Home for the Holidays


Boise Council Member T.J. Thomson and his family celebrate a first this season

By Liza Long, photography courtesy of T.J. Thomson

Six years ago, second-term Boise council member T.J. Thomson and his wife Alisha made a decision that would change their lives. The couple, who was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, was touched by the Haitian earthquake tragedy and decided they wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. “That’s when we started talking about adoption,” T.J. told me when we met to talk about the new addition in his life.

Her name is Sena, and from her shy smile to her joyful brown eyes, it’s easy to see why T.J. and Alisha fell instantly in love with the 15-month old girl who would become part of their family. Early on, the couple knew they wanted to adopt a child from Ethiopia. “We knew several Ethiopian families in D.C., and we really admired their passion for life,” Thomson said. “We felt a strong tie there.”

Like many international adoptions, the process was a lengthy one: three years from the day they applied until they held Sena in their arms. They finalized the adoption in the summer of 2015 and brought Sena home to her new life in Boise.

“She lights up our world,” Thomson said. “She is going to be adventure for all of us. I think we needed her as much as she IMG_7752needed us. It has completely changed everything.”

Alisha agreed. “”After three years of waiting, planning, and more waiting, we finally got the girl of our dreams! I literally dreamed of Sena before she was ours. We are so blessed to have such a smart, loving, beautiful little girl in our lives! Our connection was felt the moment I laid eyes on her,” she said.

When I asked what holiday traditions the Thomsons were excited to share with their new daughter, T.J. immediately thought of the Advent calendar his mother made for him as a child. “Sena may be a bit young this year, but I’m really excited to use it,” he said.

Sena has quickly become accustomed to the family menagerie of cats and two Finnish Lapland dogs. “She was scared at first, but within two days she was trying to ride them,” Thomson said, noting that Sena has never seen snow, and had never even seen grass until she came to Boise. “It’s amazing to watch her experience things for the first time.”

The Thomsons plan to share their love of their daughter’s Ethiopian food and culture with Sena as she grows. “When it’s World Cup soccer time, we plan to fly both flags at our house,” T.J. joked.

One thing that’s certain: Sena will grow up with parents who are committed to healthy living. As a second term council member, Thomson has focused on healthy initiatives. “One of my top priorities is to make Boise the healthiest city in America,” he said.

He was instrumental in adding a healthy incentive to Boise childcare providers. Starting October 1, Boise caregivers are now rated on four components: nutrition, physical activity, limited screen, and providing a place for nursing mothers to feed their babies. “It’s the first program of its kind in the nation,” Thomson told me. “We are using market driven forces to encourage healthy behavior.”

Parents looking for quality childcare can see the health scores of local providers at www.boisechildcare.com.

Another project Thomson spearheaded is program that provides fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families in Boise. Qualifying families can get a $10 matching credit for the first $10 spent on fresh produce. “It’s good for our farmers because it enables them to sell their produce that might otherwise go to waste to citizens who might otherwise not be able to afford healthy foods,” he said.

With a new daughter and a successful second term in office, I wondered what the future holds for Thomson politically. He smiled and replied, “One thing I’m sure of is that there’s a bright future for Boise.” As for his future? Stay tuned. 2016 is sure to be an exciting year for the Thomson family.