Kara Toma was just 11 when she went to work to help out her family. Over the years she has held a variety of jobs and owned her own businesses. A UNLV employee since 1997, today she serves as executive assistant to Gerry Bomotti, senior vice president for finance and business.
She’s the third-place recipient of the President’s 2016 Classified Employee of the Year Awards.
What was your first job at UNLV?
I worked in the president’s office for about 18 months, first as a clerical trainee and then as an administrative assistant I. Carol Harter was a new president when I started.
Tell us about your current job.
You name it; we do it. I manage his entire calendar, schedule all of his meetings, and help with hosting events as well as other office duties and needs. He is involved in many meetings both on campus and in the community. I pay bills and take care of the machines. Lori (McGowne) handles the special projects for the office and budgets, while I manage the office duties.
How many vice presidents have you worked for?
Four. Before Gerry, there were Norval Pohl, Tony Flores, and George Scaduto.
Advice you would give a new employee.
Do more than you are asked. Try to help people. If someone calls and has the totally wrong department, you can say, “It’s not my job” and send the call to the (campus) operator, but I try to find out who they should talk to and then send them there.
Tell us about your first job.
My father had been killed in World War II. He was a pilot, but was killed on the ground in France by a land mine at an airfield. He was just 23. My mother remarried and I had a stepbrother who was like my twin.
When we were 11 we had to go to work in the family shop in Salt Lake City. It was a dry cleaners, shirt laundry, men’s store, and formal wear store all together. We worked six days a week — after school and then all day Saturdays. We learned responsibility. By the time I was 13 I had my own branch shop. I was handling the cash. I did everything in the shop except pressing the clothes.
What other jobs have you had?
Many. It’s too long ago to remember them all, but I’ve had my own businesses a couple of times. I used to have a chocolate-making business. For more than five years, I gave classes at my house and sold the equipment and chocolate. Also, I worked for nine years for the Washoe County School District.
For more than two years my husband and I had a food co-op in Los Angeles. Fresh food, frozen food, dried food. We bought food wholesale and then distributed it to other LDS church members for food storage purposes, charging a slight fee. We had the food in and out of our house in two hours. Eight or nine people worked for us.
I couldn’t make it through the day without…
Prayer. I need it to start the day and also get through the day at times. For something more tangible, it would be peanut butter. But mostly, it’s the good people around me that I work with every day.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you.
I have been married 51 years. That even surprises me! We have three kids and nine grandkids.
Hobbies or pastimes?
I like to garden. Every Saturday I go out and putz around in the yard. We have lots of foliage. It looks like something from the North, not desert landscaping. I also enjoy reading and cooking.
Recommend a favorite book or movie.
I am so into history right now. I just finished Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow was another book I really liked.
A dream vacation would be
My husband, Allan, is third generation Japanese-American. We would love to travel to Japan.
What Those Nominating Her Had to Say
Summer Mudd, UNLV assistant budget director:
"Kara has many conflicting demands daily, all things that have to be done RIGHT NOW, and all of equal importance. She is a logistics and multi-task queen! She can organize a meeting, get everyone where they need to be, take phone calls for a different task, receive a delivery, give a different set of people phone numbers for a conference call, help others find the CSB building, organize papers for the (senior vice president of finance and business), and pleasantly greet visitors to the office, all at the same time. All. At. The. Same. Time.”
David Frommer, executive director of planning and construction, and university architect:
“She works on challenging administrative efforts that require excellent organizational, communication, and interaction skills. I personally have worked with Kara related to planning and organization of complex divisional, campus, and community meetings, campus tours with state and legislative staff, and many other efforts. Kara has exhibited a high-level of commitment, effort, and dedication to these efforts, which can be very challenging to plan, organize, and execute. Throughout all this, Kara maintains a collaborative and positive spirit, even when things are particularly challenging.”
Kathy Adams, UNLV executive budget director:
“Kara is kind and welcoming to everyone, even those who are gruff or rude. Oftentimes, she can turn their bad attitudes around, whereas others would not bother with people like that. She treats everyone the same, that is, she treats them with respect and maintains a positive outlook that helps others stay positive, too.”
Additional Nominees for the Award:
- Theresa Boucher, Lee Business School
- Delores Brownlee-Conn, University Libraries
- Cassandra Davidson-Bryant, Academic Success Center
- Anna Drury, Lee Business School
- Theresa Farmer, Office of Decision Support
- Cherisha Gaitor, Campus Life, Facilities and Operations
- Ivana Goga, College of Fine Arts
- Brian Hedrick, Facilities Maintenance Services
- Karen Kita, formerly of the School of Music
- Sheridan Mahabir, School of Dental Medicine
- Monica Maley-Sidwell, Facilities Management
- Angela Martinez, Office of Alumni and External Relations
- Ruth McKoin, Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
- Monica McNeely, Academic Success Center
- Sophie Parise, College of Liberal Arts
- Elaine Rojas, Controller’s Office
- Jim Stinar, Campus Life Facilities and Operations