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Stockton mayor honored for accomplishments





STOCKTON -- Kim Thomas has a long list of accomplishments in her 12 years as mayor of this Rooks County town. But there's still more to do.

"More housing," she said. "Northwest Kansas, we don't have the housing.

"People will move back, they like the smaller communities. There's such a housing shortage. It's not just this town; it's all of northwest Kansas."

Recently, the city received a grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for the construction of four moderate-income houses.

During her tenure as mayor, the city constructed new water lines and a new water plant; it currently is working on a new sewer lagoon project; and an old city building has been repurposed as the police station.

For her accomplishments, the Kansas Mayors Association named Thomas -- the state's first African-American female mayor -- its Mayor of the Year last month.

"That's quite an honor," Thomas said of being the first African-American female mayor in the state. "But I did a lot of firsts. I've done a little bit of everything. I'll try anything once."

Thomas knows she hasn't been able to do it alone.

"It's being part of a team," she said. "If you have a commission that works together ... If you don't work together as a commission, you don't get a lot accomplished.

"I've been fortunate that the commissioners that we've had ... that most of the time, we agree."

Thomas, 63, grew up in Plainville and graduated from high school there in 1968.

She attended Emporia State University before leaving to work for Southwestern Bell.

She worked for the phone company for 32 years before retiring.

While working for the phone company, a co-worker suggested she run for city commission.

She lost on her first try, but ran again the next time and won.

Thomas didn't run again, thinking she wanted to study for her mortuary science degree. But she changed her mind, ran again, and has been on the commission 14 years -- the last 12 also as mayor.

The commission-style of government usually rotates the mayor position, but Thomas has remained mayor the last dozen years.

"I think probably because I've gone beyond some things" as far as getting things done, Thomas said.

Thomas also has been a member of several boards, including the Kansas Mayors Association, the League of Kansas Municipalities and has been a state hospital auxiliary board member.

"Basically, I guess I'm a board person -- I'm on boards," Thomas said. "It seems like I'm meeting all the time."

Thomas wishes younger people in the community would get more involved.

"You have to do things for your community," she said. "I wish we had more young people, but I realize how busy young people are. Sometimes, we are like an old group."

Thomas said Stockton is better off than some might think, what with new housing, new doctors and a new clinic.

"I know some people think the town's dying," she said. "You know, it really isn't."