NCLM Southern City, Volume 72, Issue 3, 2022

NCLM.ORG 23 Council Member Owen Thomas Gets Involved “They continue to overcome, continue to be resilient, and continue to be motivated in a better tomorrow. That is something that has resonated in me so much. People could have given up.” Resilience and water infrastructure remain at the top of Thomas’ list of priorities, as do a handful of other challenges, among them affordable housing and the ongoing opioid epidemic. Weaved through those trials, however, are a series of burgeoning successes in Lumberton. Towards storm recovery, Thomas reports that the town has neared $100 million in available funds to rebuild. “We’re going to bring Lumberton back,” Thomas said. On the economic development front, Lumberton has made significant strides as well. They’re in the process of building a multi-million-dollar convention center as part of a downtown revitalization effort that also includes a new park and the relocation of businesses to the city center. “People are excited about downtown,” Thomas said. “That idea is getting stronger and stronger in the past four or five years. That’s a big priority for me, and I feel like I’ve had an impact.” It’s certainly within Thomas’ character to have become so involved in Lumberton’s path forward so quickly after moving there and to make a difference on the issues important to him. The local government experience, though, has evolved Thomas’ thinking on how that impact can be made. Where before he was quick to act, he now has a broadened perspective on involvement “I do more listening than doing,” said Thomas. “Yes, I’m a doer, and I do a lot. But by listening—to the staff, to the community, to the people that know what their needs are—I can be an advocate and a voice, and I can help meet those needs. That’s been the biggest lesson of local government. “By listening, I can do more. And I have.”