Q: The first African-American woman to serve as mayor in Kansas is still on the job. In fact, she's been the mayor in Stockton, in northwest Kansas, for nearly 15 years. What's her name?
A: Kim Thomas
Kim Thomas is the mayor of Stockton, the seat of government in Rooks County, in northwest Kansas. She's also the first African-American woman in Kansas to serve as mayor. Her family has deep roots in western Kansas, where she is the fifth generation to come from the community of Nicodemus, a historic, African-American community which was settled after the Civil War. Thomas grew up in Plainville but spent lots of time with her grandparents in Nicodemus.
In high school, she worked as a telephone operator for Southwestern Bell. She then went to Emporia State University and then came back to northwest Kansas to work for Southwestern Bell on equipment. She spent 32 years before retiring as a communications technician with the company, located at various towns throughout the region. In 1992, her job brought her to Stockton. She was elected to the city commission, and in 2002, she became mayor – a position she still holds.
Thomas has led her community through major improvements in the water plant, sewage treatment facility, water line replacements, housing improvements, new businesses downtown, and enhancements of the city power plant. Later this fall (October 2016), she'll take the reins as president of the League of Kansas Municipalities. In 2014, the Kansas Mayors Association named Kim Thomas the Mayor of the Year. As Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development writes in his Kansas Profile series: "It’s a remarkable record for a person from the rural community of Stockton, population 1,535 people."