Get to Know Wendy Thomas of Placerville
Wendy Thomas—former mayor of Placerville and a current city council member—wasn’t always so leadership minded. As a child, she was quiet and introspective, more likely to be found with her nose in a book than out socializing. After college, she went on to become a professional watercolor artist, once again preferring the quiet of her studio to social functions. Then one day in 2007, Thomas had an awakening. “I had a kind of mid-life crisis,” she recalls. “I wanted to make a difference—not just make a life for myself.” She began investing herself in several community revitalization efforts in Placerville.
Thomas’ transition to a more civic-minded life wasn’t easy, however. In 2010, she went through a painful divorce after 24 years of marriage; both her daughters were working and away at college, and the financial and psychological strain caused her to sink into a depression. “I knew I could stay in that depressed state or move forward,” Thomas recalls. She chose to carry on.
Soon after, she was elected to city council and joined the board of Marshall Medical Center. She also became a member of Class XV of the American Leadership Forum. For these and other efforts, 5th District Assemblyman Frank Bigelow named her the “2014 Woman of the Year.”
Thomas is now happily remarried, and she doesn’t regret for a moment the dramatic changes she made to her life back in 2007. “I have a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve learned to listen to them!”
By Amber Foster. Photos by Dante Fontana.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Relax! Quit worrying about trying to do everything right; trust your instincts and have the courage and boldness to follow through on the ideas that come to you. Progress is sometimes found on the other side of failure.
Q: What comes to you naturally?
A: Optimism. Life has many chapters, and I’ve learned that everything brings a blessing, even the hard stuff, if we are patient enough to just trust that fact.
Q: Biggest life inspirations?
A: My parents. I continue to learn from them, not only in the lessons they taught me but also by reflecting on how they have lived their life.
Q: Best words of wisdom you’ve received?
A: From my grandmother (and Shakespeare): “To thine own self be true.” And from my dad: “If your reach does not exceed your grasp, what’s a heaven for?” Those two quotes are what I strive for.