Boise City Council says goodbye to TJ Thomson, hello to Luci Willits

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Nothing says changing of the guard like an acoustic guitar performance. 

The latest resurgence of COVID-19 might have kept attendance numbers at Boise City Council chambers down, but the mood was still jubilant as Boise City Council said goodbye to three-term City Council Member TJ Thomson and hello to newly elected Council Member Luci Willits.  City council members also unanimously elected its newest slate of leaders from a set of familiar faces. 

The majority of the night was spent saying goodbye to Thomson and honoring his work at city hall over the twelve years he sat on the dais with gifts, speeches and praise. Council members thanked him for his effort to develop the city’s reformed animal code, his push for more playgrounds in West Boise and his work on new regulations for childcare providers. 

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and outgoing council member TJ Thomson. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Thomson, adorned in a dog print mask and lapel pin, shared traits he admired about each of his fellow council members and Mayor Lauren McLean, calling her “the strength of the city.” Prior to saying goodbye, he told the story of how he came to own one of his beloved dogs after rescuing her from an animal hoarding situation and how she inspired him to make changes for animals in city code. He then introduced local singer Ashley Rose to perform an original song about his pet for the small crowd. 

He opted to step down last year in the hopes of spending more time with his wife and daughter. It only took one pre-council goodbye for him to make up his mind. 

“My seven-year-old daughter said one word to me when I was heading off to a late-night at city hall knowing I would miss her bedtime: ‘Stay’,” he said. “That changed everything for me.”

A new face, and two familiar ones

Boise City Council Member Luci Willits takes the oath of office from Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

City Council Member Luci Willits took the dais after being sworn in by Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. She thanked her family, friends, and campaign staff for propelling her to victory and becoming the first new city council member elected with the city split into districts. 

With a nod to her political hero Ronald Reagan’s famous quote comparing America to a shining city on a hill, Willits said Boise is and should continue to strive to be, “a shining city among the hills.” 

“I love this community,” she said. “It’s why I ran. We have an amazing community full of heart, full of warmth, and full of challenges.”

City Council Member Lisa Sanchez took her oath for her second term standing before McLean. She told the crowd she was glad to have been given a second chance to represent the voters and hoped to continue learning from the lessons in her first four years in office. Sanchez specifically thanked her critics and others who pointed out places she may have fallen short, noting she wanted to learn from their feedback heading into another two years on the dais. 

Sanchez attracted a lot of criticism and a recall attempt in 2020 for a Facebook post about race in America following the death of George Floyd. She told the crowd Tuesday night she “never for one minute” took her opportunity to lead for granted and was glad to get a second chance. 

“There are times when I have become very outspoken in how I feel about the status quo and there are times when the focus has been on that outspokenness, rather than the issue. That is an area where I want to be better because I don’t want it to be about the messenger, I want it to be about the message.”

Last, City Council Member Holli Woodings took her oath in front of McLean for the second time. She thanked her campaign staff, friends and supporters for helping her win another term and said she was looking forward to more years serving the city. 

“I think this is the most accessible level of government there is,” she said. “I know everyone at this dais wants to hear from each and every one of you on how we can best make decisions and how we can serve this city.”

Leadership deja vu 

When it came time to elect two new council members to serve on the leadership committee, the decision was swift and unanimous. 

Sanchez, who served as President Pro Tem during 2021, moved to nominate City Council President Elaine Clegg for another turn at the helm of the council and Woodings as Pro Tem. This is a return to how leadership looked in 2020

Clegg, who has served on the council since 2004, said she was proud to continue serving in Boise and is glad her fellow council members put their trust in her to lead. 

“We stand ready to work with (McLean) and your team for the betterment of the city to find all of the ways we can work together and pull together so we do continue to see the progress we’ve seen over the last couple of decades toward a place that is more inclusive, a place that has better processes, a place where people know that their government is doing everything it can to be both efficient and effective and lead in climate change, lead in transportation and lead in housing…,” she said. “I have never been more proud to serve.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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