WILLIAMSTOWN — Jeffrey Thomas and his team at Lever have helped launch 46 new companies, supported more than 100 entrepreneurs, and placed dozens of students in jobs and paid internships.
Lever, the small-business accelerator and economic development firm Thomas founded, also has raised more than $10 million in equity investment, generated more than $20 million in aggregated revenue and created more than 200 jobs.
That doesn’t leave much time for his other job — serving as a member of the Williamstown Select Board, where his work is more focused on community needs, including efforts to update the town’s master plan, increase housing for working-class families and diversify the town’s economy.
“I realized I’ve got two very important responsibilities in my leadership role at Lever — job creation and developing the economy — as well as my job on the Select Board,” Thomas told The Eagle. “Both are more demanding of late.”
He recently decided that the best way forward is to “step aside from one of them.”
Thomas, 58, will resign his post on the Select Board effective one day before the municipal election in May. His term was set to expire in May 2022.
“I’ve been struggling with the time commitment for some time, starting when I served as chairman of the Select Board in 2019 and 2020,” he said. “You’re representing the community, and it’s a very big responsibility.”
He noted that most folks don’t see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into serving on the Select Board. Besides the meetings, they have to review meeting packets, meet with staff, meet with community members and research matters of community concern, among other duties.
“After thinking about it, I realized that there are other people who can come on the board and do a great job, whereas my other work is a bit more specialized,” Thomas said. “So, I wondered where is my personal impact going to be the greatest? Plus, my work at Lever is a blast, so, I guess I’m being a little bit selfish.”
But, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have regrets about stepping down.
“It’s been an honor to serve the community, to be entrusted with that responsibility,” Thomas said.
“Jeffrey had a significant impact on the [Select Board] even before his election,” said Jane Patton, chairperson of the board. “He was the co-chair of the Economic Development Committee. The result of their efforts provided a number of suggestions of ways the town could promote and support economic development, many of which were eventually enacted. In addition, Jeffrey did a great job keeping us focused on process, which can sometimes get lost, especially when we’re dealing with a more complex issue.”
After moving to Williamstown in 2005, Thomas got started with community service when he served on the Community Preservation Committee in 2012, and then in 2015 on the Economic Development Committee, whose report still is used as a guidepost for the community.
He was elected to the Select Board in 2016.
During that time, he noted, “My listening skills have improved — I’ve learned a lot by being more open to different perspectives. You can disagree with one another without disapproval.”
And while he is leaving the board, he is not leaving the community and intends to stay involved.
“My hopes are that, soon, things will start to get back to something that feels like normal and that, as a community, we can step back, take a breath and be better able to take on our challenges with a more holistic perspective,” he said.