Speaking up: Sally Thomas knows her stuff

Sally Thomas' life has a storybook quality to it. She met her husband, George, at Harvard. She lives in Ivy, in a quintessential white Virginia farmhouse that most transplants here only dream of finding, where her cats greet visitors at the door.

And she was the Cinderella write-in candidate in the 1993 Board of Supervisors race. "I didn't think I would win," she says. "Conventional wisdom is that write-ins don't."

And yet, she did win and is widely considered a leader in the fight to control rampant growth. Now as board chairman, she's become the voice of the supes. In fact, that's the part of the job that she's discovered she likes best.

"I'm a shy public speaker, and it was a surprise I like writing and giving the speeches the chairman gives," she admits.

What will come as no surprise to those who've followed Thomas' career as a lobbyist for UVA and as a supervisor is that beneath her soft-spoken, well-mannered approach, she's a policy wonk. Over the summer, the governor appointed her to the none-too-sexy sounding Virginia Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

"I enjoy government," says Thomas. "I majored in government. I enjoy participating in government."

Age: 61

What brought you here? My husband joined the UVA faculty in 1963.

What's worst about living here? The humidity. I grew up in the dry part of Oregon.

Favorite hangout? Right here on my screened-in porch.

What's overrated? Deregulation

What would people be surprised to know about you? I was born in Texas, and I used to drive a bright yellow Corvette.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My initials SHT.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? My marriage and my children. A happy family is an accomplishment.

What do people find most annoying about you? I can't resist playing devil's advocate to whatever ideas my friends bring up. [Pause] My husband suggested that.

Whom do you admire? Burn unit nurses. People who do difficult jobs are the ones I most admire, and that's one of the hardest.

Favorite book? Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief

What subject causes you to rant? Adult-proof packaging

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Email

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Email

What do you drive? '91 Honda

What's in your car tape player right now? A book on tape, An American Homeplace by Donald McCaig

What's your next journey? To San Francisco to meet the aforementioned happy family. My two daughters live there.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Giving birth at home unplanned.

What do you regret? All the things I haven't done, whether it's peace in the universe or that thank-you letter I didn't get written.

Favorite comfort food? Saga blue cheese

What's always in your refrigerator? Milk, eggs, fruit, wine

Must-see TV? ER

 Favorite cartoon? "Zits" in the Washington Post

 Describe a perfect day. I'd have a horseback ride, solve some constituent's problem, have an exquisite dinner, and have a productive meeting. Then at the end of the day, a phone call from a daughter.

Walter Mitty fantasy? I'm standing in front of the Virginia Senate Local Government Committee, and they're actually agreeing with me.

Who'd play you in the movie? Road Runner

Most embarrassing moment? Singing "Rock Around the Clock" at a high school assembly.

Best advice you ever got? Grab the opportunities that may only come around once.

Favorite bumper sticker? I drive 25 in Batesville.


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