In late 2007, Anna Thomas (then Brower) joined the ACLU of Utah as our first full time Development Director. She was returning to Utah from Colorado where she had earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Denver, worked as an aide to U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, and as a community organizer for a small environmental non-profit organization.
In her decade long tenure with the ACLU of Utah she has made a powerful impact not only on our organization, which she helped grow from 5 to 10 staff, but in the political and social justice arena in Utah as well. While she started out as Development Director, she moved into other positions over the years, first as Public Policy Advocate and then Strategic Communications Manager.
When asked how the ACLU has changed since she has been involved Anna said, “It’s bigger, it’s busier and it’s increasingly impactful.” She went on to explain, “We have more partners in more cities and communities, and we have more relationships with policymakers and elected officials.”
After being hired she remembered, “I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to land at the ACLU of Utah. I had some attorney friends in Denver, where I was living before moving back to Salt Lake, who were super impressed that I would be working at the ACLU. That was my first inkling that I had stumbled into something very special.”
After moving from the Development position to Public Policy Advocate, Anna helped push the organization to develop a more explicit commitment to racial justice and inclusivity. She states, “Our community partners and our colleagues around the country have really pushed us to take a hard look at how we do things, and to learn how we can hear and lift diverse voices through our work, all to further good policy and law.
Certainly Anna has helped change the ACLU of Utah, but she reports that she has changed and grown as well. “I feel like I’ve earned a community Ph.D. in civics! I know so much more about how our government works, how it interacts with the communities it represents, and how it can be used both in very good AND very bad ways. I have also been able to meet and get to know hundreds of incredible people, from donors to activists to legislators to prisoners, all Utahns with unique perspectives and contributions to offer.”
“It’s exciting to meet the people who are going to change our communities for the better and play a tiny role in their realization of their potential,” Anna said reflecting on her work “Getting to know families and activists who have been personally impacted by mass incarceration and police violence was something that will always stay with me; the emotional toll is well worth the insight and rewarding relationships.”
From the ACLU Anna joins Voices for Utah Children, another excellent local non-profit, as Senior Policy Analyst. She said, “I am excited to learn about new issue areas, while also continuing to address juvenile justice issues. I am intrigued by the thought of working in the public sector one day - to be on the other side of the arguments I’ve participated in as part of the ACLU team! I also can definitely see myself returning to the ACLU one day. One thing I have definitely learned - the faces of civil liberties issues change, but the issues themselves never go away.”
While we will miss Anna’s energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, compassion, resourcefulness and courage, we look forward to continuing to work with her on pressing criminal justice issues in her new position.
We are grateful for her service and wish her all the best!
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2017 Fall Newsletter >>