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Bryant Jones at the Jefferson Memorial Bryant Jones at the Jefferson Memorial

Mr. (Bryant) Jones goes to Washington

Almost any time I turn over calendar to the next month, I think of Bryant Jones. Whenever I reflect on the six months my family spent living at Condo del Sol back in the mid-1980s after our house fire, I think of Bryant’s mom who moved into a neighboring condo during that time. She had come to Sandpoint from Southern Idaho to serve as the new Magistrate Judge in town. She has remained a good friend ever since.

For a time, Debra Heise lived there alone. By the time we moved back home, however, Debra’s husband Jeff Jones and her little boy Bryant had joined her in Sandpoint. Later, the Jones-Heise family would add Zach (now working on a Master’s Degree in South Korea); then came Mackenzie (a Sandpoint High junior).

During his early youth, whenever I saw Bryant, I was impressed that he always took time to chat with me. Then, suddenly, it seems, he was sitting in my sophomore honors English class as a fully engaged student. The next year when I was assigned junior honors English, Bryant again showed up on my roster. Outside of school, I helped him with one of scouting projects, which eventually led toward his Eagle Scout rank.

We became friends a long time ago and continue to stay in close touch. In fact, I decided to feature him in this column after our recent visit over coffee and tea at Monarch Mountain Coffee. Bryant had flown home to attend his classmate and friend Tasha Thomas’ University of Idaho MBA ceremony. As usual, I came away so pleased that such an accomplished young man would take time from his busy schedule to visit with an old coot like me.

But that’s Bryant Jones. Anyone who knows him could provide similar observations. In this column, I’d like to share a few fun and impressive tidbits about him as yet another reminder of the phenomenal youth our community nurtures and sends out into the world.

After high school, Bryant went away to school at the University of Vermont, eventually serving as its student body president and overseeing a staff of nearly a dozen employees as well as a $1.2 million budget. 

After college, he spent a year teaching English to Chinese middle school students in classes averaging 70 each. While there, he also earned a certificate for teaching English as a foreign language through Peking University.

Later, he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a research intern for Idaho Second District Congressman Mike Simpson. In 2008, he earned his Master’s Degree in public administration through George Washington University.

During his visits home, Bryant would often stop by our house to bring me a small gift. First, there were the Duck Boy calendars, then a calendar about trains and even one featuring wildlife paintings. Heck, he even sent me a Redneck calendar. One time a can of moose seeds from Vermont came in the mail. I never did plant them.

 Free calendars provide just one motive for my continued admiration of this caring, accomplished and inspiring young man of 27 who views the arrival of his little sister as one of the more monumental memories of his life.

“I was 11 and remember lots of commotion and excitement. I was nervous when I first held her,” he recalls, “but she was so beautiful and had the fattest baby cheeks. Watching her bloom into a young woman continues to be memorable. Even at a young age she was compassionate and witty.”

Nowadays, Bryant works as a career budget analyst at one of the White House Executive office buildings. Career personnel serve no matter who is President. Bryant has worked for two U.S. Presidents so far.

 “Specifically, I work in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB),” he explains. “The main role of my office is to coordinate the vastness of all the executive branch agencies’ budgets to make sure of consistency with the President’s priorities.

“On a typical day I might be tracking appropriations legislation being debated in Congress, collecting information from agencies to respond to a drill from the President or OMB Director, Peter Orszag. Or, [I might be] tracking congressional earmarks to determine if earmarks are going to for-profit companies, which the President has said he doesn’t support,” Bryant adds.

Lately, the Gulf Oil spill has required the OMB office to coordinate the effort in determining what agencies have the legal authority to respond to the disaster and where more funding is needed.

“My office works with agencies, specialists within OMB, and the political appointees to determine a response,” he says. “For this situation, we sent what is referred to as a supplemental appropriations bill to Congress where the House and Senate must vote to approve the supplemental in order for the funds to be released to the agencies responding to the oil spill crisis.

“For instance, the Department of Defense needs funding to pay for National Guard troops filling sandbags and dropping them from helicopters,” he adds. “The Department of Labor will need temporary unemployment insurance benefits now that thousands of fisherman and fishing outfitters are potentially out of work.
“The EPA needs funds for monitoring the toxic contaminants washing ashore, [while] the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [will require money] to monitor the location of the oil spill and affected fish patterns, [etc.]” he says. “It is a huge coordination involving a lot of people that begins with budgeting the proper resources needed to respond effectively to this emergency.”

When this River Journal edition hits the streets, Bryant will be vacationing in Chile, with his two siblings, his mom and his girlfriend Marie. Marie is working on her Master’s Degree at Harvard. The family trip fulfills a special dream of his dad’s.

Jeff Jones, Sandpoint City Attorney and City Planner for whom the town square is named, died suddenly in 2003. He always yearned to visit Chile.

“We will be traveling to Santiago and then down to Patagonia,” Bryant told me last month. “We will take a cow-and-sheep cargo ferry to travel through the fjords and channels in Patagonia.

“My family is a bit worried about the cargo ferry part because we have a history of precarious boat trips while on vacations,” he added. “I’m looking forward to skiing on a smoldering volcano and to see if toilets really flush the opposite way in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The trip fits in with Bryant’s core belief that one must seize every opportunity and every adventure possible in life.

“As far as I know, this is my one opportunity to consciously exist, so I am going to use my brief time to enjoy life,” he says. “I especially want to cherish my time with family, challenge myself professionally and see the world with my own eyes.”

So far, his bucket list features several ambitious goals, including visiting all 50 states and seven continents, studying cartography, maybe returning to graduate school and moving back to the Northwest.

“I’d like to own some pack goats,” he says. “That’s a Jones family tradition. I’d like to become an avid fly fisherman and geocacher, have my genome sequenced and learn German... .”

Bryant’s drive to utilize every moment available has been inspired by his family and close friends.
“Watching my parents serve in state and local government roles gave me the inspiration to be involved with government as a profession,” he says, “although I never imagined I would be living in Washington, D.C., and working for the White House.

“I personally like state and local government more because it is closer to the people who are affected by policy decisions,” he adds. “I really enjoyed watching my dad advise the towns of Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint at city council meetings and observing the benefits my mom offered our community through drug and youth courts.”

His parents also lead Bryant’s list of role models, each demonstrating a different strength of character that he tries to weave within his own framework.

“My dad... was passionate about his family and serving in government. He worked hard, coming from a family with very limited resources, to obtain an education and start a good life,” Bryant explains. “My mom... instilled in me an appreciation of women’s strength and independence. She was one of the first female judges in the state of Idaho.

“Day to day, I observe people and notice strengths of character in everyone,” he adds. “Anyone can be a role model. I try to find those traits and emulate them in my daily life. Whether it is Zach’s skill to befriend people with very different backgrounds, Marie’s compassion for people facing life’s many challenges or Tasha’s warm personality.”

Those influences and some meaningful experiences have molded a delightful, thoughtful young man who has achieved more in his 27 years than many of us do in a lifetime.

Wherever he travels in the world, he takes along his warmth, charm, curiosity, enthusiastic interest and a never-ending desire to leave a positive footprint and a smile on the faces of those who meet him. 

I thoroughly enjoy profiling people like Bryant Jones. What I love even more, though, is knowing that our community has produced so many just like him who, with each new calendar year, embrace the world’s offerings while cherishing their deep-seeded local roots.

Bryant’s words say it best.

 “Growing up in Sandpoint provided me with a strong and supportive community and the courage to challenge myself,” he says. “In a small town, people stop and genuinely listen when you talk. Not in all places can you find so many people who appreciate true friendship and loyalty.”

PHOTO: Bryant at the Jefferson Memorial. “I live a few blocks away from (it) and ride my bike past it every day on my way to work,” he says. “It is one of my favorite memorials in the District.”


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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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Bryant Jones, Washington D.C.

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