Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

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Interview Conducted by Gary Quehl

[Note: This interview is one of 100 conducted in Nevada County, California by Gary Quehl and his colleagues. One half of the interviews were conducted with “senior sage leaders” (Barbara Thomas being one of these senior sage leaders). The other 50 interviews were conducted with “emerging sage leaders” in Nevada County. All of those who were interviewed are actively involved in the ongoing development of their community.]

You have been identified by friends and colleagues as one of our community’s 50 top senior sage leaders. A sage leader is a person who brings unusual experience, sound judgment, and wisdom in working to advance the civic well-being of our community.

1.  To begin, how many years have you lived in Nevada County, and where do you reside?

My husband and I moved to Rough and Ready five years ago.

2. Are you working, semi-retired, or retired…And how old you will be on your next birthday?

I am 69 years old now.

Barbara Thomas

3. If you would, please share a bit about your personal history: where you grew up; where you went to school and college; what organizations you have worked    for and the positions you have held.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and except for a short time back East went to grammar school and high school in Menlo Park. I was active as a leader in school clubs and social activities. I had planned on attending the University of Oregon but became pregnant and in the process of raising children was never able to go to college, something that has haunted me over my lifetime. However, like many women of that era, I helped my husband get a university education.

After raising my children, I entered the workforce for the first time in 1989 at age 49. My first position was as director of development for a Bay Area high tech non-profit organization that was concerned about the use of nuclear weapons to resolve conflicts. I stayed for two years and left to make more money. I then moved to a part-time position in the public relations department of a Sunnyvale high tech firm. When the company decided to pare down its workforce, I got let go, then re-hired two months later in a full-time position. I was there for two years but had numerous run-ins with my boss and left to join a new public relations agency that had been founded to promote Internet companies. I was eventually given the job of hiring young people who were well-grounded in technology. This resulted in my helping to grow the company from 12 to 95 employees. Unfortunately, one of my bosses was a very difficult person to work with—something that everyone in the firm knew and had experienced. I thought I could handle the situation, but our relationship deteriorated and I was eventually fired. Fortunately, I was able to leave with a generous compensation package. I believe my departures from the two positions enabled me to gain an inner security to know that I could respect my own feelings and insights and not be beholden to the circumstances surrounding me and my life.

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