Andrea Stroh Thompson is a longtime Plano resident. Her family moved here in 1977 shortly before she started second grade at Plano’s Christie Elementary. She graduated from Plano Senior High School, moving back to the area in 2001 after completing college and law school.
“I was bit by the travel bug as a child and was privileged to have parents that thought exposing us to diff erent cultures and experiences was important. To date, I’ve been to more than 60 countries and am enjoying exploring more with my husband, who also loves to travel,” she said. Thompson also enjoys scuba diving and snow skiing. She and her husband also love to spoil their rescue pug, who is named Guinness.
Thompson was appointed as the Collin County District Clerk in December 2011 and won reelection in 2012 and 2014. The District Clerk is the registrar, recorder and custodian of all documents under the jurisdiction of the nine Collin County District Courts. The District Clerk also oversees jury services and passport applications for Collin County.
Volunteerism has always been important to Thompson, and her volunteer involvements have varied over the years.
She currently serves as co-chair for the Texas Bar Foundation nominating committee, which is a foundation madeup of State Bar of Texas members, by invitation only, for the purpose of raising funds to give back to local communities in grants for programs that have a focus on access to justice.
Thompson is also on the board of a new organization called the Collin County Women Lawyers Association, a group that is working to foster mentorships, education and camaraderie among the female bar in Collin County.
She also serves on the education committee for the Plano Symphony Orchestra and became a member of their full board of directors in June. “I love the PSO and the part that music can play in children’s overall development,” she said.
Thompson is also extensively involved in Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. She is currently serving on a statewide steering committee for an access-to-justice program called Guide & File. e group is working with the state’s electronic filing service provider (Tyler Technologies, which is based in Plano) to build online ‘interviews’ that people can use that will then electronically file their divorce or other legal matter for them.
“This is an organization that strives to provide legal services to underserved populations based on financial need,” she explained. “This program is sort of a TurboTax for people that cannot aff ord an attorney of their own. e program won’t give them legal advice, but it will make sure they provide the crucial information they need to complete the legal pleadings completely. It is crucial that when people are involved in litigation that they get the best help they can. For many that can afford it, that means hiring an attorney, but for those that don’t have the resources, we’re working on ways to meet their needs.”
Award-worthy service Leadership Plano recently honored Thompson with its Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of her various volunteer involvements and service to the community.
“At Leadership Plano, we are developing a network of servant volunteers,” said Carole Greisdorf, Leadership Plano’s program director. “We hope that we are creating future leaders for our community. As our community ages, as the leaders of our community age, we hope that the graduates of Leadership Plano are the people that will take over these positions, whether they are elected positions, on the board of nonprofits, or as volunteers for those organizations.
“Andrea has certainly exemplified what our program stands for and what the distinguished leadership award recognizes,” added Greisdorf. “She has put service above self. She gives of her time, and her service to this community is so greatly appreciated. She has really shown a strong example of servant leadership.”
Thompson said that she was surprised and honored to learn that she had been selected to receive the award. “I was really honored to learn I would be receiving the award, especially when you look at the list of past recipients,” said Thompson. “As a lifelong resident of Plano, I thought I knew all I needed to know about the community in which I had spent my formative years, and now lived and worked. Not only did Leadership Plano reintroduce me to my hometown, it introduced me to what have become lifelong friends through our shared passion for serving that same community.
“Leadership Plano is an exceptional program meant to introduce our community, civic groups, government agencies and businesses to citizens that are interested in learning more about them, and hopefully finding ways through the process for them to become more engaged in our community.”
Leadership Plano consists of a weekend retreat to get to know classmates better as you start the year together, she explained.
“Then, one day a month is spent getting an in-depth look at all of the cogs that keep our city working. For example, one day will be spent on local government, and the class spends time with the Plano City Council and police and fire chiefs. One day will be spent on education, and the class will spend time with the school board trustees and touring facilities. Another day, they learn about our criminal justice system, tour the jail, and see local SWAT and bomb squads in action,” she said. “I love that day, because I get to come back and do a presentation on our Grand Jury and jury system, which I get to work with as part of my job.”
Each LP class does a class project that allows them to give back to the community. Thompson’s class worked on a Habitat for Humanity build.
“It sounds really cliché to say you get out more than you ever put in, but it’s very true. From Leadership Plano, I made lifelong friends. I have made friends and business contacts in every group I’ve been involved with. You find through one group a shared interest with another group, or fi nd that you have a skill that can help in ways and places you never imagined,” said Thompson.
“It’s okay to put in more time or less. The time I can spend changes from year to year. Some years it just seems like you have more time and less work and family commitments, other years I have very little time to volunteer, but it’s all important. The most important part is to get involved in something. You will be amazed how even a little effort on your part will translate to a tremendous impact for someone in need.”
Shelley Strickland became involved in Leadership Plano because of her mother, André Davidson. Davidson is a past executive director of Leadership Plano and received the Distinguished Leadership Award in 1999.
“It was during that award reception when I made the personal commitment to apply for the Leadership Plano program,” said Strickland. “Prior to this, I hadn’t been active in the community on any level.
Strickland and Thompson met 10 years ago in their Leadership Plano class. They were roommates at an overnight retreat and became fast friends. Strickland nominated Thompson for the award.
“Shortly after our Leadership Plano experience together, I started seeing Andrea’s leadership role within the community. In fact, she’s the one that invited me to join her in the Plano Metro Rotary Club,” said Strickland. “Her father had been a Rotarian in this club, and I had the privilege of watching her take on additional leadership roles within Rotary, which not only led to being president of our club, but also serving the Rotary district in leadership roles.”
“Andrea is one of the most organized individuals I’ve worked with, as well as someone who isn’t afraid to take on difficult tasks. Just look at what she’s accomplished as our Collin County District Clerk,” added Strickland.
“Through her leadership, the county has moved to electronic filing of cases and shifted to paperless dockets. What people might not realize is that this reduced physical storage from 600 boxes down to 30, which continues to decrease each month. Collin County is the first county in the state to be fully integrated with electronic filing, paperless case files, electronic signatures and electronic workflow queues to move files around the courthouse.”
Strickland said that Thompson’s involvement in the community is quite extensive. “What sets her apart is the passion she has for underprivileged kids and their parents,” said Strickland.
“She’s stayed involved with Hope’s Door, a women’s shelter, long after being the board chair of that organization and has even gotten her office involved with clothing drives. She also loves her work with Rotary, whether that’s being a part of the Adoption Picnic where families are matched up or by interviewing local high school students for scholarship opportunities. Another area she’s spending a lot of time on recently is working with Legal Aid to ensure access to the court system for those that don’t have the financial resources to meet their legal needs.”
Thompson believes that everyone, no matter how busy, should make time for volunteerism.
“People should find ways to incorporate their work or interests into volunteer opportunities,” said Thompson. “I have been able to put my legal experience to work by volunteering for such things as the legal clinic, drafting wills for hospice patients, and helping with Adoption Day.
If you enjoy spending time with children, volunteer to rock babies or read stories at My Friend’s House. If you like to cook, volunteer your family to cook a meal a month for the women and children in the shelter at Hope’s Door or the teens at City House. If you like working outside, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. If your children are school-aged, volunteer to be on their school’s Site Based Improvement Council or part of their PTA, or even just at the book fair or field day. Find activities that your children can participate in.
“When you can find something to give your time to that coincides with an interest or skill set that you have, it doesn’t feel like work and it’s generally easier to find the time,” she added. “I promise, there is a group doing work that will appeal to any interest and they will be grateful for any time you can give them. If nothing else, attend an event, give a little money…that’s a very easy and tangible way to have an impact on a group if you don’t think you have the time right now.”
Strickland encouraged everyone to follow Thompson’s example of service to the community. “Plano is truly a better community because of her leadership skills and her commitment for helping others,” said Strickland.
Thompson pointed out that Leadership Plano is a great place to match passions and interests with opportunities. “Until I got into Leadership Plano and got to know the nonprofit community, I didn’t know how to get involved in a board of directors. I have yet to meet a nonprofit that wouldn’t take a new board member,” said Thompson. “If you’re new to the community or just want to be involved, it can be daunting. Leadership Plano matches the “doers” with those in need. Most of us have a very superficial relationship with our community. A program like this lets you see the underside of it…behind the curtain. It’s about matching nonprofits with people who want to be of service.”
Leadership Plano began in 1983 by the Plano Chamber of Commerce as a community leadership development program. Today, the Plano Chamber of Commerce is still the sponsoring organization and serves as a valuable resource to the program. A program of the Plano Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Plano is dedicated to educating, developing, and empowering current and future leaders for the community and motivating them to serve civic, charitable, and business organizations. For more information, please visit www.leadershipplano.org or call 972.424.7547.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mike Newman