Anna Thomas

Public Health Director Anna Thomas speaks at a press conference about the coronavirius at Manchester Central Fire Station on March 9, 2020. Behind her is former Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan.

Anna Thomas, public health director for Manchester, was named the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year on Wednesday.

Thomas will be honored Thursday, June 24, at 7 p.m. during the Citizen of the Year Celebration presented by Elliot Health System. It will be held virtually for at-home audiences and in-person at an outdoor networking reception at Delta Dental Stadium.

Thomas is a New Hampshire native, and has been employed by the city of Manchester since 1994. She was nominated by Mayor Joyce Craig in 2018 to serve as public health director. She is the first woman to hold the role.

As director, in addition to overseeing the health department of 65 full- and part-time staff and a budget of over $9 million, she has led the Queen City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are honored and thrilled to be recognizing Anna Thomas as our Citizen of the Year,” said Mike Skelton, President & CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber.

“Leadership and unselfish public service is at the core of what it means to be a Citizen of the Year. Anna has demonstrated a deep commitment to service in pursuit of helping others throughout her entire career and her steady, calm and tireless efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are representative of that.”

“In a year of unthinkable challenges, Anna Thomas has risen to the occasion without complaint in a role that is usually without recognition,” said Mayor Craig. “She is driven, focused and utterly selfless — a leader that we are lucky to have guiding the health of our community.”

“It was humbling and I think overwhelming for me,” said Thomas. “This has been such a difficult year for everyone that I could literally spit out 50-plus people who could be chosen. Everyone has been working so hard, and everyone has sacrificed. Knowing about this award and its history there are so many other people who are so deserving of this.”

Thomas said her team at the Manchester Health Department deserves to be honored for its work the past year. Members of that team are quick to sing her praises.

“Her leadership style is centered on a team approach with a strong focus on staff development and recognition. She is constantly seeking out ways to bring out the best in people and acknowledge and encourage exemplary customer service,” said Jaime Hoebeke, chief strategy officer at the Manchester health department.

“In early 2020, news of an emerging infectious disease that was novel to the population created much uncertainty and fear as to whether our community would be impacted. Without hesitation, Anna remained a calm presence during this time for our staff and local leaders,” said Philip Alexakos, chief operations officer at the health department.

Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester, said if she had to describe Thomas in one word, it would be “warrior.”

“Anna consistently displays characteristics of a warrior spirit — clarity, focus, determination, courage, and an unflappable zest for improving our community,” said Fitzpatrick. “Over the last six years, I have witnessed Anna’s ability to create coalitions to tackle many issues from the opioid epidemic, academic proficiency, adverse childhood experiences, and now guiding us through the pandemic.”

Thomas pursued her undergraduate work at the University of New Hampshire, completed her Master of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

She was selected as one of 20 national scholarship recipients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain her graduate certificate in public health.

Thomas served in the U.S. Army for 16 years as a medical service corps officer and achieved the rank of major.

She is also a nine-year breast cancer survivor.

Thomas will be recognized at the Greater Manchester Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Celebration on Thursday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Those who register to join the live-stream at www.manchester-chamber.org/coy2021 will be emailed a link to tune-in. An outdoor networking reception at Delta Dental Stadium will complement the virtual awards ceremony, with more details to be announced soon. For more information, contact Corinne Breton at CorinneB@manchester-chamber.org.

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