NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — At 33 years old, Phillip Jones became the youngest elected mayor in Newport News history last November, and he's already getting national attention.
Wednesday, Jones was chosen as one of 22 leaders across the nation to join a selective group of local and state elected officials who are recognized as rising leaders for the progressive visions to strengthen their communities. Other leaders as part of the NewDEAL include elected officials from Cincinnati, Cleveland and Las Vegas.
“Honestly, to represent Newport News on the national level, that’s one thing that I ran on as part of my platform," said Jones. "We need to elevate what it means to be a citizen of Newport News.”
Jones told 13News Now he's traveled to the White House at least three times in recent months, as he hopes to garner more federal resources for the city's transportation and housing. The former marine believes Newport News should be part of the conversation in the nation's capital.
“If you look at all the mayors that are invited [to the White House] and the pattern, those are the mayors that get large grants [for their cities] and who are invited back to learn and leverage best practices," he said. "Now, Newport News has a seat at the table.”
It's part of Jones' vision and strategy to change the narrative of Newport News, which he calls "the best-kept secret on the Peninsula."
"We are the best-kept secret on the Peninsula. Give us a few years and watch what we can do," Jones said.
If you ask around Newport News City Hall, people close to Jones say he is intensely focused and always seeking feedback.
He had to hit the ground running. The shooting at Richneck Elementary School happened before he and other newly-elected city officials swore into office on Jan. 10, 2023.
"I am really excited with the new team and the new vision to put Newport News on the map," said Jones.
When asked about the next 100 days of office, Jones said his plan includes passing the Capital Improvement Plan, which lays out a vision for the next five to 10 years. It also includes revitalizing the city's downtown and figuring out the future of the Newport News-Williamsburg Airport as the venue works through recent challenges.
“The airport is a massive asset," said Jones. "It’s 400 acres and has so much potential. So, give us a few years, and I think you’ll be excited with the next steps. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Jones said there are opportunities in every challenge.
"When people think of Newport News, I want people to think of a city that has innovation and jobs and where people can raise their family in peace. That’s what I want people to think."