Ian and Ellen Thomas walking on the MKT trail

Brief Bio:


  • Born 1961 in London, England
  • Married to Ellen Hindman Thomas
  • Children, Emily and Jack


  • B.Sc. Physics, University of London (1985)
  • M.Sc. Biomedical Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Scotland (1986)
  • Ph.D. Low-Temperature Physics, Open University, England (1990)
  • M.Ed. Educational Technology, University of Missouri (2002)


  • Research Assistant, Open University (1986-1990)
  • Research Associate, Vanderbilt University (1990-1994)
  • Producer/Director, British Broadcasting Corporation (1994-1997)
  • Multimedia Producer, Graphic Education Corporation (1997-2002)
  • Science Teacher, Columbia Independent School (1998-2002)
  • Executive Director, PedNet Coalition (2000-2013)
  • Transportation Consultant (2007-present)
  • Program Director, America Walks (2014-present)

Board Service

  • PedNet Coalition Board of Directors (2000-2004)
  • America Walks Board of Directors (2007-2014)
  • Safe Routes to School National Partnership Steering Committee (2009-2013)
  • National League of Cities, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (2013-present)
  • Smart Growth America, Local Leaders Council (2013-2019)

Elected Office

  • Columbia City Council (2013-2016, 2016-2019, and 2019-2022)

As your representative, I want to get to know as many Fourth Ward residents as possible. I'll start by telling you a little about myself and encouraging you to get in touch with me.

My wife Ellen and I live in the southern part of the ward, close to the MKT Trail. Ellen is a pediatrician who grew up in Columbia and graduated from Rock Bridge High School and the University of Missouri. We met and married in the early nineties and our two children, Emily and Jack, are now living in Minnesota and Colorado. Ellen and I enjoy all of Columbia's cultural and recreational amenities - especially the trail, which we use daily.

I was born a long way away and a long time ago - in London in 1961. My earliest memory (at the age of four) is of the excitement surrounding England beating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. Sadly, the ambition I developed that year to become an international soccer player after high school never materialized. Instead, I studied and conducted research in physics, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1990 and accepting a research associateship "across the pond" at Vanderbilt University.

My move to Nashville led to many new experiences and opportunities — college sports (USA style), country music in the Music City, and meeting Ellen who was completing her pediatric residency at Vandy. After getting married, we spent a few years in England where Emily and Jack were born, and returned to the United States in 1998 — settling here in Columbia. With the opportunity again to be part of a great learning environment at the University of Missouri, I turned my new interest in educational technology and media into a Masters Degree, while working for a local multimedia company and teaching.

The Thomas family

In 2000, I helped found the PedNet Coalition — a community group dedicated to promoting healthy, sustainable modes of transportation. Although this was initially a spare-time, volunteer activity, we received enthusiastic support from Columbia residents and, when health foundations announced grant opportunities that fit our vision and mission, we quickly became a funded and staffed organization. After 13 years of public policy work with PedNet, I transitioned into a national role in the transportation reform movement as a Program Director with America Walks.

Over the years, my interest in community building has expanded from health and transportation to include all aspects of civic life. That is why I ran for City Council in 2013 and again in 2016. I believe my values reflect those of the Fourth Ward, and I believe I have the creative ideas and public policy experience to help Columbia grow into a great city. I feel strongly that civic involvement is important for everyone and that we all have a duty to participate in various ways - as voters, engaged citizens, and policy-makers.

Community engagement is critical to the success of government and so I hope you will email or call me with your questions and concerns, or just to introduce yourself. I also invite you to attend my "Constituent Conversations" at Dunn Brothers Coffee on Sunday afternoons, 2-4pm — check out my upcoming dates .