Great Falls says goodbye to longtime police chief, former commissioner

The community paused for a moment on January 22 to pay their respects to Bob Jones, former Great Falls Police Department Chief, City Commissioner and more.

Jones died on January 14.

He would have been 73 on January 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 associate’s degree in business and management from the College of Great Falls.

Jones served with the Montana Air National Guard – 120th Airlift Wing from 1967-2000, Great Falls Police Department from 1971 to 2006 and served as Chief of Police from 1986 to 2006.

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

Over the past 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 was commissioner.

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

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

Doyon said Jones has extensive 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 in the best circumstances, Doyon said.

He had a quick wit and a sense of humor and “it was rare that he didn’t get polite laughs 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 upset and his face would turn visibly red from the neck down, Doyon said, prompting laughter from everyone who knew Jones at the Jan. 18 city commission meeting.

Doyon said he admired Jones’ ability to simplify the complex and that he served as commissioner during a difficult time as the city emerged from Electric City Power’s bankruptcy.

Jones was key to getting out of it, Doyon said.

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

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

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

“He embodied public service” and was “often the voice of reason,” Newton said. “Bob will be greatly missed.”

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

Jeremy Jones said his father’s public service inspired him to start a career in public service as well.

The younger Jones had originally considered joining law enforcement, but “the ability to be able to medically intervene on the fire department attracted me to the fire department. And Dad had some good friends from the fire department who told me to go with them and get a feel for what the job was like.

Jeremy Jones told The Electric that he and the Jones family were “overwhelmed with the influx of community support during this time. We would like to thank each of the thousands of people who came together to make his memorial something that reflects the importance he placed on this community.

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

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

“He was critical. He was as honest as anyone I’ve met. His integrity was unquestionable. He was informed. He was really generous. He was really funny,” Kelly said during the Jan. 18 reunion.

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

“We will miss him.”

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