Skip to main content

Melissa is a native Floridian, born and raised in Jacksonville where she grew up with her parents, two sisters and brother. From a large family who committed themselves to the justice system and community, Melissa’s passion for public service and equity was instilled at a young age. Melissa has a strong passion for civic duty, commitment to serving the community, and fighting for those who are unable to fight for themselves.

Melissa’s Grandfather and Uncle proudly served as judges in Jacksonville in the juvenile and family courts specifically presiding over adoptions and bringing families together. Her father was an attorney who served as an Assistant Public Defender and later as a private criminal defense attorney. Melissa spent time throughout high school working at her father’s office where she saw first-hand the plight of people facing criminal charges and in need of help. Her father and the way he practiced had a profound impact on Melissa’s future. He treated each client with dignity and respect, often making them feel like friends of the family.

Through the years, Melissa’s mother worked part time as a travel agent and dental hygienist, and was a long-time volunteer for several organizations, but most often at Baptist Hospital, caring for families of patients and coordinating special events for children hospitalized during the holidays. She also committed herself to teaching English as a second language at her church. Melissa’s older sister, Amanda, is passionate about animals and loves volunteering at the local animal shelter. Her sister, Laura, is a registered nurse with a BSN and has served patients at the bedside in several medical specialties, is volunteer guardian ad litem in the state of Florida, and has now resumed her mother’s role in leading special events for children hospitalized during the holidays at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville.  Melissa’s brother, Bart, is an attorney in Orlando and worked as an Assistant Public Defender prior to going into private practice. Bart currently serves as the Chair of the School Advisory Council for his children’s elementary school.

Her upbringing taught Melissa, and her siblings, the meaning of service and compassion for others. She learned the importance of listening to the concerns and needs of those around her and taking leadership action. Melissa has volunteered with numerous organizations including Second Harvest Food Bank, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando (where she is a member), Buddy Ball, Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Orange County Youth Center, and the Legal Aid Society.

With a passion for dance at a young age, Melissa attended and graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville and went on to receive two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of South Florida in Tampa. While at USF, she served as Vice President and Pledge Educator for her sorority, Kappa Delta, and Chair of the University’s Homecoming Committee. Postgraduate, Melissa attended law school at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law School in Ft. Lauderdale while working part time at the Public Defender’s Office in Broward County.

Melissa lives in Winter Park with her husband, Doug Thomas, twin boys, Carson and Jackson, and their dog Mollie. She enjoys spending her free time cheering on her boys at baseball games, hitting the gym with her husband, reading, and playing with Mollie at the park.

Translate »