Meet Tom James

Living and Working in Sycamore Township

I've lived in Sycamore Township since 2001, and I also practice law within the township from my office on Hosbrook Road. My wife and I have raised our 4 kids here and they've gotten a fantastic K-12 education from our local public school district. We specifically looked for a house in Sycamore because it is a community with great neighborhoods, great schools, and low taxes. We've never regretted our choice.

What’s my background?

I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia.  While in college in Atlanta, I met a girl from Cincinnati and knew pretty soon afterward that she was the love of my life.  We eventually got married and planned to remain in Atlanta.  But I later learned there’s a “move-home-someday” instinct in most Cincinnati natives that kicks in eventually.  Hers did in the late 1990s after our two oldest kids were born, and so within a few years we’d moved north to Cincinnati, where we’ve been ever since.

Career-wise, I’ve been an attorney for 31 years.  I’ve practiced law in firm and corporate settings in Atlanta and Cincinnati, and I’ve also served in management and IT-related roles.  My work has given me the opportunity to visit many places across the United States, allowing me to experience life in communities ranging from large cities to tiny rural areas.

What do I do when I’m not working? 

Raising 4 kids has kept me pretty busy since the first one arrived 21 years ago, but I find time for other things too.  I’ve been involved in Scouting with my kids as a parent and then as a den leader and as a volunteer and leadership committee member.  I do volunteer work, including with seniors, and I’m the Easter Bunny each year at an egg hunt event in the township.  I’ve been a volunteer at my church for about 15 years, helping to teach Sunday School for kids ranging from K-6 grades, and serving for about the last decade in various technical production roles, currently acting as the technical director for our adult services on at least one weekend each month.  I love science fiction books, TV shows, and movies.  When you catch me listening to music, you can usually expect it to be from the 80s.  And I’m a big technology enthusiast, always trying to keep up with the latest and greatest and to maintain an understanding of current technical developments and security concerns.

What got me interested in politics? 

I’ve had an interest in community service, politics, and international relations since my teen years.  While in high school, I worked part-time for a local TV news operation, and that experience gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about local officials and the issues they confronted.  In college, I went to a school with a strong liberal arts core curriculum which taught me about the duties and obligations of virtuous citizenship. There, I was elected to leadership positions in student government and in other organizations devoted to service and bettering the community.  I also marched with a group of fellow students in the January 1987 civil rights march upon Forsyth County, Georgia, an outer suburban county which was still terribly segregated even through the mid-1980s.  I competed for and was chosen as a college intern for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, and I worked as a volunteer on a congressional campaign during my college and law school years.  And while living in Atlanta, I served as Vice President and then President of a 180-home Homeowners Association. 

Why did I run for Trustee?

In the years before I first ran in 2019, I developed a keen interest in Sycamore Township politics, which I was surprised to learn were a lot more turbulent than I’d ever imagined. I started attending Trustee meetings after I stumbled across meeting minutes when I was trying to look up the zoning status of a commercial property in the township. What I saw within them was fascinating — there was a clear divide between the longtime incumbents and the then-newly elected trustee who’d promised to bring better government transparency to the township.  Those minutes demonstrated the old guys were stubbornly resisting his attempts to foster openness and that they were actively trying to undermine his efforts and belittle him.  I began to research what’s gone on in township government in the past by making targeted records requests to ferret out those details — Ohio’s Open Records “Sunshine Law” is a helpful tool for doing that — and I learned that it was very important to keep a watchful eye on what our Trustees were up to, and what they’d done in the past.

I was troubled by some of what I’d seen occurring in the township — especially some broken promises about preventing commercial creep into our neighborhoods, and the backroom development deals and hidden taxpayer-funded subsidies which made those developments next to our neighborhoods even bigger.  I heard disturbing stories told firsthand by residents and business owners in our community who have been bullied by township officials, and in some cases, by sitting trustees, in some instances because they asked inconvenient questions and someone prominent wanted them silenced or intimidated, and in others because someone in township leadership wanted to take their property so the township could then redirect it to a private developer for use in a project the official fancied.  And it was clear that others who were in township government at the time acted as bystanders to this, watching their fellow officials do these things and remaining silently complicit. Those are some of the things that convinced me it was time for new leadership on our Board of Trustees. 

I decided I wouldn’t just be a bystander.  So I decided to step up and run for Trustee, not out of ambition, but because of civic duty.  In this, I’m inspired by the words of John Adams: “Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not.”  Indeed.

I’ve always suspected many people who run for office are driven by their oversized egos.  I’m not.  For much of my adult life I’ve joked that anyone who runs for office must have some sort of deep, dark character flaw that’s itching to get out — and now here I went down that same road!  But there are legions of smart, caring, and brave people who run for office because they’ve seen that the incumbents weren’t listening and respecting the voters and weren’t putting voters’ interests first.

I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the room. I listen to others’ ideas and learn from them.  I think I’ve got pretty good judgment though, and I try to look at things from a thoughtful, citizen-oriented, non-officeholder perspective.  Trustee is by its very name someone who is elected to hold the public trust and to put it before his own interests.  That’s what I do my best to do.

Sycamore Township is such a fantastic community in so many ways – for our residents, for our business owners, and for those who come through our borders each day to work, shop, eat, and be entertained.  As a Trustee these last 4 years, I’ve done everything in my power to ensure that it continues to be all of that and more.

You may rest assured that I will also always do everything within my power to ensure that we continue to enjoy the lowest property taxes of any township in Hamilton County.  My election 4 years ago brought fresh ideas, greater transparency, and needed change in Sycamore Township.  Help me continue that by voting to re-elect me this November.