Thoughtful Leadership to Grow a Liveable Community
Connie Thomas has been a thought leader and policy catalyst since returning to northern Clay County 10 years ago. Her guiding principles are:
Community benefit, and
Back in 2014 Connie helped form a community action group — the Citizens for a Greater Orange Park — to bring new ideas on thoughtful neighborhood design as the Town embarked on the reconstruction of both underground utilities and surface features for Plainfield Avenue (parallel to US 17 between Kingsley Avenue and Wells Road in Orange Park). With a focus on improving liveability for everyone in that long neighborhood, the group held community roundtable discussions involving hundreds of interested citizens, which presented streetscape ideas to increase walkability, bikeability, access for the handicapped, pedestrian safety, and overall beautification. A number of the ideas developed using this participatory approach were included in the town engineering plan.
The Citizens Group also provided significant input to the FDOT relandscaping projects covering US 17 and Kingsley Avenue.
Connie has also drawn on her community-driven leadership tackling environmental pollution issues affecting the South Fulton/Fayette community in Georgia. Through her leadership, the state worked with the community and local industry to mitigate groundwater issues affecting local citizens’ health. Connie was subsequently appointed to a federal non-partisan CDC-ATSDR Panel, which studied how agencies and citizens could aid an appropriate emergency response with regard to toxic substances within communities She forged a new plan using the Poison Control Model to be used on a broader community scale when a community meets an environmental crisis. This newly devised model became the National Clearing House for Chemical Emergencies.
With these experiences as a guide Connie decided to run for Orange Park Town Council, and her successful election saw her seated in May 2016. She became Mayor during her second Council term in May 2019
Connie sees her role as someone who can identify problems, concerns, or community wants and then bring together the appropriate partners and support funding to address those wants. As a Councilperson and Mayor Connie spearheaded a number of public/private partnerships to address these community needs, advance participatory action, and put “community” back into small-town living. These issues are highlighted below.
She looks forward to seeking District 3 resident input and participation to address future concerns within our Community!
First Responders – As a mental health professional Connie has a unique perspective when it comes to the role of First Responders! Having worked on issues side by side with those who run into danger without asking questions only to save, she wants to do all she can to make sure that our First Responders are always well equipped and that we are ever mindful of the long term implications of their service on their physical and mental health. (Read More)
2040 Vision of the Town of Orange Park – Building on her experience with Citizens for a Greater Orange Park, Connie encouraged her fellow councilmembers to re-examine Orange Park’s long-range plans so that they better reflect common-sense designs promoting safe, liveable neighborhoods and the “complete streets” approach to mobility, and providing a mix of uses to enhance a true sense of “town” instead of just “suburb.”(Read More)
Orange Park Normal and Industrial School - Connie brings a strong voice encouraging broader civic participation in community affairs while promoting new avenues for building a sense of shared community. Working with the Historical Society of Orange Park, Connie pressed for formal recognition of the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School, founded in 1891 so that the children of former slaves could be educated. The school was so successful that white children began to attend, which began a path to integration (and to which Florida officials then began to create barriers). (Read More)
Clay Youth Connection - Children in foster care can find themselves in a tragic case of “Mind the Gap” if they turn 18 before completing high school. With no financial support to finish their Senior Year of high school, plans for college or other post-secondary training or employment can go up in virtual smoke.(Read More)
Flooding and Cleanup - Before the flooding brought about by Hurricanes Michael and Irma, Connie convened a Town waterways improvement roundtable to address an increasingly clogged system of creeks in the town as well as to find out the actual ownership of the many tributaries in the Town so that improvements could be made. (Read More)
Historic Preservation Board - In 2016, Connie and many in Clay County were stunned to discover that one of the few remaining 1800s homes in Orange Park was erased with little thought to its preservation. Mindful of another architectural asset, Connie and a number of town residents got together to create TOP MOD — The Town of Orange Park Mid-Century Modern Society — dedicated to preserving an important part of Orange Park’s more recent architectural heritage. (Read More)
Orange Park Athletic Alumni Association – When Connie joined the Town Council, she was assigned to the Parks and Recreation Committee. She saw an immediate need for the improvement of the Orange Park Athletic Park, and, in association and collaboration with the Orange Park Athletic Association and interested Town residents, spearheaded the formation of the Orange Park Athletic Alumni Association. (Read More)
Education, Access and Public Crossroads - Connie is a great advocate for the academic success of our Clay County Schools. As a graduate of Orange Park High School (Class of '79!) before going on to higher education, she is grateful for the quality education she received and endeavors to do everything she can to lift the academic future of our students in Clay County. (Read More)