Our Informationist Spotlight is back! We previously featured Alberto Artasanchez for his certifications from Amazon Web Services. Today, we are excited to feature Sam Thompson, who is an Informationist – and a mayor! We sat down with Sam to learn more about his duties as mayor and how holding public office relates to his work as an Informationist.
On top of your work as an Informationist, you are the mayor of your town. What town are you mayor of, and how long have you held that office?
I live in Delaware Township, New Jersey where I have served on the Township Committee since 2016. We rotate the position of mayor and I was selected to serve in that capacity this year. Overall, the Committee has budget and legislative authority. As well, Township employees report up to the Committee. My term on the Committee ends this year, so I am up for reelection.
What are some of your everyday responsibilities as mayor?
As a volunteer position, the mayor (fortunately) does not have day-to-day responsibilities. Officially, I chair our public Township Committee meetings, sign official documents, and serve as the face of the Township. Unofficially, I am the point person to whom residents can raise issues or complain about Township services. Every year we construct the annual municipal budget (ours is about $4.7 million), which determines the property taxes that residents will pay in the coming year.
How did you get into politics?
Going back a few years, I ran for Reporter on Student Council in Jr. High School (which I lost) and in High School (which I won). Fast forward a few decades to 2002, when I worked with some of my neighbors to stop development that we felt would bring too much traffic to our road and I began attending public meetings in town. Within a year, I was working on campaigns for candidates who were proponents of land preservation. I chaired the successful campaign of 2 friends in 2005, ran (and lost) in 2006, ran (and lost) in 2009, ran (and lost) in 2012, and, after running (and losing) in 2013, I decided that I was not destined for elected office. Then in 2015 I ran with the guy who beat me in 2006 to defeat the guys who beat me in 2009 and 2012.
Do you have any memorable stories from your time holding office?
Quite a few, yes. During my first year on the Committee, I negotiated the contract with our DPW union, the Teamsters. That was pretty intense. This past March we endured 3 big storms in a row which caused many residents to spend as many days in March without power as they did with. The power company was not responsive to our emergency services personnel so I was on the phone, pretty much at all hours, with them to address major issues and to push them to restore power ahead of the published dates. On Independence Day I was honored to receive new flags from our VFW chapter and I get to address them again on Veterans Day. In New Jersey, a couple can be married by a mayor and I am really disappointed not to have officiated a wedding.
Are there any aspects of holding public office that relate to your work as an Informationist, and how?
As an Informationist, we improve lives and business through data. As a government official, I work to gain consensus, gather facts, and listen a lot. I use my budgeting, project management, and group facilitation skills in pretty much every area of my Township service. And I treat our residents as clients and work really hard to have my fellow officials and the employees to adopt that philosophy.