Bill Thomas (Alaska politician)

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Bill Thomas
Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
from the 5th district
In office
January 10, 2005 – January 14, 2013
Preceded by Albert Kookesh
Succeeded by Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins[1]
Personal details
Born (1947-06-01) June 1, 1947 (age 70)
Haines, Territory of Alaska
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Joyce Marie Thomas
Children Rhett,
Residence Haines, Alaska
Alma mater University of Alaska
Profession Commercial fisherman

William A. "Bill" Thomas, Jr. (born June 1, 1947) is a businessman, commercial fisherman, and politician from the U.S. state of Alaska. Thomas served as a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives from the 5th District, comprising scattered rural and semi-rural communities throughout Southeast Alaska and stretching westward to Prince William Sound, from 2005 to 2013. Thomas served in the majority his entire tenure in the House and held multiple chairmanships. Thomas gained a seat on the powerful House Finance Committee during his second term and would eventually co-chair the committee. Following redistricting, Thomas lost reelection in 2012 by 32 votes to 23-year-old Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a recent Yale University graduate and political newcomer.

Early life[edit]

William A. Thomas, Jr. was born in Haines, Territory of Alaska on June 1, 1947, and is a lifelong resident of Haines and the surrounding Chilkat Valley. He is descended from the Tlingit Natives of nearby Klukwan village. Speaking before a Native organization in Juneau about his origins, Thomas once explained "And the Thomas? That came from California".

Bill Thomas graduated from Haines High School in 1965. Shortly thereafter, he briefly attended the University of Alaska before joining the U.S. Army, where he served for two years during the Vietnam War.[2]

Business career[edit]

Bill Thomas began commercial fishing for a living ca. 1970, and has continued in this line of work ever since. He has mostly run gillnets and longlines.[3]

Thomas has also served as chairman and CEO of his village's Native corporate, Klukwan, Inc. This position has led to Thomas serving on the board of directors of a number of the corporation's subsidiaries.

Political career[edit]

Early political career[edit]

Bill Thomas began working as a lobbyist in Juneau ca. 1991, mostly representing small community concerns throughout Southeast Alaska. He also spent four years apiece on the Haines Borough assembly (legislative body) and school board.

In 2004, Democrat Georgianna Lincoln, who represented the sprawling, rural District C in the Alaska Senate (Lincoln hailed from the Yukon River village of Rampart), did not seek reelection. 5th District member of the Alaska House of Representatives, Albert Kookesh, filed to run for the Senate, eventually winning. Thomas ran for the 5th District House seat, citing his experience as a lobbyist as being beneficial to the position. Thomas won election in 2004 by 59 votes over Tim June, a fellow commercial fisherman from Haines, who was active in environmental and watershed issues for many years. Thomas would be reelected mostly easily thereafter, including defeating June by an approximately 61 to 38 percent margin in 2008.

Alaska House of Representatives[edit]

24th Alaska State Legislature[edit]

In the 24th Alaska State Legislature, Thomas served as co-chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, as well as co-chair of the Fisheries Committee. He also served on the Education, Military and Veterans’ Affairs and the Transportation Committees in the House.

  • Member, Finance Committee
  • Commerce, Community & Economic Development
  • Fish & Game
  • Transportation
  • Chair, Administration
  • Chair, Fish & Game

since 2004.[4] He served as Co-Chair of the Finance Committee and was a member of the Legislative Budget & Audit Committee. He also chaired the Governor and the Legislature Finance Subcommittees for the 27th Legislature.[5]

2012 election loss[edit]

Due to an Alaskan Supreme Court order, the redistricting board has redrawn the district lines for the 2012 election based on state constitutional requirements. Major changes have been proposed to the Southeast region, including Thomas's district.[6][7] The proposed plan combines the 5th District with Juneau, the state capital directly to the south. Constituents from Haines Borough have objected to the new map, town mayor Stephanie Scott stated "we do not believe that we are socio-economically integrated with the Mendenhall Valley, we don’t have the same concerns, the same needs."[8] Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka was the Democratic challenger to Thomas.

Kreiss-Tomkins subsequently defeated Thomas by 32 votes, following a recount. As ballot-counting continued beyond election day, the lead went back and forth, even tying at one point.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Bill Thomas and his wife, Joyce Marie, have five children: Rhett, Danny, Gabriel, Cole and Rhiannon.


  1. ^ Following redistricting, the existing 5th District was abolished. Kreiss-Tomkins succeeds Thomas as representative of the 34th District by virtue of that district containing 11 of the 17 precincts of the former 5th District, as well as Thomas running for reelection in the 34th District during the 2012 election.
  2. ^ "The Alaska State Legislature". June 1, 1947. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Rep. Thomas's Biography – 27th AK Legislature House Majority". Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bill Thomas". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Rep. Bill Thomas – 27th AK Legislature House Majority". Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ BECKY BOHRER (May 14, 2012). "Redistricting board redraws southeast Alaska". Retrieved 20 May 2012. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ BECKY BOHRER (May 15, 2012). "Redistricting board unveils boundary changes for Southeast". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on May 18, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Pat Forgey (May 20, 2012). "Haines objects to capital city link: Juneau's northern neighbor fears being 'swallowed up' in new legislative district". Juneau Empire. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Miller, Mark. "Kreiss-Tomkins wins seat by 32 votes". Juneau Empire. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 

External links[edit]