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Thomas: County needs to provide more with less

Aug 9, 2016 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commission candidate Clarence Thomas is an American Indian and a Republican.

He knows that combination is a surprise to some in Fremont County, but it's the norm considering Thomas's background: He's an enrolled member of Arizona's Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which Thomas said was rife with conservative ideals of business development that guided tribal governance when he grew up.

As declining tax revenues likely mean cuts to the county budget, Thomas said he wants to use those values and his background to try to make departments more efficient.

"Some people think you need to increase funding or personnel to boost services, but that's not always the case," he said. "Can we provide more with less? Are we too top heavy?"

Thomas said if he's elected he'd like to learn from other counties and cities that have learned to innovate. For example, he said some counties have made recycling programs more efficient through education programs that have boosted volumes.

"It may mean more time meeting and doing individual research" in order to become "progressively productive," he says, but he's willing to put in the work.

Thomas said the county board might need to put more demands on its departments, though he acknowledged the stress that extra work can create for some employees.

"We cannot keep enabling," he said. "But for people who work for the county, small changes can feel much bigger, and you have to have empathy for that."

Thomas began working as a police officer in 1990 on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Since then, he's worked for both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes on juvenile drug and health programs, including his current work as director of the Eastern Shoshone Department of Juvenile Services.

During the last two decades, he's also developed programs with the Shoshone Boys and Girls Clubs, worked with the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Advocacy Center and served as a drug counselor for White Buffalo Recovery Center.

Gov. Matt Mead appointed him to the Juvenile Justice Board two years ago.

Thomas has earned a master's degree in business leadership from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science in health sciences from Arizona State University.

He said he decided to run for the county board because he thinks it's important that District 1, which encompasses the reservation, "has a voice" in commission meetings. He hopes to increase the "collaborative diversity and communication" between the county and tribal governments.

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