Robert Thoms, come on down. You’re the next member of the Tacoma City Council.
In a contest pitting seven applicants vying for the price of council admission, Tacoma’s eight sitting council members chose Thoms on Tuesday to fill the vacant District 2 seat for the next year.
Thoms, a reservist Navy officer, former deputy state director for Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and lobbyist who co-owns a consulting firm, unanimously won the appointment after council members voted down a motion to appoint activist Patricia Lecy-Davis.
Before the voting, the council roundly praised Thoms, saying he’ll bring needed experience on military issues and federal lobbying skills to the city panel.
“You have a unique opportunity when you have someone who has career military experience,” said Councilman Joe Lonergan. “ He’ll be a great advocate for the City of Tacoma.”
Thoms, 42, a married father of two whose family lives in the Stadium District, didn’t attend the council meeting. He was at a Lowell Elementary PTA meeting, he said later Tuesday.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to serve,” Thoms added of his appointment. “I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”
The council’s selection came after interviews of all seven candidates broadcast live on TV Tacoma earlier Tuesday. Each candidate gave up to a three-minute personal statement before the council asked questions on a variety of topics.
Chief among them was how the applicants planned to represent the diverse council district, which spans from Northeast Tacoma around Commencement Bay, through the Port of Tacoma and downtown, to Old Town.
During the interviews, Thoms described the district’s neighborhoods as its top asset and said his decision-making “harkens back to my military experience.”
“Public service isn’t a job,” he said. “It’s something that you’re called to do.”
Thoms, now a reservist public-affairs officer, has served in the Navy since 1989, including four years of active duty in the Persian Gulf War.
He has been a vice president for the Thompson Smitch Consulting Group, later joining former Norm Dicks aide John Jolibois to open a political consulting firm, The Navigation Group. The firm focuses on state and federal public-relations lobbying, Thoms said.
Thoms previously worked as a senior legislative aide for state Rep. Jeff Gombosky, D-Spokane, and later as Cantwell’s deputy state director from 2000-07. A New Orleans native, Thoms came to Tacoma from Spokane in 2004 to open an office for Cantwell. He liked the city so much, he said, that he and his wife settled here to raise a family.
Thoms called the current City Council “probably the most diverse and forward-thinking group of city leaders” he has seen.
“I want us to be the best City Council in the country,” he added. “I want us to be the best City Council in our state.”
Before unanimously supporting Thoms, council members gave their top choices from the applicant pool. Lecy-Davis, a downtown salon owner, seemed to draw the most praise for her longtime involvement on various boards, commissions and causes.
Councilman David Boe said he supported Lecy-Davis in part because of her “willingness to walk the walk.” But Boe and Councilman Marty Campbell proved to be Lecy-Davis’ only votes during an initial appointment motion. The council then unanimously supported Thoms.
Other applicants were Monica Alexander, Philip Cowan, David D’Aniello, Carolyn Edmonds and Jon Higley.
As a councilman, Thoms will make $41,269 a year, prorated from his official appointment date later this month through the end of 2013. Former City Councilman Jake Fey vacated the seat Dec. 31 with a year left on his term after winning election to the state House.
The District 2 seat will come up for election this year, and several of the council applicants said Tuesday that they’ll run for it.
Family: Wife, Beth; son William, 6; daughter, Charlotte, 3.
Occupation: President and partner of political consulting firm The Navigation Group; reserve Navy public-affairs officer.
Residence: Stadium District.
Years in Tacoma: Nine.
Experience: Has never held public office. Worked as a staffer to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and state Rep. Jeff Gombosky.
Quote: “Public service isn’t a job. It’s something you’re called to do.”Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @lewiskamb