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Consortium chief honored for 30 years of leadership

September 11, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

Memories of 1974, a bicycle bell and an old phone were among the humorous gifts presented Friday to Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium, at a surprise gathering organized by staff members celebrating Thomas' 30 years of service with the consortium.

"In 1974, we were watching such shows as 'Happy Days,' 'Chico and the Man' and 'MASH' ... the Vietnam War was still tops on the news list along with Watergate," said Wilma Moore, as she read a long list of memories from 1974, the year the consortium was formed and Thomas began working there.

Moore, a management information systems supervisor with the consortium, has worked with Thomas for nearly 28 years.

"We're lucky to have this opportunity to serve the people we serve," said Thomas as he thanked his staff for the gag gifts and testimonials praising his leadership.

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A cyclist, Thomas said he might use the bell on his bicycle on rides along the C&O Canal, and the old model phone is a reminder of his staff's appreciation for a new phone system.

Thomas' record is nothing to joke about, according to staff members who praised his leadership and diplomacy and thanked him for being an ideal manager.

"He's not only a fair boss, he's also a friend, and he knows when to be the boss and when to be a friend," Moore said.

"His strongest attribute is his positive attitude," said Jonathan Wynn, a supervisor at the consortium's office in Garrett County, Md. "He's a great communicator and he's quite a diplomat who's very well respected and he's able to get things done because of that."

Funded by the Department of Labor, the consortium is based in Hagerstown and has offices in Garrett and Allegany counties. During Thomas' tenure, the office has provided job training for about 10,000 Western Maryland residents who lost their jobs because of layoffs and downsizing.

In his 30 years, Thomas said he's watched funding cuts reduce his staff from 120 to 33 spread among the three counties. In 1980, Thomas said he had to lay off 45 staff members following deep federal budget cuts and the money spent to train a displaced worker has decreased from $5,000 to $3,000, he said.

Despite the cuts, Moore said Thomas always has remained calm and focused.

"He says, 'Don't worry. We'll get through it,'" Moore said. "We haven't had a layoff in years. He's a great leader."

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