SEATTLE — Every Tuesday you will find Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms in council chambers. But his public service echoes far beyond these walls.
In March, Thoms, a member of the Navy Reserves who has been recalled to active duty, will go from council member to commander with the U.S. Navy. He’ll be stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a public affairs officer for 6 months.
It’s by no means his first deployment. He’s served in the Navy for nearly 25 years, including five years active duty.
He’s been deployed 5 times, but it never gets easier — the hardest part is being away from his wife and three young children.
“We have a greater proportion of people that serve than other parts of the country, simply because of JBLM and our naval bases here, so it’s not foreign to a lot of people,” says Thoms.
The mission is certainly not foreign to Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. She signed up for the Army right out of high school.
“You wake up every day doing the best for the people that you serve, whether that is right here in the city of Tacoma or the entire country. We sign up to do this work and when we sign up we don’t pick and choose what assignment we take or what assignment we get. We choose to serve and serving means going wherever you are called to serve,” says Woodards.
Thoms says his call to service is not defined by city limits, just like the military community he is so proud to serve in the city of Tacoma.
"There are certain people who have signed up for more than your average bear. And when the call comes, up you stand in and do your work and you bring that level of commitment to it. It’s standing taller and doing more and that’s OK. I’m proud of it,” says Thoms.
State and federal law allow for elected officials to take extended leave for involuntary recalls to military service.
At-Large City Council members Lillian Hunter and Conor McCarthy have agreed to pay special attention to the needs of community members in District 2 during Thoms’ absence.
At the conclusion of his deployment, Thoms plans to return to Tacoma and resume the rest of his term.