ATLANTA. Ga. (WRBL) — After volunteering for over 15 years, Columbus native Tonza Thomas now operates in a leadership position with the Georgia NAACP branch. Thomas was hired to serve as executive director of the branch and started her new role in August of this year.

Attorney Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia State Congress of the NAACP, said hiring Thomas for the executive director position “was an easy decision.” He praised Thomas’ dedication in any role with the NAACP she has held over the past 16 years and felt confident in her ability to move the organization’s agenda forward.

“I never even thought about being executive director and that’s the honest-to-God truth,” said Thomas on a Zoom call from her Atlanta office. She continued, “I just wanted to serve the organization.”

Over the years, Thomas has volunteered for the NAACP in a variety of positions. These include Columbus branch secretary, Columbus branch president, a member of the NAACP Disaster Relief Strike Team CPS and more. Most recently, Thomas served as state secretary for the Georgia State Conference NAACP, a position she began in April 2022.

“We are ecstatic to have Tonza Thomas as our executive director,” said Griggs. “It was a unanimous decision by the board … we look forward to her continued successful work in this association.”

As executive director, one of Thomas’ top priorities is voter registration. The job will take Thomas on visits to local prisons to help inmates get registered.  

“A lot of people don’t know if you go to jail that does not convict you,” said Thomas.

Georgians incarcerated with misdemeanor charges may vote, while convicted felons may not until completing their full sentence, including any parole or probation period, according to the U.S. Vote Foundation.

“This organization [the Georgia NAACP] does not promote any particular party or candidate, however we do believe in political representation,” said Thomas, clarifying her organization’s stance in light of her “background with a particular party.”

In April of this year, Thomas spoke with WRBL’s Hannah James as the Chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Committee about former President Donald Trump’s 34 felony counts at that time. She made her stance clear.

“My response to his arrest is that no matter who you are, no matter what party you represent, if you commit a crime, you have to pay for it,” said Thomas.

She referenced 2016 chants of “Lock her up,” in reference to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for public communications which were later determined to have contained classified information after an FBI investigation.

Thomas said, “Just go ahead and lock him up. up. We were hearing in all of 2016, ‘Lock her up. Lock her up.’ This is 2023, lock him up.”

On Aug. 24, Trump turned himself in at an Atlanta jail where he stayed briefly. He currently faces 13 felony counts in Georgia and has a trial date set for Oct. 23 of this year.  

According to Thomas, voter registration is followed by two other main objectives: increasing membership levels in the Georgia State Conference and addressing youth violence in Columbus.

Thomas’ goal is to bring membership levels up to 75,000 in the next 18 months with an aggressive membership campaign strategy. Current membership levels sit at 10,000, according to Thomas, however she wants to “bring the membership of the Georgia State Conference back to where it needs to be where we thrive.”

Griggs was optimistic about Thomas’ campaign. He said, “I think that we’re going to see the strongest Georgia State Conference we’ve had in over 50 years.”

On Sept. 9, the Georgia NAACP held a press conference addressing the Aug. 25 incident at the 61st Annual Heritage Bowl between GW Carver High School and Spencer High School in which three teenagers were arrested on gun charges.

“It’s going to take that same village to work towards solutions to stopping the crime perpetrated by the youth in the community,” said Columbus NAACP President Wane A. Hailes at the conference.

Thomas’ stance echoed Hailes’ statement.  

“The rise of violence is out of control in Columbus, Georgia,” said Thomas, a Carver alum herself. “And I don’t think that there’s one answer to what we can do, but it must be addressed and it’s gonna take everybody.”