Dec. 27—KENNESAW — Antonio Jones has been a businessman as long as he can remember.
As a kid in New Orleans, he went door to door in his apartment complex, taking out residents' garbage for $1 a bag.
In an interview with the MDJ, he recalls hearing a Kennesaw apartment complex offering a "concierge service" that removes residents' garbage bags for them.
"Wow, I was doing this type of stuff at eight," he recalled thinking. Then he mused: "Man, if I had a website back then."
The 32-year-old made clear he would try to take his dollars-and-cents mindset to Kennesaw's City Council.
In November, Jones unseated Councilman Chris Henderson, receiving 1,399 votes to Henderson's 1,129.
It was Jones' third stab at the Kennesaw City Council and first victory. In January, he will become one of two freshmen on the five-member council, along with Trey Sinclair, the owner of Dry County Brewing Company.
Born in New Orleans, Jones split his childhood between Louisiana and metro Atlanta. After high school, he spent much of his time in Pennsylvania, where his brother, an optometrist, lives. But Jones eventually moved back to Georgia in 2015 to be with his fiancee, whom he'd met as an underclassman at a high school in Gwinnett County.
In his life, Jones has worn many hats: that of a volunteer firefighter, poll manager, retail manager and owner of landscaping, trucking and firearms businesses. Today, he manages a retail location of an eyewear conglomerate (which he declined to name, not having been authorized to speak on its behalf) and runs his own business as a firearms dealer. Next year, his brother will move from Pennsylvania to Georgia to help start their own retail eyewear business.
"I have a lot of different interests and passions," he said. "I like business. I like being free."
Those interests reveal themselves in several ideas he'd like to pursue on the council. Could solar-powered, city-owned lights and buildings save Kennesaw enough money to help it weather an economic downturn? How much could the police department save if it used electric vehicles, which don't need gas or oil changes?
Big picture, however, Jones' first concern is slowing development in the city.
"You look at some of these projects that are in the pipeline," he said, "I think by the time it catches up to us, which is most likely going to be in my term, I think the city is going to be in for a rude awakening once they see the traffic and the congestion that's coming this way."
Jones does not think the coming addition to Kennesaw's housing stock will relieve the upward pressure on housing prices in the city.
"The density ... is about (developers') pockets," he said. "And I can't fault that — why wouldn't they want to do business in the city? It's an awesome city to do business in."
With all the housing on the way, Jones said he would like the city to consider "making it easier to move around," by adding bike lanes and sidewalks and widening existing sidewalks.
Of course, whether the city buys its police department electric cars, or installs bike lanes will require buy-in from a majority of Jones' colleagues on the council.
Having run for council three times (first against Councilman Pat Ferris, then against Councilman Doc Eaton), Jones says he's become a familiar face at City Hall, and predicts a productive working relationship there after he takes office in January.
"I really pray that we can actually do a lot these next four years," he said.
Work aside, Jones is an avid boater and enjoys shooting at the firing range. His own personal interest in firearms was born, he said, out of the fact they are "a way of life down here" and his interest in history.
It's also, however, about setting an example.
"It's not too many African-American people that you see that have gun licenses, who have gun businesses," he said. "In my opinion, it's also a way to show people that, 'Hey, African Americans own firearms, too, and we're responsible firearm owners as well, and we share a space in this sphere as well.' ... When you look at the (National Rifle Association) or you look at any of these other gun organizations, it's not really portraying Black folks as gun owners."
Kennesaw is a gun-friendly city. In 1982, the council unanimously passed a law requiring heads of households to own at least one firearm with ammunition. The ordinance states the gun law is needed to "protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."
Jones said he also enjoys following developments in military technology around the world: "What type of military apparatus ... foreign countries are building, how those systems may be a challenge for us in the future," he said.
After all, "I don't think that this is where I'm stopping, in politics," he said of the Kennesaw City Council.