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SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa

2020 40 Under 40: Joel Thomas, 36

Principal, Buf Studio

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Joel Thomas is leaving his mark on Springfield – in more ways than one. By day, Thomas is principal architect at Springfield’s newest firm, Buf Studio, a branch of the Bentonville, Arkansas, startup.

On the side, Thomas is an original founder of the Springfield Identity Project – the group responsible for the Queen City’s new, but unofficial, flag design.

“I just hope to make Springfield better than when I came,” he says.

Thomas also has been a part of numerous boards, including the U.S. Green Building Council, Downtown Springfield Association, Springfield Planning and Zoning, and the Drury University Alumni Council.

What was your first job? For one month every summer, my father would drop me off at 5 a.m. every morning to hop on a bus and go to one of the many cornfields selected to detassel corn.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? To move back to Springfield. After I graduated, I’d planned to move back to Illinois and find a job. I moved home, but was dating my future wife who was still living in Springfield. My dad said, “You need to move back and be with that girl.”

What’s your most treasured possession? My father’s watch. He won the watch in 1964, at a local, small-town farming competition, in which the competition award was named for my great-grandfather. Although it doesn’t work anymore, it always reminds me about where I came from.


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