The City of Lakewood was sad to learn of the passing of former Mayor Claudia Thomas on May 12, 2018.
Thomas made history while serving Lakewood: First as a member of the inaugural City Council in 1995 and again in 2006 when her peers voted her Mayor, making her the first female African-American mayor in Washington State.
Prior to becoming Mayor, Thomas served as Deputy Mayor from 1995 to 2003.
“The city was saddened to learn of Claudia’s passing over the weekend,” said Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson, whose time on the City Council overlapped with Thomas. “It was great pleasure to serve with Claudia on the council. She was a tireless advocate for youth and education.”
Those who knew Thomas and saw her in action describe her as a mother figure committed to giving a voice to overlooked populations, including youth.
In 1997 Thomas worked to get two youth advisors appointed to the City Council. Today there is a Lakewood Youth Council with 22 members that acts as one of the city’s advisory boards.
Thomas is also responsible for initiating the city’s practice of dedicating 1 percent of its general fund to human service organizations. The city awarded approximately $720,000 in the last biennium to area nonprofits and organizations focused on social and human services.
Thomas also created Lakewood’s Promise, which is still active and focuses on helping children become successful adults. As a result of her work, the city was recognized nationally by America’s Promise as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People in 2006-2008 and again in 2010-2012.
“You could count on Claudia to be out in the community and know what people were thinking because she was always in motion,” Anderson said.
On a personal note, Anderson recalled how at every council meeting Thomas would slip him candy.
“That showed the kind of person she was,” he said. “It’s a small thing, but it left a warm feeling.”
The City of Lakewood expresses its heartfelt condolences to the Thomas family during this difficult time, but takes pride in knowing Thomas’ legacy lives on in Lakewood through the policies she crafted, the programs she supported and the countless lives she touched while leading this city.