I know I’ve been a little gushy in the last couple of candidate profiles I’ve done. They were titled, “Exceptional” and “Superhero.” Frankly, I didn’t expect to meet so many truly amazing people who were willing to run for office. I even wanted to title the one for today, “Perfect,” but I was afraid I’d lose all credibility. But the truth is, Jo Giles, pretty much is. Running for District 7, Douglas County Commissioner, she exemplifies exactly the kind of person everyone should want to see in that office. She’s open minded, collaborative, experienced in a broad range of disciplines, very well educated and does her homework. Boy does she do her homework!
Starting out as a television journalist, she spent time at the highly respected Emspace + Lovegren integrated marketing communications agency and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, before pivoting toward policy formation and nonprofit organizations that matter. Currently, she is the policy and training director for the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska. There, she focuses on assisting nonprofits whose aim is poverty alleviation. Certainly, she’s noble minded, but she’s no dreamer. She’s all about numbers, innovation and policy alternatives that work.
Jo has a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious, Washington University in St. Louis, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She also has an impressive resume of work on nonprofit boards locally, and currently serves on the board of directors for Fontenelle Forest. And she is the president of the board for the Omaha Public Library Foundation. She is an alumni of Leadership Omaha Class 37, and was chosen by the Midlands Business Journal, as one of their 2012 Forty Under Forty. Like the old army ad, she does more before breakfast than most of us do all day.
To be sure, she is a policy wonk, and can run down a list of related books she has read or is reading that will make your head swim. She get’s excited about policy concepts the way Nebraska fans get excited about a Husker touchdown. Her primary interests are focused on mental health, out-of-control property taxes, transportation and of course, the current Covid epidemic.
Like others, controversy over the building of the new juvenile detention facility downtown drew her into the race. She saw inconsistencies and a shortsightedness in the methodologies and goals being planned, and felt she had to step-up.
“We’ll never be able to address the problems we have in diverse communities unless we have diverse leadership,” she said.
When you hear something so important expressed to simply, it makes you smile. Jo has perspective at a time when perspective is so desperately needed in America. She sees all sides. She’s not out to throw rocks or burn bridges. She wants to serve and grow and be an example to us all. In my book, that’s pretty wonderful.
Jo looks at the world from the standpoint of what she doesn’t know and works every hour of every day trying to address the deficiency. Most of the rest of us, including her opponent, look at life as an opportunity to tell you what they already know. Call me crazy, but I think I’d rather have someone representing me who is on a perpetual quest for the truth, rather than someone who thinks they already have all the answers.
Photo courtesy of Campaign.