William Thomas

Investing in community.
November 10, 2006 7:04 AM

William S. Thomas Jr., better known as Tom Thomas, has been attending the News-Press Lifetime Achievement Awards dinner since he moved to town 12 years ago.

So it came as a delightful surprise when he heard that he would be one of three recipients this year.

The awards will be handed out Saturday at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort. The other recipients are Sara Miller McCune and Morris "Morrie" Jurkowitz.

"I've always thought it was one of the great events in town. . .I'm terribly honored to be part of it, and humbled."

Mr. Thomas, president and chief operating officer of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and its holding company, said long before moving here he imagined living in Santa Barbara. Now he is not only a local, but an integral part of the community because of his involvement in the town.

"When you're with the bank which has such a high profile in the community, organizations are always looking for representation from us, and that's provided me the opportunity to do this," he explained.

Mr. Thomas considers Pasadena to be his hometown, although he has moved 20 times in his life. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, then served two years in the Army. When he returned, he earned a master's degree in business administration from USC.

His career in banking took him to New York City for several years, where he met and married his wife, Mary, before returning to Pasadena.

Mr. Thomas added that he has no plans to move from Santa Barbara, the town he left Pasadena for 12 years ago when he joined Santa Barbara Bank & Trust as manager of the trust and investment services division. Two years later, he was named president and CEO of the bank, and four years after that he became president and CEO of the holding company, Pacific Capital Bancorp, which operates 47 branches on the Central Coast.

Mr. Thomas' service in the community includes being a trustee of the UCSB Foundation, as well as serving on the board of advisers at Westmont College. He also serves on the board of United Way of Santa Barbara County, Partners in Education and is chair of the Fighting Back Community Leaders Advisory Board of the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Mr. Thomas has also served on the boards for the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

"I love the arts here, and I think that what makes us such a great community is having culture. When you think of a community our size . . . the cultural activities and venues that we have here, it's phenomenal."

For Mr. Thomas, what makes Santa Barbara special is not only what it has to offer, but how the city inspires its residents. "What I value is how much the people here care for their community, their setting, their environment.

"I feel blessed to live here."

E-mail: bhopkins@newspress.com