Interview

Tamoria Jones: Chief of Staff to State Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr.

January 19, 2020

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Tamoria “Tee” Jones is a veteran staffer at the pink dome, having worked four sessions now with Chairman Harold Dutton, Jr. and as Clerk of the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues. Read more below on how she connected to Chairman Dutton for a job (spoiler it’s NOT always rosy!) and how being thoughtful and always asking questions has helped her grow in her role.

Tamoria Jones, MBA, JD

 

Tamoria Jones, MBA, JD

 

Where do you work, what is your title and what does your job actually entail?

I am the Chief of Staff to State Representative Harold V. Dutton, Jr. and the Committee Clerk for the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues. I am responsible for managing all of our legislative bills and policies. My responsibilities include drafting legislation, legal research, meeting with lobbyists, handling constituent matters and advising Chairman Dutton on current and proposed legislation during the legislative session to make recommendations. As clerk for the committee, I facilitate the hearings to ensure they run smoothly. I read all referred bills and analysis to make recommendations to Chairman Dutton. I prepare all committee reports and help committee members with any issues or questions they have regarding the committee and the committee process.

What policy issues do you work on?

I work on a wide variety of issues. Our legislative package mostly includes: education issues, criminal law issues, family law issues, juvenile justice issues and environmental issues.

How long have you worked at the Capitol?

I have been working for Chairman Dutton since October 1, 2012 (83rd was my first session). I first started off as the secretary and became a legislative aide for the session. After session ended I was promoted to Chief of Staff and Committee Clerk and have been rocking ever since.

Where are you from?

Freeport, Texas

What did you study in college and where did you attend school?

I received my Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Prairie View A&M University; My Masters in Business Administration from Texas Woman’s University; My Juris Doctorate is from Thurgood Marshall at Texas Southern University and I became a licensed attorney in November of 2018.

What made you decide to go to law school?

Rep. Dutton was the one who initiated the conversation. At first, I was against going to law school, mainly because I had just finished with my MBA and I was over school. However, working the legislative session, I felt becoming a lawyer would help me become better at my job and being a Chief of Staff. Also, it would help me become a better thinker. 

An MBA AND a law degree are both so impressive! Any tips for being a law student while working?

DO NOT DO IT!! lol No, but in all seriousness, if you have to work and go to law school you have to mentally prepare yourself. Thankfully, I had a boss who understood, but he still had expectations set out for me and I could not use law school as an excuse.

Secondly, sit down with your family, friends and/or significant other and explain the journey you are about to embark on. You have to let them know you won’t be as available or present on holidays or normal events they’re used to. Having a strong support system being in law school is crucial and I would say it’s even more needed if you are balancing both school and work.

Prioritize and plan everything!!!  Get a planner and write out to do lists for both school, work and home life. This saved me tremendously.

Also, communicating with staff your schedule and leaning on them to pick up in areas where  they may not normally handle. There were days I felt like giving up, but if you just set out a plan and goals and take it day by day, it’s not as bad. 

Political party affiliation?

I am a Democrat. One valuable lesson I have learned is once the legislative session begins, you have to stop campaigning and start governing. This includes working with members across the aisle to help make Texas a great place to live for everyone no matter race, ethnicity or political party affiliation.

Do you ever see yourself practicing law?

Yes! I would love to practice law in the near future.

How about running for office?

I definitely see myself running for office one day. I would love to take the reins and run for State Rep. District 142, when my boss retires one day. 

How did you get your start in government?

My career in government started from a personal defeat that turned into a lifetime opportunity. Two days after graduating from receiving my MBA, I went out celebrating with friends. As I was headed home, I was stopped by the police and arrested for a DWI.

My friend recommended Chairman Dutton, who became my lawyer for my case. When my case was concluded, Chairman Dutton asked me whether I had ever thought about working in the political arena. I told him I had never had such thoughts. He followed that up with whether I might be interested in coming to work for him.

My life had been pretty much free of politics and I had no idea how my skill set might match up with a job in Chairman Dutton’s legislative office. Chairman Dutton assured me the job required only one major attribute — thinking. Oddly, I always had the idea that I was a great thinker. Chairman Dutton also shared that the next legislative session was just three months away and for six months, the job would be in Austin, Texas. I explained that was not a problem because I had an aunt and uncle who resided in Austin and my uncle had formally been the head of a state agency in Texas. I could live with them and after accepting the job in Rep. Dutton’ office, I moved to Austin a month later and began my very first legislative session. 

What do you find to be an essential skill set for being a good staffer?

Thinking is the number one essential skill set to being a good staffer. Second, I would say is reading. I read EVERYTHING. Also, never be afraid to ask questions or admit you do not know something. There are plenty of people who would love to help. All you have to do is ask.

I’m a young woman and I want to work at the Capitol. What do I do now?

Figure out what exactly you want to do. See if any of the job openings peak your interest.  If you want to work for a member, research the members to see who aligns best with your ideals and values. Set up an appointment with the Chief of Staff or person in charge of hiring. Make sure you bring your resume and a writing sample and follow-up. If you want to work in committee land, get to know a few of the clerks to see what their day to day is. Also, get to know Stacey and Damien in the Committee Coordinator’s office as they are very helpful with filling vacancies and passing on resumes. Once you’re hired, soak in all the knowledge you can and never stop learning.

As someone who hires staffers is there anything that you see often in interviews or on resumes that you wish you didn’t?

1. Misspelled words

2. False information

3. Jobs that don’t necessarily relate to the job a person is applying for.

As far as interviews, I’ve often came across individuals who didn’t know who my boss was or some of the legislation he filed. For me, that’s an automatic denial because if you didn’t take the time to do your own research, why would you put that time and energy into any task I give. People who couldn’t articulate why they wanted to work for my boss.

The past two sessions, I’ve also interviewed people who wanted to be the Chief of Staff (these were my favorite). My best advice is to really research the job you’re applying for. Research everyone from the boss and any of the staff as much as you can.

Also, be yourself in the interview. Never pretend you have a degree or some accolade thinking that is somehow going to give you a leg up. Also, never name drop in an interview unless you know it’s going to help you further in the interview process.  

What is the most rewarding part of your current job? Biggest challenge?

The most rewarding part about my job is waking up and doing something I love and enjoy. Not only do I have the opportunity to help others, but the opportunity to work on legislation and policy that I truly believe in and very passionate about.

The biggest challenge is working on a piece of legislation sometimes two and three sessions in a row and watch it fail each time.

 

 

Rep. Dutton and Tamoria, via Jones’ Instagram @ladyteejones

 

Rep. Dutton and Tamoria, via Jones’ Instagram @ladyteejones

Proudest moment from 86th session?

My boss had been receiving last minute complaints from teachers about having to stay on track with their lesson plans despite where the students were. He wanted to introduce a bill, but didn’t realize the filing deadline was a day away. I spent the entire day drafting the bill and filing it as a non-legislative council draft and it ended up becoming law. (HB 4310).

Hardest bill you’ve ever had to work on?

My first session, Chairman Dutton was a member of the Sunset Advisory Committee. He was tasked with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Sunset bill and he put me in charge of the bill. His exact instructions were “You have to know this bill frontwards and backwards.” So, I took this 1100 page bill and read it back to front three times. I still have it with all of my handwritten notes and sticky notes. This is where my love for education law was created. I definitely have to thank the Sunset staff for helping me understand the bill and always being available to answer my questions.

Do you mind sharing a little bit about your relationship working with other women (or supportive men) at the Capitol?

My first mentor was Crystal Brown (formerly Crystal Ford). She quickly saw I was a deer in head lights during my first session and was always available to help answer any questions I had day or night. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing women, I can’t even begin to name them all. I’ve built relationships with women who share the same views as me and those who don’t. I’ve found this very helpful in building strong relationships with women at the capitol and working on various policy issues.

You could never do your job without_____

My journal, my cellphone, my planner and a good pen.

Best professional advice you’ve ever received?

“You always want the ball in your court.”

You can have dinner with anyone, living or dead – who and why?

I would love to have dinner with Carter G. Woodson. His book titled The Mis-Education of the Negro is one of my favorite books and given the current state of education particularly for minority students, I would love to get his viewpoints on how to improve the current educational system.

What’s always in your bag during session?

Work journal; pens; headphones; a pair of socks ( I do not wear shoes in the office); business cards; my planner

Favorite place for a business lunch?

Caroline Restaurant

Favorite place to get your news?

Texas Tribune

Favorite political TV show/movie?

House of Cards

Favorite social media apps?

Facebook – you really get to see people’s views on a wide range of issues.

If you weren’t in your current role you’d definitely be a ___________

Collegiate Professor.


Big thanks to Tamoria for sharing her time and advice with Pink Granite. If you’d like to connect with her via LinkedIn, do so here. You can also follow her on Instagram, @ladyteejones and via Twitter, @icedsweetee (she has the best handles!).

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I'm Amy.

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Involved in politics for 20 years as a campaigner, a staffer, and now as a lobbyist - I've also worked as a creative director, freelance writer, and web-designer. These worlds all collide here at Pink Granite where we work to connect women to the resources they need to grow a career in Texas politics.

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