For his dedication and commitment, Charles Jones was named 2012 Plattsmouth Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year last Friday night.
Master of Ceremonies Kevin Harrington announced Jones as the recipient of the award and gave a biography of Jones during the chamber's annual meeting and banquet at St. John the Baptist School Jan. 25.
Amy Tegels, 2011 Business Person of the Year, presented the award to Jones during the banquet.
“This is a big surprise,” Jones said. “I do appreciate it, but it is more a tribute to the people who work for me.”
He also thanked the community for its support.
“I thank you, my organization thanks you,” he said, drawing a standing ovation from those attending the banquet.
Formed 14 years ago, Plattsmouth MSA now has 40 members/volunteers. During 2012, these members provided the city 3,700 volunteer hours, Jones said.
“That’s almost twice the hours of any other Main Street Association community in the state of Nebraska,” he said. “Our mission is we want to make this town the best it can be. It’s come a long way baby in the last five years.”
And that it has.
Jones recalled a conversation he had about three years ago with Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis. The two had just learned the Combined Sewer Overflow project entailed tearing up Main Street to put in a new sanitary sewer that could not be placed in the back alley as first planned.
The news soon transpired into an “opportunity” to complete the long-considered streetscape plan. The project would result not only in separated storm and waste water sewers, but a new water main, lighting, sidewalks, street configurations, landscaping, public restrooms and an entertainment plaza.
During construction from 2010 to 2012, you could find Jones overseeing work and discussing progress with business owners. As MSA executive director, Jones was doing his ‘part-time job’ and then some.
And when the project concluded, Jones was ready to book artists and musicians for the new entertainment plaza and continue to orchestrate MSA programs aimed to draw people to Plattsmouth.
“In the long run, the improved infrastructure will help draw people from a 60-mile radius to Plattsmouth,” Jones said. “A total of 1.5 million people live in that circle. If we could bring even 10 percent of that to Plattsmouth, it would have a significant impact.”
At first glance, MSA may seem a far cry from his early life and military career.
Born April 10, 1938 in Parson, West Va., Jones graduated from high school there, before earning a Bachelor of Science in Business from Davis-Elkins College and joining the United States Air Force.
His assignments included Germany, Washington, D.C., and Strategic Air Command in Bellevue. “I also spent a year in Vietnam, two years in Alaska, three in Washington, D.C., and one year in Montgomery.”
While stationed in Alabama, Jones found himself smack in the middle of the turbulent Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s. The issues followed him to the Capitol, he said. “It was history in the making all the time.”
One such historical moment occurred when Jones served as Commander of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Europe. He met former President John F. Kennedy in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1963, just five months before the president was assassinated.
“President Kennedy had been to Bonn and was on his way to Berlin,” Jones said. Jones had organized departure honors for the president.
Kennedy came up to Jones and shook his hand. “I told him to have a safe trip home,” Jones said. “And yes, he was everything you ever heard about him.”
In 1965, Jones graduated from Squadron Officers School and in 1976 from Air Command And Staff College.
He came to Nebraska in 1970 where he served as Chief of Weapons Systems Support for Offutt Air Force Base. He received the AF Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service in 1972 and 1980.
He retired from the Air Force in 1980 as a Lt. Col with Top Secret Clearance. Jones remained in Nebraska and he and his wife of 26 years, Pat, raised a family. To date, they have nine children, 24 grandchildren and three grandchildren.
For the past four years, Jones has dedicated himself to the MSA. “It’s a fun organization. You get to see what is happening and help initiate it. But it wouldn’t be possible without the support we get from the businesses, city, the MSA board of directors and the chamber. We just all come together,” Jones said.