Tom obtained his undergraduate degree in Forestry from Humboldt State University in 1977. He was employed in the timber industry for twenty five years before engaging in law practice on a full time basis. He studied law at home through correspondence during the 1980s while employed as manager of a timber company. On his first attempt, he passed the California state bar exam in 1989. Thereafter, he became involved in all aspects of the legal affairs related to operating a major timber operation. Since 1999, Tom has been practicing law independently.
Tom is a former director and chairman of the California Forestry Association Board of Directors. He is a former director and chairman of the California Licensed Forester's Association. He served two terms on the Humboldt County Planning Commission. He is currently a director of the Buckeye Conservancy, a non-profit organization focused on the interests of family-owned ranches, dairies, and tree farms. He is also currently serving on the Redwood Memorial Hospital Foundation Board of Directors and is a member of the Fortuna Rotary.