Kent City Councilmember Les Thomas tells Mayor Dana Ralph how much he enjoyed working with her. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent City Councilmember Les Thomas tells Mayor Dana Ralph how much he enjoyed working with her. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas: Farewell to Kent City Council's longest serving member | Photos

20-year veteran honored by mayor, council as he attends final meeting

At an evening designed to honor Les Thomas for his 20th and final year on the Kent City Council, Thomas switched things up.

“One thing about Les, we never know what he’s going to do,” Council President Bill Boyce said after Thomas asked Mayor Dana Ralph for personal privilege at the start of the Dec. 12 council meeting.

“Absolutely,” Ralph said, although unsure what Thomas had planned.

Thomas, 78, the longest serving council member since Kent became a city in 1890, decided to walk down the row of fellow members and the mayor to personally thank each one of them for working with him and what that meant to him.

“You come prepared, you ask great questions you’ve been a great president and a good friend,” Thomas said to Boyce.

“We don’t always agree,” Thomas said to Councilmember Marli Larimer. “But one thing you and I have is respect for one another. You’ve shown that over and over again as we take on different challenges.”

Thomas had similar messages for each council member, in part, responding to what they each said about him during a chance to honor Thomas in the City Hall Lobby prior to the meeting.

“I’ve come to know how much he loves the city and how much he loves serving,” Councilmember Brenda Fincher said. “We definitely did not agree on everything, but even though we disagreed, it was always done with respect.

“I expect a council member to listen and before a vote to have the information. There wasn’t a time that I talked to Les about one thing or another that he did not listen. He didn’t always change his mind, but he always listened.

“I am going to miss the humor that he brought and the historical knowledge that he brought.”

That knowledge came not just from his 20 years on the council, voters first elected Thomas in 2003, but from growing up in Kent, raising a family here, holding other political offices and running a small business.

Born in Illinois, Thomas spent his school years in the Kent School District after his family moved here in 1951. He is a graduate of Kent-Meridian High School, which he wouldn’t hesitate to point out during council meetings if the topic of schools or school sports came up. He attended the University of Washington, served in the U.S. Army and earned a masters in business administration at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Thomas went to work at Libby’s Cannery in Kent (where the Maleng Regional Justice Center now stands). He met his wife, Pauline, while working on the bean line in the summer of 1967 before marrying her in 1968. They owned Blessing’s Jewelers in downtown Kent before selling the store in 1992. They have been married 55 years and have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Thomas served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1994 to 1999 and was on the King County Council from 2001 to 2002.

“We’re really going to miss Les,” Councilmember Satwinder Kaur said. “He’s done so much for the community, he has a lot of accomplishments.”

That includes votes on two of the city’s biggest projects. Thomas was on the yes side of a 4-3 vote in 2004 to sell city property to Tarragon, which developed the Kent Station shopping center. He also was on the positive side of a 6-1 vote in 2007 to build the city-owned ShoWare Center, which opened in 2009.

Long illness

Thomas received a standing ovation in 2018 from his fellow council members as he returned to his seat for the first time in about four months after a long illness.

Thomas suffered a cut on a big toe from a seashell during a trip to the Caribbean. The toe became infected. Doctors removed a vein from Thomas’ right leg to put in his left leg in an effort to stop the bacterial infection. But the surgery didn’t work. Doctors amputated Thomas’s left leg 3 inches below the knee. Thomas spent most of his recovery time at a Federal Way rehab center.

When Thomas returned to the council, Ralph said there had been something missing from the meetings without him.

“Probably humor,” Thomas responded to Ralph.

Quick with a quip, Thomas certainly livened up meetings.

And, of course, he had a line when he finally returned to council meetings following his illness.

“I must say, if you lose a leg it’s bit awkward,” Thomas said in 2018. “And it’s really bad that I can’t get half-off shoe sales. However, my pair of socks last twice as long.”

Ralph quickly responded.

“Now you all know why we we’ve missed Councilmember Thomas,” she said in 2018. “Glad he’s back along with his sense of humor.”

Close to mayor

When Thomas made his rounds at his final council meeting, he saved his comments for Ralph to the end.

“Her dad and I played football together in junior high, her dad was a guard and I was a tackle next to him,” Thomas said about what turned into a long friendship.

That included regular morning gatherings.

“We met at Maggie’s, he invited me for coffee with his group,” Thomas said as he stood next to Mayor Ralph, leaving her in tears as she thought about her late father and listened to Thomas. “We became good friends, he was so proud of this girl, he loved you so much and was so very proud of you.”

Thomas continued.

“This lady has been more than a friend,” he said. “She’s been a mentor whenever I called. ...I appreciate you and your friendship.”

Ralph said to a reporter prior to the meeting that it was going to be an emotional night.

The mayor read a proclamation naming Dec. 10 as Les Thomas Day in the city. She then added her personal comments.

“I want to say a few things about this amazing gentleman,” Ralph said. “First and foremost, it can’t be understated how much Les loves this community, the heart and service he has put into Kent, I don’t know anybody else that shows up this way.

“Every decision he has made, every meeting he’s come to. ...all because he loved this community that he grew up in.”

Ralph said she found out a long time ago that Thomas and her father want to school together.

“I ran for city council and lost (in 2009 to Dennis Higgins), and I remember sitting at that table at Maggie’s thinking the world had ended, he (Thomas) told me I would do this again and be fine,” Ralph said. “I was 100% sure I would not do this again and I would not be fine. ...Here I am today because he believed in me.”

Ralph said Thomas visited her father, in a rehab center because he was so ill, shortly before he died.

“Les made a paper Christmas tree and he brought it and put it on the wall,” Ralph said. “It was the kindest thing I could think of for my dad to have and so special for my dad to have that. That’s the heart he has that he pours into people that he cares about and the people he served in this community.

“Les, I am going to miss you sitting up here.”

“Same here,” Thomas replied.

Ralph said it’s important the history and knowledge that Thomas possesses.

“Thank you for loving this city that I love and for taking such good care of it for such a long time,” Ralph said. “I promise you, you are leaving it in really good hands. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The mayor then stood up, took a few steps toward Thomas and embraced him.


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Les and Pauline Thomas introduce family at the Dec. 12 Kent City Council meeting. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les and Pauline Thomas introduce family at the Dec. 12 Kent City Council meeting. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas and Mayor Dana Ralph share a special moment. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas and Mayor Dana Ralph share a special moment. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas talks about growing up in Kent. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas talks about growing up in Kent. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas talks to Councilmember Toni Troutner about working with her. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas talks to Councilmember Toni Troutner about working with her. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas addresses Councilmember Brenda Fincher. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas addresses Councilmember Brenda Fincher. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas receives recognition for his 20 years on the council from Council President Bill Boyce, center, and Mayor Dana Ralph. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Les Thomas receives recognition for his 20 years on the council from Council President Bill Boyce, center, and Mayor Dana Ralph. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

City Parks Director Julie Parascondola greets Les Thomas in the City Hall Lobby. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

City Parks Director Julie Parascondola greets Les Thomas in the City Hall Lobby. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Members of the Kent City Council pose with fellow member Les Thomas. From left to right: Bill Boyce, Toni Troutner, Zandria Michaud, Marli Larimer, Mayor Dana Ralph, Satwinder Kaur and Brenda Fincher. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Members of the Kent City Council pose with fellow member Les Thomas. From left to right: Bill Boyce, Toni Troutner, Zandria Michaud, Marli Larimer, Mayor Dana Ralph, Satwinder Kaur and Brenda Fincher. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

City Councilmember Les Thomas poses with his family Dec. 12 at his final meeting. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

City Councilmember Les Thomas poses with his family Dec. 12 at his final meeting. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

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