If a tree falls, they call the ‘Peacemaker’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2003

If there’s a tree on the easement of your historic district home, chances are you’ve met Earnest Jones.

Trees are his business – at least part of it. This courteous, soft-spoken man is also about mending broken sidewalks, spraying for mosquitoes, clearing streets blocked by falling limbs, and cleaning broken glass and debris from accident scenes.

Jones is assistant director of Selma’s Public Works Department, where he is completing 19 years. A native of Uniontown, he moved to Selma in 1957 after five years of carpooling to work at a local service station, the only job he could find at the time.

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A better job was the reason he made the move. An even better job became his in April 1985 when he was hired by Public Works. Jones started first with the tree crew, then he was put on a machine. During the week he operated a bulldozer at the local landfill and on weekends he helped out at the Pea Ridge landfill. And in 1996 when assistant director John Sciple died, Jones moved into his place.

Caring for Selma’s urban forest is one of the specialties Jones has learned at numerous forestry commission workshops. He works closely with the chairman of Selma’s Tree Commission and with the inventory of trees compiled by the region’s urban forester. Jones meticulously lists those trees to be removed (they must be on city property) or trimmed and informs the ward councilperson before the work begins.

Not the least of his job is dealing with irate citizen tree-lovers or sometimes tree-haters. Often appealed to for help in such matters, Jones is known by many as &uot;the peacemaker.&uot;

Asked the secret of his success in calming these troubled waters, Jones replies:

A bachelor, Jones has a brother, who retired from AT&T, two sisters, one living in Orrville, the other in Selma, and a niece at Auburn University. On Sundays they often get together after church, with his sisters and sister-in-law taking turns at preparing dinner. When Jones’ turn arrives, he laughs, &uot;I round them all up and take over to Montgomery to Barnhill’s. They love that.&uot;

His church is Rising Star Primitive Baptist, where, he says, displaying once more his sense of humor, &uot;I am not in the choir. I sing solo but I sing so low they can’t hear me.&uot;

He gets little time to relax. &uot;By the time I start having fun I get beeped to get some barrels put in place or clean up some mess. When I get home at night, I wash up, start watching television and pretty soon television is watching me. Puts me right to sleep.&uot; Jones has no plans to retire. &uot;I intend to work ’til folks get tired of me. Work is what I know.&uot;