Great Falls says goodbye to longtime police chief, former commissioner

The community stopped for a moment on Jan. 22 to pay respects to Bob Jones, a former Great Falls Police Department chief, city commissioner and more.

Jones died Jan. 14.

He would have been 73 on Jan. 17.

Hundreds of community members, including many from law enforcement and fire departments, attended a memorial ceremony for Jones at the Civic Center on Saturday.

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Jones, a Great Falls native, graduated from Great Falls High School in 1967 and earned an associates degree in business and management from the College of Great Falls.

Jones served in with the Montana Air National Guard – 120th Airlift Wing from 1967-2000, Great Falls Police Department from 1971 to 2006 and was the police chief from 1986 until 2006.

He ran for commission in 2009 and was elected, serving two terms from 2010 to 2017 as mayor pro tem during both terms.

Over the last week, city officials have reminisced about their time with Jones and his service to the community.

City Manager Greg Doyon worked with Jones when he served as a commissioner.

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Under the city’s government structure, the city manager is the commission’s only employee.

“Bob Jones was a good boss,” Doyon said. “He entered elected office with a rare depth of understanding, usually not seen in elected officials.”

Doyon said that Jones had a deep knowledge of the community, law enforcement and local government.

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Jones knew how to deal with a wide variety of people in different situations and often not under the best of circumstances, Doyon said.

He had a sharp wit and sense of humor and “it was rare that he didn’t get polite chuckles when he made remarks,” Doyon said.

Jones was direct and to the point, approaching his role as commissioner with common sense, Doyon said.

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On occasion, Jones would get worked up and his face would visibly turn red from the neck up, Doyon said, drawing chuckles from everyone in the Jan. 18 City Commission meeting who had known Jones.

Doyon said that he admired Jones’ ability to make the complex simple and that he served as commissioner during a difficult time, when the city was extricating itself from the Electric City Power bankruptcy.

Jones was key in getting out of that, Doyon said.

“Bob’s heart was for the community,” Doyon said and that Jones’ experience as a city employee and police chief was in key in how he governed.

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Jeff Newton, the current GFPD chief, said that Jones’ two-decade run as chief was almost unheard of in their field.

“His vision as chief paved the way,” he said.

“He epitomized public service” and was “frequently the voice of reason,” Newton said. “Bob will be sorely missed.”

One of Jones’ sons, Jeremy Jones, is the current chief at Great Falls Fire Rescue.

Jeremy Jones said his father’s public service inspired him to also begin a career in public service.

The younger Jones had originally considered joining law enforcement, but “the ability to be able to intervene medically on the fire service attracted me to the fire department. And dad had some great friends on the fire department who told me to ride along and get an idea of what the job was about.”

Jeremy Jones told The Electric that he and the Jones family were “overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support during this time. We want to thank each and every one of the thousands who have come together to make his memorial something that resembles how much he cared for this community.”

He thanked the GFPD and Cascade County Sheriff’s Office for their help in planning the memorial ceremony.

Mayor Bob Kelly was appointed to served on the commission in 2012 and served with Jones.

“He was a critical thinker. He was as honest as anyone I’ve ever met. His integrity was unquestioned. He was informed. He was really generous. He was really funny,” Kelly said during the Jan. 18 meeting.

Jones set an example in the community for public service, Kelly said.

“We’re gonna miss him.”