“I love a challenge,” said Carolyn E. Jones. A self-proclaimed straight shooter, she embraces tasks with vigor.
“You don’t have to give me awards, but you have to give me respect,” she said.
Born in Jersey City, N.J., Jones, 69, says she’s always been a city girl. “I spent most of my adult life in Arlington, Va., she said.
Jones now lives in a much smaller city, just off Pilottown Road. She used to own a home in Dewey Beach and had been visiting the Delaware Shore for years before deciding to move here permanently.
She left New Jersey when she was in her 20s. Jones said because her high school was so close to New York City, companies doing business there would send representatives to the school in search of potential employees.
“They’d tell us about different jobs, and it was up to us to decide what we wanted to do,” Jones said.
That’s when she chose the banking industry.
Her first job, working for a New York City bank, was using a computer to verify checks and receipts.
“I got a little bored with that,” she said. Later she transferred to a bank in the Washington, D.C. area.
To combat her boredom, Jones got involved with deaf people in the community, and she learned sign language.
That led to a job working in the bursar’s office in the bank at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s leading universities specializing in higher education for deaf and hearing-impaired students.
Jones said she wanted to move up in the university’s banking system, but it was too small and there was no place for her to advance.
“They offered me a position at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, which was equivalent to a high school, but everything was on one campus,” she said. The school is affiliated with Gallaudet. There she became involved with accounting and staff development. “I sort of grew with that,” she said.
Her supervisor encouraged her go back to school, which she agreed to do.
She went to a community college for a couple years and transferred to the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. She still worked at the secondary school and took some courses in the daytime, but she took most courses at night.
In 1978, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and management. She continued working in accounting at the secondary school and, working as an assistant administrator, began learning more about staff training and development.
Through her supervisor’s husband, she landed a job at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a strategy and technology firm in Washington, D.C.
There she was responsible for administrative services at branch offices in Bethesda and Baltimore, Md., Pittsburgh, Pa. and Los Angeles, Calif.
“I got into consulting. It was a small, transportation and consulting office at the time, which took care of mass transit and things like that. I moved myself up in that,” she said.
She started with the company in 1978. While there, she went back to school, again taking mostly night courses, and earned a master’s degree in finance from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C.
In 1983, she left Booz Allen and took a job as a financial analyst at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
“But I also had a, slash, director of parking position because they needed someone with my administrative and financial background,” Jones said.
While working at the Smithsonian, Jones said she seemed to gain “a reputation for getting things done, more or less.”
She worked on several important projects at the Smithsonian, on one of which she was chief financial officer for the institution’s mail order distribution division in Springfield, Va.
Jones worked under the business activities office, which was responsible for mail order, museum shops, concessions and parking.
“They were having problems figuring out why they weren’t making money at the museum shops. It had to do with products not getting out fast enough,” she said.
Her last position at the Smithsonian was director of its office of human resources, where she was responsible for more than 6,500 employees.
She retired in 2003, after 20 years at the institution.
She said her proudest moment was receiving the Robert A. Brooks Award for Excellence in Administration at the Smithsonian Institution.
“It was a great office, I enjoyed it,” she said.
Although it sounds as though all Jones did was work, that isn’t so.
“In my personal life, I live and breathe sports,” Jones said. In high school she was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams for four years. She was voted to Women’s Sports Who’s Who of Snyder High School in Jersey City. She still plays, coaches and referees basketball and has also played softball and basketball in Washington, D.C.’s women’s league.
“When I was ready to retire I said to myself, ‘When was I my happiest?’ It had to do with when I was with kids,” she said.
After becoming involved with a local golf league, a member asked Jones if she’d lend some special assistance.
“The woman who was running the league said, ‘West Rehoboth needs help with kids.’ I didn’t know what West Rehoboth was,” she said.
Since 2004, Jones has been giving golf instruction to West Rehoboth youngsters through The First Tee, a Ladies Professional Golf Association educational program for urban boys and girls.
The program promotes character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.
“We do it every year. I love it,” she said. Last year the program finished with 13 children. They play at Marsh Island Golf Club on Camp Arrowhead Road.
The Lewes Farmers Market recruited Jones, asking her to coordinate people to work with vendors.
“I said sure, if I can pick my own team,” she said. The group of 14 assists vendors with set up and break down.
“They’re absolutely fantastic. There isn’t a boss; we just work as a team. We call ourselves ‘The Tentations,’” Jones said.