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VOL. 125 | NO. 205 | Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thomas Uses Probate Clerk Background to Form New Company

By Bill Dries

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Chris Thomas knew leaving the Probate Court Clerk’s office would involve some risk and change.

Thomas was elected to the commission in August, following a 16-year stint as clerk.

The new position, which he took office of on Sept. 1, also meant a major change in pay from the full-time gig as Probate Court clerk to the part-time commissioner’s seat.

So this week Thomas rolled out Chris Thomas Consulting, a company that offers probate consulting services at a rate of $40 an hour to those who are either handling the legal affairs of a loved one who has died recently or who are making such arrangements ahead of time.

“A lot of people don’t know what to do,” Thomas said.

“They can go straight to an attorney and pay $200 an hour and then find out they didn’t need an attorney or just really get stressed out over it.”

Thomas talked the foray over with the Probate Court judges before forming the company and got their enthusiastic backing.

“If I find out that they need an attorney, I’ll tell them. But a lot of people won’t need an attorney. … I’m also going to do seminars for churches or community groups,” Thomas said.

“It allows me to be flexible for the County Commission. It also allows me to continue to use my expertise that I’ve had for years.”

Although the commission pay is part-time at less than $30,000 a year, the duties can be a full-time job.

Working full-time hours but only receiving part-time pay is a dilemma other current commissioners and past commissioners have grappled with.

Part-time elected officials are not immune to losing their full-time jobs outside the political realm.

Balancing the two worlds can be tricky even after taking the initial risk of running for office.

The tentative game plan for Thomas after making the run for the commission was to hire on with a firm as an expert on probate affairs or in sales and marketing. He applied for positions with hospitals, nonprofit organizations and other entities with no luck.

“It’s tough out there,” Thomas said of his efforts with companies that wanted to hire him but couldn’t because of the recession.

“Doors kept closing.”

He had six interviews with a financial institution over the last two months and had recommendations at several levels of the process. But the company ultimately decided it would not approve any new positions.

That’s when the decision came to form his new company.

Thomas has stayed busy with several other pursuits. He is an actor with a part in a made-in-Memphis movie, “The Grace Card,” that goes into national release in February.

It will show Thursday at Playhouse on the Square at 6:30 p.m. as part of Indie Memphis Film Festival (see related story on Page 1).

And he is chairing an ad hoc committee examining incentives to get more movie and television production into Memphis.

Thomas is also taking on sales and distribution for “Delivered,” a monthly magazine on faith and family issues founded and published by his son, Zach Thomas.

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