A Mayor’s Proposal is Accepted at the White House


Within 10 minutes of his first date with Dr. Jamila Scarlett Wynter in 2018, Phillip Damon Jones announced his intention to move back to Newport News, Va., to run for mayor in four years.

“Where’s Newport News?” she asked as they sipped mojitos on the rooftop of Felipe’s Taqueria in Cambridge, Mass, on a late Saturday afternoon during Memorial Day weekend.

Mr. Jones, 34, then a captain training newly commissioned officers in war fighting tactics at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, grew up in Hampton Roads, Va., and later moved to neighboring Newport News with his parents, who had served as U.S. Air Force pilots.

“I wanted to give back,” he said. “I wanted the entire city to reach its full potential.”

A month earlier, when they matched on the Hinge dating app, Dr. Wynter, 33, had no clue that Mr. Jones even lived in Virginia.

“We were equally yoked,” said Dr. Wynter, who grew up in Atlanta and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and liked the mix of photos he had posted — in a military uniform with his medals, hiking, and in a tuxedo.

As they began texting, he explained that he had switched the app’s location to the Boston area from Virginia while he stayed with a friend in Cambridge, and visited Harvard, where he was headed that August. He forgot to switch it back.

“She is a beautiful woman, super smart,” said Mr. Jones, who has a bachelor’s degree in history with merit from the United States Naval Academy and a joint master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School and an M.B.A. from its business school.

Dr. Wynter was then a first-year resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and received a medical degree from Brown. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in medical anthropology from Yale and is now a gastroenterologist at the Riverside Medical Group in Newport News.

After Mr. Jones told her he was about to start a summer emerging technology internship in China, she was resigned to wait until the fall semester to see him.

He saw it differently. “I needed to stay top of mind,” he said.

Two weeks later, he flew 450 miles for their first date in Cambridge. He arrived 15 minutes early.

“He seemed a little bit nervous,” said Dr. Wynter, who was on call that weekend. “He was a cutie pie, and well-mannered.”

They spent three hours at the restaurant, but Dr. Wynter was called to work the night shift.

“She took my breath away,” said Mr. Jones, fascinated that she spent her free time volunteering at a community health center for the underinsured in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.

Before her shift began, they went to his friend’s place in Cambridge, where Mr. Jones warmed up some Korean dumplings.

They met the next afternoon at Joe’s on Newbury Street for brunch in Boston, strolled around a bit, and then went to her apartment where they had their first kiss before he left.

“I thought he could be the one,” she said, and saw him again a couple of weeks later while staying with friends in Washington. He took her to a shooting range (her “first and last time”) and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Their relationship took off when he moved to Cambridge, where he shared a house with three other roommates.

After a small gathering for his birthday in September, they made their relationship official.

“He’s a planner,” she said. “We carved out time, quality time.”

In 2020, as Covid hit, she had a gastroenterology fellowship at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and was an emergency medical worker, while he completed classes at Harvard remotely and moved into his parents’ home in Newport News. They made plans to see each other every few weeks, and before long, they were considering marriage.

In March 2022, he officially jumped into the mayoral race, with three other candidates. Dr. Wynter, who became an unofficial campaign manager, knocked on doors and rode down Main Street with him during the July Fourth parade.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

He won by a landslide, with 40.5 percent of the vote, and became the youngest elected mayor in Newport News.

On Dec. 16, 2022, while he was among a dozen newly elected mayors visiting the White House, she accompanied him. A White House liaison had secretly helped arrange his proposal that day, her birthday, and instructed them to wait on the balcony in the office of the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, for an interview.

“I’m taking pictures of the Washington Monument,” she said, and as she turned around, he was down on one knee.

On May 13, 2023, they signed a legal marriage certificate at Newport News City Hall. After Dr. Wynter’s fellowship in New York ended in June 2023, she relocated to Newport News, where Mr. Jones bought a home and the couple now live.

On May 25, the couple exchanged vows before 160 guests at sunset outside on a cliff at Ocean Cliff Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. The Rev. Dr. Daryl Jones, an Assemblies of God minister and the groom’s father, led the ceremony.

A violinist played light reggae tunes during the cocktail hour, and later, the groom, who served in the Marine Corps for 12 years, cut their two-tiered red velvet and Jamaican black rum cake with his Marine Corps Mameluke sword.

At the Tuesday City Council meeting, he dealt with the ramifications of a shooting at a hospital in Newport News — where Dr. Wynter works — the day after they got back to Newport News from Jamaica.

“When you’re a mayor your job’s never done,” he said.



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