Every elected official has dreams of improving their community from the inside out. Yazoo City's newly elected Ward 4 Alderwoman Elizabeth W. Thomas is no exception, as she plans to use her experience in social work and faith in God to bring positive changes into the lives of the people she represents.
Commonly known as "Liz W." to most people in the community, Thomas has been living in Yazoo City for over four decades.
She is happily married to her husband of 46 years, Senator Joseph C. Thomas Sr. and has devoted most of her life in supporting and contributing to his political campaigns.
Together they have three children, Joseph C. Thomas Jr., Kirk Thomas, and Whitney Thomas; and four grandchildren.
Thomas graduated from Benton High School in May of 1973 and was married by September of the same year. She spent most of her early life after marriage raising her children and supporting her husband in all of his many community efforts.
But it was Thomas' own love for the community that led her to work for Yazoo Community Action at their headquarters in Yazoo City for over 20 years. After spending a great deal of time working in the field with people from all walks of life in the community and after attending continued education courses for social work, Thomas was presented with a License for Social Work by the State of Mississippi in 1994, which enabled her to reach the lives of people who needed her most within Yazoo City. Following her time at Yazoo Community Action, Thomas briefly worked at Taylor Medical, before receiving a phone call from a friend to begin work at Central Mississippi Inc. in Holmes County.
While working at Central Mississippi Inc., Thomas continued her career as a social worker, and was stationed in an office located inside of the Holmes County Headstart building. Seeking to learn more about the field of social work, Thomas obtained a Bachelor of Science degree and full certification in Social Work from Tennessee State University in 2011, thanks to courses offered though Central Mississippi Inc.
"I have always taken my work very seriously, so I did everything I could to learn more and be the best that I can be," she said.
Outside of work, family life and supporting her husband's political career, Thomas has been a deeply devoted member of Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Yazoo City, where she has been serving the Lord since 1980. For the last six years, Thomas added that she has also been serving as church clerk for Pastor Herrie Jenkins Jr., who started in 2019.
"I just love being in the church and working," she said. "I work in every department they need me in, and if there is ever anything that needs to be done, I try my best to do it."
Thomas said that her love for the people in her community is what made her want to run for the Ward 4 Alderman's post on the city council. After the passing of her friend and church member, former Ward 4 Alderman Aubry Brent Jr., Thomas said she felt the Lord calling her to action.
"Once my husband won his recent election on Nov. 5, I started my campaign on Nov. 6," Thomas said. "I made sure that I knew all of the areas that Ward 4 encompasses. I studied the map, and I walked every bit of the area, meeting as many people as I could."
For two weeks, Thomas went door to door introducing herself to the people of her community, and also mailed over $400 worth of letters introducing herself to the people of Ward 4.
"I am no stranger, and I never meet a stranger," she said. "Everywhere I go I am going to meet someone, and I am going to have a conversation."
Shortly afterwards, the special election was held to fill the vacant Ward 4 post, and Thomas was pronounced the winner with the majority of the votes.
After being sworn into her new position on Dec. 20, Thomas hit the ground running, already preparing a long list of issues she wished to present to the board.
"I see the areas where there is flooding and poverty, and we have a lot of things that are going on that should not be," she said. "There are a lot of problems in Ward 4 like missing or torn up storm drains, and things like that. And we have people living in deplorable conditions in our apartment complexes. We can correct some of these things, but sometimes people have to be willing to put forth the effort themselves and meet you halfway."
Thomas said that she openly listens to the complaints of her constituents, and often classifies their needs into categories of low, medium and high intensity, as a way to best prioritize the resources available to meet those needs.
"Low means things that we can resolve today, sometimes by ourselves," she said. "Low, we can pick up litter off the ground ourselves, and rake and bag leaves ourselves as we see it. We are setting and developing goals for ourselves and showing that we can do things on our own."
Thomas added that medium intensity issues include filling potholes or other issues that take steps for processing paperwork and waiting for a slot to open; and high intensity includes the bigger issues which include long term goals of getting streets paved.
Other goals that Thomas wants to address to the board in the future include changing the collection of curbside trash and debris from a daily assignment list to one day a week per ward, so that the city can look cleaner and each ward can see a more efficient way of keeping the streets clean. To do this however, Thomas said she would need the full support of the board to bring about change.
"Because Yazoo City is under a special charter, we have a weak mayor and a strong council," she said. "We are all in this. We are all team players, and the only way that Yazoo City is going to survive is we have got to work together."
Other things that Thomas wants to focus on are bringing life back into some of the old factory facilities in Yazoo City, creating more jobs and improving the local tax base. She added that after living in Yazoo City for the last 46 years, she has a dream of bringing the city back to its former glory, with businesses booming and the city streets full of people working and shopping.
One of Thomas' goals for this year is to reach out and educate the people of Ward 4 on ways that they can step up and push harder to make their city a better place.
"We are going to have meetings quarterly at the L.T. Miller Community Center," she said. "We are not going to meet to complain or have a gripe session. We are going to talk about positive things and have educational sessions with groups like Keep Yazoo City Beautiful, who can teach us how to take care of our area and make it cleaner and better than before."
Thomas advised that all concerned citizens across every ward should hold their elected aldermen accountable whenever necessary, and encourages everyone to attend city council meetings held at City Hall every second and fourth Monday of each month. Thomas added that citizens in Ward 4 can contact her at any time regarding local issues by calling 590-2474 or 746-7552, or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I would really like for people to look at the positive things that are going on here in Yazoo City," Thomas said. "I know that God put me in this position for a reason. Now I have two years to go to fulfill this term, and I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but when I step out, people are going to know that Liz W. Thomas was here."