Ashley-Dior Thomas has a five-year plan.
During the last two years, Thomas has worked her way from interning in Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s office to a full-time position in the office of Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay to her current post as office manager and special projects coordinator for Hansen Clarke from Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
“I was recommended to Clarke, who was elected last November, as someone who could help organize his new office,” she says. Her short-term goal is to become a chief of staff, because she enjoys the give and take of politics on Capitol Hill. “I love it here,” she says, adding that her preference is working behind the scenes to make things happen.
Thomas is considering graduate schools at George Washington University and the University of Maryland. Eventually, she hopes to specialize in environmental health science and public policy.
For now, however, she’s organizing a community garden in her neighborhood, which is by the water. “I also enjoy mentoring young people to get them interested and involved in government service,” she says.
The 24-year-old concedes that moving to the nation’s capital in summer 2009 after graduation from Sacramento State was a gamble, particularly since she was only assured of a short-term position in the D.C. Department of Environment. But she wanted to sample the political culture there after her interest was piqued by working as a field canvasser in Kevin Johnson’s campaign for Sacramento mayor.
After attending a September conference hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, Thomas was hooked. She learned of an opening in Jackson’s office and began to acquire the skills of a congressional staffer.
Thomas misses the family she left behind in California, especially a younger sister who graduated from Sac State last spring. She fondly recalls her preparation at Sac State as “my Harvard.” That five-year campus experience has enabled her to relate to people from across the country.
“I began as a math major, but switched to sociology to merge my loves for statistics and social justice,” she says.