SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – The Chatham county commission has said farewell to a long time pillar in the community. Dr. Priscilla Thomas, the public servant, retired earlier this month.
On December 16th the last vote on the 2016 Chatham county commission agenda was cast and it was the last one on which Dr. Priscilla Thomas will have a say.
“Every day that I have served in this capacity has certainly been an enjoyable one,” said Dr. Thomas in her final address at the county commission meeting.
2017 will be the first year in 26 years Dr. Thomas will not officially represent the 8th district of Chatham county. It’s a position she took when the climate of the commission and they city of Savannah was in rough waters.
“I felt that I could do more at that time to make my district better in conjunction with what was going on with the other districts and so that’s why I decided I wanted to serve the people in that area.”
“What kept you coming back these 25 years?”
“The need, the concerns, I wanted to make the community better not just for my district but for the total Savannah district there were so many great needs all over Savannah and I wanted to see what I could do to do that.”
Thomas was elected to the commission in 1990. Crime, youth development in the community and an array of other issues were on the minds of commissioners. Thomas had just completed thirty years in the Savannah public schools system. She had an outpouring of support to run for office, but had big shoes to fill.
“It wasn’t as much diversity as it is now, I think, I came on after Dorothy Pelote she was on the commission and she decided to resign because she wanted to run for state rep and that’s when I ran for the office.”
Pelote was one of the first African-American women to sit on the commission. Dr. Thomas would succeed her and a few years later become the first African-American woman to be elected vice chair and keep that position for more than twenty years.
“I think that’s why I have been so successful, because I don’t look at color the bottom line is, what needs to be done, how are we going to get there and you know that kind of thing.”
It’s not a typical road project or affordable housing initiative that Dr. Thomas remembers as her most treasured accomplishment.
“I was surprised at some of the stuff I did because there were so many, but being able to initiate a youth group, as a county group was very special to me.”
Thomas took the lead issue on the minds of commissioners and found a solution, the Chatham youth commission. It has become something they provide for teens an opportunity to see business, government and public outreach working together.
“What would you say was the most challenging time for a commission?”
“When you have to make decisions about a lot of changes that’s going to affect people, I think those were some of the most challenging things.”
“What do you hope folks remember about what all you did there?”
“That I was a caring, loving person and I want success for everyone for everyone to the best of their ability and to always treat people with respect and honor.”