A Galveston native, Thomas was elected to the District 4 seat on the City Council in 1998 and held office for three consecutive two-year terms, the most allowed under the city's term limits. She was elected mayor in 2004 and remained in office for the three consecutive two-year terms allowed by law, stepping down in 2010.

Her long list of honors included the Spirit of Elissa Award from the Galveston Historical Foundation; the Community Enrichment Award from the Grand 1894 Opera House; the Pacesetter and Quality of Life Awards from Clean Galveston; the People of Vision Award (with her family) from Prevent Blindness; and the Brotherhood Award from Reedy Chapel AME Church.

"Most people remember her as Mayor but she had a lifetime of tireless efforts behind the scenes," Mayor James D. Yarbrough said in a written statement. "She truly was one of our heroes."

She is survived by a sister, Penny Guttersen of Greeley, Colo; two sons, Taylor Thomas of Galveston and Ian Thomas of San Francisco; a daughter, Eliza Thomas Quigley of Galveston; and two grandchildren. Information on services was not immediately available.