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Ella Jones (BA, ’86)

What do you get when combining the power of an analytical mind and a servant’s heart? The answer is Ella Jones, a political trailblazer who parlayed her education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis with successful careers in chemistry, cosmetics and the church to become the history-making mayor of the city of Ferguson in St. Louis County. Since 2020, she has led the city’s ongoing journey to heal from the civil unrest that catapulted it to the forefront of the national conversation about race nearly a decade ago.

Ella, who completed a BA in chemistry in 1986, was an analytical chemist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and later at KV Pharmaceutical Company, while juggling additional roles as a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a consultant and sales director with Mary Kay Cosmetics. But the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the civil unrest that followed motivated Ella to rethink her career trajectory, leading to her election as the first black member of the Ferguson City Council in 2015, and the first woman and first black resident to be elected Ferguson mayor several years later.

Ella Jones

“Several faculty members played key roles in my decision to stay in the chemistry department, either by challenging me to do more, making sure I understood what was being taught, or encouraging me with offers for help.“

Before winning her first election, she returned to UMSL to complete training in municipal leadership at the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. From the classroom and the science lab to the political stage, she has high praise for UMSL and the experiences that served as the foundation for her success.

Besides her role as the mayor of Ferguson, Ella impacts her community in many other ways, serving as a member of the Boards of the Emerson Family YMCA and St. Louis MetroMarket, a mobile farmers’ market providing fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved communities. She is also the founder and chair of Community Forward, a nonprofit organization that promotes the concept of livable communities in municipalities across the St. Louis region.