and Civic Journey Spotlights. Tuesday’s Civic Café focused on Mayor Jones’ civic journey and explored the events and inspiration that shaped her passion for community. 

From Holmes Lounge, a special location for the larger-than-usual Civic Café crowd, Jones was forthcoming about the challenges that both hindered her political career and inspired her to break through barriers such as sexism and perceptions around her single motherhood. Her political career took her from Democratic Committeewoman for St. Louis’ eighth ward, two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives—including a term as Assistant Minority Floor Leader—the first Black Treasurer of St. Louis, and, now, Mayor of St. Louis. 

“Even though women had made so many advances in politics, I had to first be seen as educated,” the Mayor said. “And I had to first be seen as experienced, but I could not lead with the fact that I was a mother. And I was.” 

Jones discussed the challenges that come with balancing politics, ethical practices, and family, and stressed the importance of upholding one’s values in whatever work they pursue. 

“I want to make sure that everybody has a chance to thrive,” she said. “And that my son…will someday want to come back to St. Louis after he’s finished college, or whatever he wants to do. That he looks at St. Louis as a place to stay, come back to, and raise his family.” 

The Mayor spoke about her civic journey for about 30 minutes, before taking nearly an hour’s worth of questions from among the 104 students in the audience. Their questions centered around policy initiatives in St. Louis, including support of unhoused people, underrepresented and marginalized communities, and how WashU and WashU students can help support the city. The Mayor’s responses reinforced her love of St. Louis and her belief in the power of the people here.  

“I firmly believe that St. Louis is going to be that next great city that everybody wants to flock to,” she said. “Why? Because we have what I call the baddest team in local government, working to deploy resources in our communities, to rebuild communities to make sure that we’re taking care of people first, not business interests first.” 

Civic Café is part of the Gephardt Institute’s Engage Democracy Initiative, which educates students for lifelong civic engagement, including robust voter engagement, civic education, and civic skills development aimed at advancing the ideals of American democracy. WashU students are welcome to attend Civic Café on Tuesday nights, 5:30-7 p.m. at Stix House.  If you would like to make a gift to support future Civic Café events or other Engage Democracy programs, please contact Colleen Watermon at cwatermon@wustl.edu.