Harry Thomas III realizes that he has a well-known name in District politics but wants to chart his own path as an elected official starting in January as the 5C06 advisory neighborhood commissioner.
Thomas’s grandfather, Harry Thomas Sr., served as a commissioner in Ward 5 and represented the ward on the D.C. Council from 1987-1999. His grandmother, Romaine Thomas, has served on the D.C. Democratic State Committee and has had stints as a commissioner. His father, Harry Thomas Jr., also has served as a commissioner in the ward and worked as its legislator from 2007-2012 but stepped down after pleading guilty to felony theft of government funds and falsifying tax returns.
Presently, Romaine and Harry Jr., represent Ward 5 on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. While Thomas expresses pride in his kin’s accomplishments, he desires to establish himself in the “family business.”
“I have been around politics all of my life,” he said. “I remember hearing stories about how my grandfather helped people in the ward in their time of need. I know about my grandmother’s hard work in the community and have had the chance to see that first-hand. I remember as a child going with my father to assist a resident who needed help, sometimes at 2 a.m. in the morning.”
He was surrounded by politics all his life, Thomas said, but added baseball was his passion. He played the sport in high school at St. John College High School, in the college ranks at Campbell University and playing internationally in Europe and South America before coming back to the District at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Thomas said he wanted to change his focus from the sport to politics and made the decision to run for commissioner in the Brookland-based neighborhood he grew up in.
“After coming back home from playing baseball, I decided to look at the next chapter in my life,” he said.
In the Nov. 3 general election, the voters in 5C06 elected Thomas to his first term with 50.59 percent of the vote. He is defeating Thaddeus James, who received 41.45 percent, and a few write-in candidates.
The district Thomas will represent encompasses the southern end of the Brookland neighborhood with the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station on the Red Line close to its borders. “5C06 is the neighborhood I grew up in,” he said. “It is a snapshot of D.C. as a whole.”
“There’s a lot of development taking place in the neighborhood but there are also people who have needs,” he said. “As a commissioner, I will focus on areas such as Brookland Manor and Saratoga. I want to focus on creating more green space in the district and help build more affordable housing. This district is a good place for me to start my political career, it gives me the chance to serve my neighbors and to see how the District government works.”
Thomas, Jr. candidly admits to being a little concerned about his son becoming a politician.
“When he decided to run for the position, I was a little nervous,” Thomas said. “Politics can be a tricky and dangerous business and it is not always fair. However, he has the life experiences that will help him do well. He is a meticulous and methodical person and that should serve him well as a commissioner.”
Romaine Thomas said she supports her grandson’s aspirations, too.
“I think he will make a good commissioner,” she said. “He makes good decisions. We as a family stand behind him.”
When asked whether he will follow in the path of his grandfather and father and pursue the Ward 5 council seat, he said “I will take one year at a time.”