Citizen of the Year: ‘In a year of unthinkable challenges, Anna Thomas has risen to the occasion without complaint’

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Manchester Public Health Dirctor Anna Thomas is this year’s Greater Manchester Chamber Citizen of the Year. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH  – Anna Thomas, Public Health Director of the City of Manchester has been named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Manchester Chamber for her dedication to the city and leadership during the past year. Thomas will be honored on Thursday, June 24, at 7 p.m. during the Chamber’s annual Citizen of the Year Celebration, which will be presented both virtually for at-home audiences and in-person at an outdoor networking reception at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Anna Thomas is a New Hampshire native and has been with the City of Manchester since 1994. She was nominated by Mayor Joyce Craig in 2018 to serve as the Public Health Director for the City of Manchester, making her the first female to hold the role. As director, in addition to overseeing the health department with 65 full- and part-time staff, and a total budget of over $9 million dollars, she has led our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Serving our urban community of 112,000 individuals, she holds a particular passion for neighborhood health improvement, resident mobilization, and community development.

“We are honored and thrilled to be recognizing Anna Thomas as our Citizen of the Year,” said Mike Skelton, President & CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber. “Leadership and unselfish public service is at the core of what it means to be a Citizen of the Year. Anna has demonstrated a deep commitment to service in pursuit of helping others throughout her entire career and her steady, calm, and tireless efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are representative of that.”

“In a year of unthinkable challenges, Anna Thomas has risen to the occasion without complaint, in a role that is usually without recognition. She is driven, focused and utterly selfless – a leader that we are lucky to have guiding the health of our community,” said Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.

Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas speaks to the media in March of 2020 about the COVID-19 crisis. File Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Thomas is no stranger to a challenge. She pursued her undergraduate work at the University of New Hampshire, completed her Master of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. She was selected as one of 20 national scholarship recipients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain her graduate certificate in public health. In addition, Thomas served in the United States Army for 16 years as a Medical Service Corps Officer and achieved the rank of Major. She is also a nine-year breast cancer survivor.

True to Thomas’ character and leadership style, she is quick to share credit with her team and those she works with in the community, said Jaime Hoebeke, Chief Strategy Officer at the city’s Health Departent.

“Her leadership style is centered on a team approach with a strong focus on staff development and recognition. She is constantly seeking out ways to bring out the best in people and acknowledge and encourage exemplary customer service,” said Hoebeke.

“In early 2020, news of an emerging infectious disease that was novel to the population created much uncertainty and fear as to whether our community would be impacted. Without hesitation, Anna remained a calm presence during this time for our staff and local leaders,” said Philip Alexakos, Chief Operations Officer at the Manchester Health Department.

Thomas’ leadership and essential service to the community, though sometimes behind the scenes, is both evident and impactful in the eyes of key business and community leaders.

Voice for Children Award Winner in 2015, Anna Thomas and family, from left: Husband, John Thomas; sons, John or “JJ” (age 10), and Chase (age 6); Anna Thomas; Anna’s father, John Noetzel, and mother, Trudy Noetzel. Courtesy Photo

“What would prompt a person to pursue education at its highest levels, if one were not interested in personally capitalizing on that investment by obtaining the highest return? It would be a person who has chosen to offer that return to the public. A public servant in the highest and truest sense of the term. Anna could have done anything, anywhere. She chose us, she chose here. And like the best in her calling, we hardly hear about her. Because her work has never been about her” said Dianne Mercier, President, NH, People’s United Bank and 2017 GMC Citizen of the Year.

“If I had to describe Anna in one word, it would be a warrior. Anna consistently displays characteristics of a warrior spirit – clarity, focus, determination, courage, and an unflappable zest for improving our community. Over the last six years, I have witnessed Anna’s ability to create coalitions to tackle many issues, from the opioid epidemic, academic proficiency, adverse childhood experiences, and now guiding us through the pandemic,” said Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester.

It could not be clearer that, for Anna Thomas, this is not simply a job. It is a call to serve, and one which she has consistently and enthusiastically answered throughout her life and career as a volunteer, military veteran, parent, and leader in public health. Her commitment to community involvement extends far beyond her direct role with the city.  She has volunteered for numerous organizations – Veterans Count, Granite United Way, Mary Gale Foundation, and the Bean Foundation, to name a few. She has received countless leadership awards from journalistic publications, health organizations, higher education institutions, the Army National Guard, and even the White House.

Since 1954, the Greater Manchester Chamber has presented one outstanding individual the Citizen of the Year Award. This exceptional group of community leaders has been paramount in shaping the GMC’s agenda and the community. The Citizen of the Year award recognizes an individual with significant leadership and citizenship in the community, while demonstrating exemplary vision, civic pride, and commitment to the betterment of society. To be nominated, the individual should live in the greater Manchester area and his or her activities should be centered in the same area. Recognition is given for leadership and performance in several areas of community service over a period of years.

Anna Thomas will be recognized as the Citizen of the Year at the Greater Manchester Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Celebration, presented by Elliot Health System, on Thursday, June 24, 2021, at 7 p.m. Those who register to join the live stream at will be emailed a link to tune-in to the watch party. An in-person and outdoor networking reception at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium will complement the virtual awards ceremony with more details to be announced soon. For more information, contact Corinne Breton at

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