Former Galveston “Hurricane Mayor” Lyda Ann Thomas dies at 80

Galveston, UNITED STATES: Galveston, Texas, Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas speaks 22 September, 2005, during a press conference on Hurricane Rita at city hall in Galveston. Thomas declared a state of emergency in the city on Sept. 20, saying it faced ``the imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, and loss of life and property from the approaching storm.'' She asked state and federal officials for 1,500 National Guard troops to help with the recovery after Rita passes. AFP PHOTO/James NIELSEN (Photo credit should read JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

GALVESTON — Lyda Ann Thomas, the former Galveston mayor who gained national recognition for her calm strength and demeanor during hurricanes Ike and Rita, has died. She was 80 years old.

According to Wikipedia, Thomas ran for District 4 for the Galveston City Council in 1998. She won both permitted elections after that until term-limited out. In 2004 she ran for, and was elected, Mayor of Galveston, becoming the third mayor of the city. Thomas proceeded to serve three terms as mayor, and stepped down in 2010 after reaching her a city-imposed term-limit.

Thomas was first elected in 2004 to succeed Roger “Bo” Quiroga.

On September 20, 2005 during Hurricane Rita, Thomas declared a state of emergency and ordered an evacuation for the following day. When added to the panicked flight from Houston, the evacuation exacerbated the congestion in the area. Thomas praised for her caution, receiving the 2007 National Blueprint Best Practices Award from the National Council on Readiness & Preparedness.

She also issued appropriate evacuation orders before Hurricane Ike slammed the island. She became known as a pillar of strength in her community, encouraging residents to return home and rebuild.

Officials with the City of Galveston issued the following statement: 

It is with great sadness that the City of Galveston learned this afternoon of the passing of Former Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas at her Galveston home.

“Lyda Ann stood tall for Galveston in our darkest hour,” said Mayor James D. Yarbrough. “Most people remember her as Mayor but she had a lifetime of tireless efforts behind the scenes. She truly was one of our heroes.”

Lyda Ann Thomas was first elected to City Council in 1998. In 2004 she was elected Mayor, a post which she held through both Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Her calm nature and strength captured the attention and respect of people around the nation. “When I think of Lyda Ann, I’m reminded of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. What would Galveston be if Lyda Ann hadn’t crossed our paths?” continued Mayor Yarbrough.

Her leadership and her unstinting work for the community did not go unnoticed. She received many honors, including The Spirit of Elissa Award from Galveston Historical Foundation; The Community Enrichment Award from the Grand 1894 Opera House; the Pacesetter and Quality of Life Awards from Clean Galveston; the People of Vision Award (with her family) from Prevent Blindness; the Brotherhood Award from Reedy Chapel AME Church; and the Helping Hands Award from Public,Incorporated.

She believed in the spirit of Galveston and her passion for making city government and city services accessible to all citizens was evident throughout her leadership roles on City Council. “Lyda Ann was an advocate for the underdog and always made sure they had a level playing field. She was truly a blessing to this City and she will be dearly missed by many,” concluded Mayor Yarbrough.