The NAACP of Columbus will hold an election today, resulting in the second female president in the organization's 74-year history.
Tonza Sheree Thomas, a Columbus native, will be elected to office after running unopposed for the top local position. She is currently state secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Georgia State Conference.
The election will be held from 10 am. to 2 p.m. at the South Columbus Library, drawing NAACP members from throughout the community.
"This is an exciting day for Columbus and the state of Georgia," Ed DuBose, a national NAACP board member and former local president, said in a news release. "The NAACP Columbus, Ga, Branch will be in a greater position with Ms. Thomas as the president. She grew up in this community and knows what it means to struggle and to lead this organization."
Thomas will replace Nate Sanderson, who has led the organization the past few years. Sanderson stepped down from the position earlier this year to run against for the at-large seat on the Muscogee County School Board. After losing the election, he resumed the presidency, but didn't seek re-election. He couldn't be reached Friday afternoon for comment.
"Nate did a good job," DuBose said. "Nate was successful in confronting the criminal justice system. When you look at the organization now, he was able to recruit younger leadership. Nate was a Republican, and most people said, 'Well, what is a Republican doing leading the NAACP?' Nate was able to demonstrate, it's not about party affiliation, but rather about social justice and social conscience."
DuBose said the first woman to serve as president of the local NAACP was Barbara Pierce, who later became a school board member. He said Thomas has been "a dedicated servant leader in the fight for civil rights of all people," and has the full support of regional, state and national leaders.
"It shows that the organization is moving in the direction that the country should be heading in, embracing the leadership and vision of women without discriminating," he said of her election. "Beyond being a female, she has to prove her leadership, and I think she will."
As leader of the organization, Thomas said she will focus on a "Ban the Box" initiative to prevent former offenders from having to indicate their criminal history on employment applications, according to the news release. She will aim to end the "School to Prison Pipeline," engage in the work of the NAACP and strengthen the organization's Youth Council.
Other goals include increasing membership, promoting women to leadership and deploying the NAACP 5 Game Changers -- Education, Economic Sustainability, Health, Public Safety/Criminal Justice and Voter Rights/Political Representation.
"My strategy is to engage those that believe that their one vote does not count," she said. "Our democracy has a way of showing us that our lack of voting counts every time in courtroom justice."