A true community servant with a heart for helping others, David Thomas is the owner and professional counselor at Insight Associates LLC. David served for over 20 years at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and his combined experiences in public safety and counseling make him a true champion for others, particularly serving oppressed communities and those with trauma.
As a 2019 graduate of Leadership Kalamazoo, David uses his own leadership to empower others. David moved to Kalamazoo in the fourth grade from Benton Harbor and throughout the course of his life—whether local or not—has always had a special place in his heart for the community. The career switch from working in public safety to following his passion for mental health work has allowed him to help others in new and unique ways.
A Public Servant
David joined the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) in 2001 as a patrol officer, and just a few years later became a community police officer assigned to Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood. “That was an amazing ride,” he said. Through his many promotions at KDPS, David sought to become a better leader and serve others. “I was looking for something that I could be really good at, where people could say, ‘Hey, we need Dave for this.’”
Throughout the years with KDPS, David was eventually promoted to the Executive Lieutenant position where he worked in the patrol division and then the service division. “Working for public safety was really good for me. I’ve always made it a priority that when I see something that I want to do, I find out who’s doing it, and then I ask them, ‘How did you get to do it?’ This has worked for me for years—and I’ve found that most people truly do want to help you.”
Motivating his hard work to move up in rank was David’s desire to have more of an impact on the department and the community. Throughout his over 20 years of service, he was able to experience a wide variety of responsibilities. This included the position of Service Division Sergeant where he handled everything from oil, water, and toilet paper to taking care of and monitoring the radio towers. This position also included supervising an integrated dispatch center comprised of as many as 20 dispatchers.
A Career in Counseling and Community Service
During his time at KDPS, David went back to school and received his master’s degree in clinical mental health in 2017 and then began professional counseling. It was only until March 2021 that he retired from his career at KDPS and started his full-time counseling practice, Insight Associates LLC. “While I was at KDPS, I had an interest and passion for mental health work, so I began to transition before I left,” said David. “My heart was truly being pulled to mental health work.”
“Insight Associates exists to help people,” David stated. He co-owns the organization with his wife, who works primarily on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Using a trauma resiliency approach to therapy, David specializes in working with oppressed communities, trauma, traumatic stress, anxiety, and stressor-related disorders.
Insight Associates LLC is more than just a counseling practice—the organization provides training, facilitation, consultation, curriculum development, policy and procedure recommendations to organizations who are interested in engaging in DEIRJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice) through an intersectional lens. In addition to DEIRJ, Insight Associates LLC supports organizations with training on trauma, organizational management, and other topics necessary in promoting and maintaining a diverse workforce.
“I typically seek out African American men specifically because that’s how I identify. I have a particular and unique understanding of marginalized communities, so that’s kind of my thing, if you will.” In his counseling career, David has also worked with at-risk youth and in adult mental health and recovery courts where he was able to use his law enforcement background to bring a new perspective as it pertains to mental health and address issues from a person-centered standpoint.
In addition to his work with Insight Associates LLC, David is actively involved with the Kalamazoo County Suicide Prevention Action Network and the Community Healing Center. Volunteering his time for initiatives like these is important to David, “because of what I’ve seen out on the road and what I experienced in the community from a law enforcement side, as well as things that have happened specific to mental health in my own family.”
A Community of Support
When David began the Leadership Kalamazoo program in 2019, he was going through a difficult time in his life as his dad was very ill with Alzheimer’s. “Going through the program was a great experience for me, particularly at that time in my life. I was able to really talk through the difficulty I was having with life in general, which was amazing for me.”
David praised the program lead and the cohort for their support during the time, saying, “They saw me, and they met me where I was at and allowed me some time to breathe which helped me to be even more involved mentally with what was going on.”
The Leadership Kalamazoo program offered a variety of new experiences, which David enjoyed as a way to help him get out of his comfort zone. He is also particularly fond of the network that he created from participating in the program. “It was great to see all the people in Kalamazoo and actually hear from them and really know that there are so many good people in Kalamazoo that you wouldn’t otherwise talk to.”
Leadership Kalamazoo, powered by Southwest Michigan First, is Southwest Michigan’s premier civic leadership development program that helps professionals build strengths, talents, knowledge, and relationships to succeed in ever-changing environments. This feature is part of FIRST & 42’s Leadership Kalamazoo Alumni in Action series brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.