As an analyst for a healthcare IT firm, Chardae Jones collates data from a number of technical sources and translates it into language people can use. On Jan. 29, she performed a similar analysis before making her pitch to Braddock council as one of the candidates vying for the appointment to serve as interim mayor: she decided to wing it—and it paid off.
“It’s all a little surreal. In the first round, I wasn’t even a finalist. So I had this whole speech prepared, but I didn’t go with it. I went from the heart. I was just me,” she said. “That I was selected mean people have paid attention to all the volunteering and community work I’ve been doing.”
When she is officially sworn in a few weeks from now, Jones will be the youngest, and the first African American female to serve as Braddock mayor since Pauline Abdullah, who served as Braddock mayor from 1998-2005. And she plans on continuing to do what she was doing, just on a bigger scale.
“I saw this as an opportunity to continue the work I’ve been doing, and to bridge the gap between government and the community and increase transparency,” she said. “My vision is to get more people, and more young people, involved in creating a new identity for Braddock. Not many communities have a canvas like this to paint on.”
Jones grew up in Braddock. Her family is still there. She graduated from Woodland Hills High School in 2007 and received her degree in professional writing and communications from Carlow University four years later. After that, she worked in the community as an AmeriCorps member.
In addition to opening more lines of communication between the community and its government, Jones said, her first priority is public safety—because the community will not have an economic rebirth if people feel endangered.
Former Mayor John Fetterman ceded his oversight authority of Braddock’s police to the chief more than a decade ago. At this point, Jones said she doesn’t plan to take it back, and may not ever, but meeting with the chief, finding out what his needs are and how he plans to improve public safety will be among her first duties.
“I want to get the community more involved in public safety. There could be some initiatives underway that I don’t know about,” she said. “So I plan on jumping in and seeing what’s working and what’s not. It’s the analyst in me—I don’t know what I don’t know.”
Jones said it’s gratifying that some of the other young mayors locally have reached out to congratulate her. But she’s even more gratified that young girls have said she inspires them to look at running for office.
“And I haven’t even been sworn in yet,” she said. “They were going to do it next week—but I won’t be here. Months ago, before this was even an opportunity, I made plans for my 30th birthday. So I’ll be in Miami and then on a cruise to the Bahamas.”
Braddock Council President Tina Doose told the New Pittsburgh Courier that “quality” is why Jones won the appointment, despite not being a finalist in the borough’s first selection attempt.
“Our first two finalists were chosen based on police issues—but one didn’t live in the borough and the other didn’t reapply,” she said. “So we looked at who had the passion, the tenacity. Chardae has that and she has the intellectual curiosity—she will learn, she will research, and she will find out what she doesn’t know. We selected the best candidate.”
Doose said Jones is a hard worker who wants the best for the community, as evidenced by her work on leading the committee organizing the events surrounding the opening of the new community center, and as vice chair of the home rule charter committee.
Jones will serve as the interim mayor throughout all of 2019. A general election will be held in November 2019, and if she wins that election, the interim tag will be removed until 2021.
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