NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Thomas C. Wells
Pioneering Contributions: With a career in public service that spans 32 years, Tommy Wells's commitment to residents of the District of Columbia, especially the children of the city, is unwavering. Wells began his Washington, D.C. career in 1985 as a social worker in the District's Child Protective Services agency. In 1991, he took the helm of the DC Consortium for Child Welfare, an organization of 20 nonprofit agencies that serve the city's children and families, where he helped to create neighborhood-based family service collaboratives to coordinate the delivery of city and nonprofit resources to underserved District of Columbia residents. Wells led the 1989 class action lawsuit LaShawn v. Barry to address the City's failure to protect children in its care. Wells was the architect of a groundbreaking program to match the foster families with children affected by HIV/AIDS. He led the drive to create the DC Family Court. He partnered with leaders in the U.S. Congress in writing the legislation that defined the function and operation of the new court, resulting in 300 percent increase in the number of foster children adopted into permanent homes each year. Wells has also made major contributions to the city as Ward 6 Representative on the City Council. During his time as Councilmember he helped promote unprecedented growth in public school enrollment, the city's largest drop in violent crime, economic revitalization, and business expansion in the fastest-growing communities in the nation. Wells garnered broad support to make the District of Columbia livable and walkable for all residents. Known for his neighborhood-focused development, Wells championed efforts to ensure availability of public transit, including the construction of new streetcar lines and the expansion of the DC Circulator. As chair of the DC Council Committee on Transportation and Environment, he worked to double the city's Capital Bikeshare Program.
Career Highlights: Wells crafted The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009, to implement $0.05 fee on disposable bags. This landmark legislation prompted thousands of District residents to curb the use of plastic bags and instead opt for reusable green alternatives. Seventy-five percent of DC residents reported a decrease in their use of disposable bags once the bill took effect on January 1, 2010. The legislation also established a fund to restore the District of Columbia water bodies, including the Anacostia River, installed trash traps and provided environmental education for students. These and other efforts championed by Wells have helped position the District of Columbia as a model for sustainable green living for jurisdictions nationwide. Wells is currently the Director of the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE),He was to this position appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in January 2015. He is chiefly responsible for protecting the environment and conserving the natural resources of the District of Columbia. Wells$ team is comprised of approximately 300 environmental professionals collectively working to improve the lives of residents in the Nation’s Capital.
Biographic Data: Wells was born in Austin, Texas in 1957 and received his BA from the University of Alabama in 1979. He then pursued a master's degree in social work, earning an MSW. from the University of Minnesota in 1981. In 1991, he received his JD from Catholic University's Columbus School of Law. He also served as a member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B from 1995 to 2000 and Chair of ANC 6B from 1999-2000. He was elected to serve Wards 5 and 6 on the DC Board of Education from 2001-2006. In 2013, Wells announced he would not seek reelection to his council seat and would instead run for mayor of the District of Columbia. Wells has been married to Barbara Wells since 1988 and is a member of Christ Episcopal Church.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: The Child Welfare League of America Community Service Award - 1997; National Organization of State Associations for Children NOSAC, President - 2000; Center for Non-Profit Advancement Phyllis Campbell Newsome Public Policy Leadership Award - 2008; Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Capital Pride Stand Up for Equality Award for Public Service - 2009; Edgewood Brookland Family Support Collaborative "Caring for Children" Award - 2011, 2015; US-China Climate Leaders" Summit, Los Angeles, CA - Keynote Speaker.