Like Clockwork: Board, Town Bids Jones Farewell as Selectman

On special occasions, Belmont Selectman Ralph Jones takes out and wears a very practical 1939 Elgin wristwatch.

Nothing special, a little out-of-style, maybe worth a few hundred dollars.

But for Jones, that watch represents a standard of dedication to detail.

Jones’ father was a watchmaker and due to the great care he took in maintaining and repairing the watch, “it has not been fixed or regulated since he died more than 25 years ago … and it runs perfectly,” said Jones to dozens of town employees, residents, family and friends on Monday, March 31  in the Belmont Town Hall auditorium.

So it was appropriate that the retiring two-term member and former chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen who was dedicated in maintaining the high standards of the Board received a “splendid” mantel clock inscribed with his term of service from the town he well served.

“This will go nicely on our new mantel in the new house,” said Jones, who also served on the Warrant and School committees during his time in town government.

Jones, who matriculated at DePauw University and received his doctorate from Harvard, is the managing director and co-founder of The Cadmus Group, a consultancy to the federal government and utilities. He has also been an instructor and assistant professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design as well as a research associate at the Joint Center for Urban Studies of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Known as the “policy person” on the board, Jones said since college, he has been “less interested in policy itself then how policy actually effects the citizens at the street level, in their homes and in their daily lives.”

“Every time someone calls with a complaint, that’s an interesting problem; I can either solve it, sometimes, or have David (Kale, the town administrator) or I can try to figure out how something went wrong and I could make some suggestions on how we do things better,” said Jones, who thanked his wife, Terri, and family for “tolerating” him spending nights away from home doing the town’s business.

Jones’ dedication to the board was praised by his board colleagues.

“You are the smartest policy guy I have ever worked with,” said Mark Paolillo, chair of the Board.

“You always made decisions that were balanced, that were the best for the community. I’ll miss that input but now I can meet with you outside and talk (without a quorum),” said Paolillo.

“His calm demeanor, his thorough analysis of everything; there is no better person to delve into (policy) and come out with a good answer,” said colleague Andy Rojas, who added that we will think of “how Ralph would have done this” during his tenure on the board.

State Rep. Dave Rogers presented a Massachusetts House of Representatives’ citation honoring Jones’ dedication to Belmont.

“Communities don’t work unless people get involved and you have been such a stellar advocate for this town. And to see the warmth, the admiration and high esteem you are held is pretty remarkable,” said Rogers

While Jones will continue to have a hand in town government – as the board’s observer on the advisory committee of the Belmont Light Board and running for Town Meeting representative (he was outside the Beech Street Center Tuesday, April 1, holding his own homemade sign) – his wife made it clear that she had first dibs on him.

“I’m taking him out of town,” she said.

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