In July 2015, Jefferson Thomas, five years out of Helias High School, was a newly minted graduate of the University of Missouri, proud holder of a bachelor's degree in hospitality management and five years into a job as graduate assistant for Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel.
The scion of a family of Jefferson City Republican leaders and political activists, Thomas was focused on the approaching fall practice for the Tigers in what would prove to be Pinkel's last season.
He'd also been a political gopher for a decade, lived in eight states and toiled for numerous campaigns and candidates, accomplished at the unglamorous work of yard signs, phone banking, door knocking and parade marching.
Today, this former Tiger fixture — once tutor to tailbacks, bearer of ball bags and the coach's chauffeur — is the political director of the Trump-Pence presidential campaign in Colorado. In the past 100 days, he's logged lots of face time with billionaire industrialist Donald Trump and the Trump children and is a pivotal player in the milieu of national politics. Colorado is a battleground state, and Thomas is in the thick of the battle for the state's electoral college votes.
Not bad for a 25-year-old Jefferson Citian who still calls home the rancher on Hobbs Road owned by his mom, Pat — the chief of staff to state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, and secretary of the Missouri Republican Party — and dad, Doug — a regional sales manager for Luitpold Pharmaceuticals.
Thomas was recruited by the Colorado Republican Party last summer to move to the Rockies as its political director, the No. 2 official in state party organizations. After Trump won the GOP's nomination for president, Thomas was offered the chance to enlist with the Trump army.
He gives great credit for the opportunity to join the Trump campaign to his long-time mentor, Randy Kammerdiener, a former two-term city councilman in Jefferson City and now a principal in the Ponte Verda, Florida, political consulting firm Majority Strategies. Kammerdiener holds journalism and public affairs degrees from the University of Missouri and has been involved in national Republican campaign management since 2004. Kammerdiener and Tony Feather, another Jefferson Citian with a national GOP following, have been opening doors for Thomas for more than 10 years, Thomas said.
He also credits Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and the teachers and administrators at Helias with helping him advance his career in politics.
It was Kinder who made the then 16-year-old Thomas a key player in the Tour of Missouri bicycle rally Kinder sponsored. That whirlwind race required Thomas to be on the road non-stop for almost a week. He praises Kinder and staffers Laurie Dawson, Rich Aubuchon and Jerry Dowell, among others, with making him an integral part of the Tour of Missouri team.
And where, Thomas muses, would he be if the leaders at Helias had not had faith in him a decade ago?
Whether it's the Mizzou Tigers or big-time politics, Thomas said, it's all about the teamwork. Trump is all about his team, he added.
When Trump's campaign concludes, whether in the winner's circle or the loser's outhouse, Thomas will be headed for a position as a regional sales manager for Kammerdiener and Majority Strategies, covering Missouri, Kansas and Colorado from an office in Kansas City.
Now engaged to marry political operative Paige Trotter, Thomas said he will continue calling the Thomas house on Hobbs Lane home until he makes the move to Kansas City after the election. Pat Thomas said the family hasn't emptied his bedroom just yet. After all, campaigning runs in the Thomas blood. Their younger son, Hunter, is keen to follow in his big brother's footsteps. Hunter is a full-time staffer in state Sen. Eric Schmitt's campaign for Missouri treasurer this year.