Our region’s future is bright thanks to the strong leaders who are navigating change and cultivating successful teams today. These leaders are not only a catalyst for the change that is happening right now, but they are molding and shaping the leaders of future generations. FIRST & 42 is shining the spotlight on the region’s stars from the 2020 class of Leadership Kalamazoo. All eyes will be on the spotlight to learn about these leaders’ “firsts” in life as well as their answers to a few deeper questions about their leadership and vision for our community. Today we have the privilege of learning more about Tony Thomas, pastor and president of Christ Temple Church, Inc. in Kalamazoo.
Tony has been in religious ministry for over 30 years, and currently serves as a bi-vocational pastor, working a job outside of his congregational duties. Although Tony has been serving in ministry for over 30 years, the first job he remembers wanting as a child was to be a police officer. This wish came from inspiration from his grandfather, who was one of the first black reserve officers in the city of Beaumont, Texas. One of Tony’s proudest leadership moments was when he let one of the senior members of his congregation make the last payment on the church mortgage. “This was such a great moment for me because it allowed a senior member of the church to speak to the focus of what our hard work had accomplished. I believe that leadership will have very little success until those you lead become an echo to your voice,” said Tony. Tony’s vision for the future of our community is that it will become a hub of science and technology and that lending institutions will continue to help minority business owners grow and develop to ensure a strong level of diversity in the area. Continue on and read the full conversation with Tony Thomas.
First Things First
WHAT WAS THE FIRST JOB YOU REMEMBER WANTING AS A CHILD?
The job that I remember wanting as a child was a police officer. My grandfather was one of the first black reserve police officers in the city of Beaumont, Texas.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU FELT LIKE A LEADER?
The first time I felt like a leader was the day I was given the responsibility to lead a team of five staff members at the Beaumont Country Club. I was expected to serve a private party of twenty people. I met with my team and instructed them of what we were expected to do, and it went very well.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST CHOICE FOR EATING OUT LOCALLY?
Old Burdick’s or The Union. Both restaurants have some of the best food. Old Burdick’s has solid comfort food that tastes great. The Union reminds me of home—I grew up on Cajun food—it’s not grandma’s, but it’s great food!!
The Deep Dive
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN YOUR CURRENT POSITION? WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES?
I have been in religious ministry for over 30 years. During that time, I have served as a youth leader, men’s ministry leader, and community outreach leader. I have served as Senior Pastor for 20 years between two ministries in Cassopolis and now in Kalamazoo. The past ten years, I have managed the operations of Christ Temple Church, Inc. in Kalamazoo. I’ve had the joy of working with other churches throughout the State of Michigan. I am bi-vocational, so my days are full. On a given day, I am taking calls from pastors, communicating through text message, email, or phone call. The mornings begin with a 5:00 a.m. prayer call that I participate in. I am on the road by 6:30 a.m. headed to work in Jackson. I work in the compliance department ensuring the organization operates properly. This was a great position for me with the COVID-19 outbreak because it has afforded me a chance to return to an operational position with an organization. I also do Facebook live devotionals, study for weekly teaching, and Sunday Services. Last but not least, I spend time with my family.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST LEADERSHIP MOMENT?
My proudest leadership moment was when I let the Senior Mother of our church make the last payment on the mortgage. This was such a great moment for me because it allowed a senior member of the church to speak to the focus of what our hard work had accomplished. I believe that leadership will have very little success until those you lead become an echo to your voice.
WHO HAS SHAPED YOUR LEADERSHIP THE MOST?
I have several people because my life has been very complicated; so, coaches, pastors, parents, teachers, and friends would all be included. However, my Grandmother Delia Clouche was the one person that had the greatest influence on how I lead. She wasn’t the wealthiest, smartest, or most powerful, but she was the most honest, compassionate, determined, committed, and persevering. She believed in the fact that you never work for a promotion and that, when you consistently perform at a high level, God will open doors. I found it to be true that hard work pays off in the end because your wealth is found in the satisfaction of doing a good job. She also believed that everyone is valuable and deserves someone to be committed to help them. This one can create sleepless nights, paranoia, and stress. However, I am reminded that someone had to take a chance on me and that I’ve made it to this point in my life through someone’s sacrifice. She died at 95 years old, and before she moved out of her old neighborhood, the little kids knew her as the “Cool Cup Lady.” She also started an in-home business, and she is such a powerful lady.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ENSURE YOU CONTINUE TO GROW AND DEVELOP AS A LEADER?
To ensure continued growth, what I am doing is to not settle. When I was interviewing to be a part of Leadership Kalamazoo, I was excited because I was going to learn among the best minds in the area. I was right—these wonderfully brilliant people have challenged me to think beyond barriers we’re experiencing today. I am looking for opportunities that will challenge my skills, knowledge, and expertise. I plan to stay connected with members of the group and seek out opportunities to be involved in this great city.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR OUR COMMUNITY IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
The vision that I have for Kalamazoo is that it will become a hub of innovation in the area of science and technology. The companies in this area are leaders and pacesetters for the next generation with innovation in their industries. I want to see lending institutions help minority business owners grow and develop to ensure a strong level of diversity in the area. I own property and land, but it is difficult to get lenders to believe in your vision, even though it is written. In other words, many minority business owners are taking a risk to start and need help just like everyone else who has done the same thing.