St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has selected Jack L. Thomas, Jr. as the first ever Chief Diversity Officer for County government. Thomas has more than 30 years of experience strengthening inclusion of minority- and woman-owned business enterprises (MWBE) in public contracting. Most of his career has been spent in the St. Louis area.
“Having a full-time Chief Diversity Officer is a key recommendation of our recently completed disparity study,” County Executive Stenger said. “Recognizing the importance of this role, we conducted a national search for candidates. We are extremely fortunate to have Jack leading the implementation of the disparity study recommendations while enforcing compliance. He has a wealth of experience and strong ties to our area.”
County Executive Stenger ordered the first-ever St. Louis County disparity study immediately after taking office in 2015. The study analyzed County contracting data covering 2012-2015 to help establish a baseline from which to build a fair and equitable participation program for minority-, women- and veteran-owned business enterprises. The study identifies past participation by such firms in County contracts, examines the reasons for the level of participation and recommends ways to increase a diverse supplier base.
“The findings clearly show a need to improve minority participation in County contracts and my administration is committed to doing that,” County Executive Stenger said. “We are already implementing some of the recommendations in the report as we continue building an equitable procurement system that is open to everyone and ensures that St. Louis County uses a diverse group of contractors.”
Thomas said he is enthusiastic about returning to the St. Louis area to lead that effort.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to the process of developing a culture of inclusiveness within St. Louis County government, with the goal of growing sustainable minority- and woman-owned business enterprises,” Thomas said. “We will be taking a systematic approach to ensure we put something in place that makes a fundamental and long-term difference for the community.
For the past 10 years, Thomas has served as Director of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) and Community Development for the Jackson (Miss.) Municipal Airport Authority. Prior to that he worked from 1999-2008 as City of St. Louis-Lambert St. Louis International Airport Assistant Airport Director for Community Programs and DBE Program Manager. In those roles he oversaw the airport’s workforce diversity and business inclusion programs, including minority business certification, a process he shortened from one year to 60-90 days.
During his tenure at Lambert, he expanded the pool of qualified bidders for airport contracts by 25 percent through an aggressive outreach and educational effort.
Before his work at the airport, Thomas held a number of positions of increasing authority with the City of St. Louis Community Development Agency /St. Louis Development Corporation. He started his career as a Community Development Specialist in St. Louis County government.
As Chief Diversity Officer, Thomas will report to the County Executive. He officially starts his new role on July 16. Among his first tasks is hiring a staff.
“A true commitment to diversity requires adequate resources be dedicated to this effort,” County Executive Stenger said. “We are making sure that happens because providing more opportunities for minority, women and veteran-owned contractors will increase competition, benefit County taxpayers and improve our economy.”