Claudia Thomas was ‘always in motion’ for her city and youths

Claudia Thomas, who as mayor of Lakewood was the first black woman to hold that title for any city in Washington, died May 12. She was 87.

Thomas was also one of Lakewood’s first elected officials after it gained cityhood. Starting in 1995, when Lakewood became a city, she served on the City Council until 2011. She was selected by the rest of the council members for the dual role of mayor in 2006 and also was deputy mayor for eight years.

According to officials of Lakewood, where she lived until her death, Thomas, a former teacher for the Kent School District, was known as a mother figure committed to giving a voice to overlooked populations, including youth. She was instrumental in the start of youth advisors for city government and the annual allocation of city funds for organizations focused on social and human services. Thomas also created Lakewood’s Promise, which focuses on helping children become successful adults.

“You could count on Claudia to be out in the community and know what people were thinking because she was always in motion,” said Don Anderson, Lakewood’s current mayor.

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.”

Claudia Thomas (left) is seen here with Andie Gernon, another former Lakewood City Council member, when they were honored by the city as two of its “founding mothers.”