Focus | Smith running on jobs, low taxes platform

Story by Chris Graham
With AFP Video

A campaign website to rival that of any statewide candidate. A ground operation that pledges to knock on thousands of doors and make as many phone calls. Lorie Smith is ready for May 2010.

“I feel so strongly about the message that I carry, and I feel so strongly about this city, as a native of Waynesboro, and the plans that I want to see to fruition, with the work that I started in 2006, that really, I’m not done. It’s important that I let the citizens know that I’m here, and that I’m here for the long term,” said Smith, who on Friday announced her candidacy for re-election to Waynesboro City Council.

Smith was elected to represent Ward D on City Council in 2006, upsetting two former Council members, Reo Hatfield and DuBose Egleston, in a bitterly-contested three-way race. The former Waynesboro School Board chair is stepping up the campaigning quite a bit for her ’10 bid. She said today that she has been meeting with a team of campaign volunteers since the spring in anticipation of having an opponent or opponents in next year’s city elections.

 

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AFP Interview with Lorie Smith

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“It was important for me to announce early. I do expect that I’ll probably have some competitors in this race. I do think in any race that some competition is good for the voters,” said Smith, whose challengers could include the aforementioned Hatfield, who has reportedly been weighing his options regarding another run, and the rumor mill has at least two other names out there hot and heavy right now.

Smith’s seat in Ward D is one of two up in next spring’s elections. The other is the Ward C seat currently held by Nancy Dowdy, who announced earlier this year that she will not be seeking a third term in the seat.

The last two election cycles, in ’06 and ’08, have been contentious as a group of local conservatives headed up by Vice Mayor Frank Lucente have raised issues with city spending. Spending promises to be a key issue again in ’10, as does the struggling local economy that is putting a strain on the city finances.

“The conversation isn’t what we want. It’s what we need. We’re not trying to grow services. We’re trying to maintain services,” Smith said of the issues facing the current City Council and the next City Council.

“What we’re tasked with is living within our means. I fear if things get worse for us here on the local level that we’re going to be looking at reductions in services, potentially having to look at personnel, and those are very, very difficult decisions that could lie ahead,” Smith said.
“What we’re trying to do is hold on to services, and hold on to the low tax rate that we have. We’ve got the third-lowest tax rate in the state among Virginia cities. We’ve got to keep that tax rate where it is. We don’t have another option on that,” Smith said,

The way to maintain the tax rate where it is, said Smith, whose campaign slogan is More Jobs, Low Taxes, is by focusing on economic development, which has been somewhat overlooked the past 15 months in City Hall.

“We’ve got to understand here in Waynesboro, our industrial climate is almost getting to be a thing of the past,” said Smith, noting the long-term trend of job cuts in the industrial sector that are current-events news with the news this week of pending layoffs at Invista affecting another 110 employees there.
“We’ve got to start thinking outside the box. We’ve got to start being very aggressive with economic-development strategies. We’ve been without an economic-development director for 15 months. In this climate, that’s not good,” Smith said.

Smith thinks that as a political moderate she can have a moderating influence on policy discussions as city leaders work to achieve those ends.

“I’ve grown a little weary hearing about factions on Council,” said Smith, who believes the five members of Council “have been working together very well” since the 2008 elections that saw city voters elect a conservative majority to the governing body.

There will continue to be philosophical diferences on the issues, Smith said, “but we have a higher calling as an elected group, and what I want to try to continue to bring to the Council is balance.”

“We can have those philosophical divides on the issues, but there’s got to be a voice in the middle that is able to take all these different philosophies and viewpoints and see where there is common ground. I think I’m able to do that,” Smith said.

  

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On the Web: Visit Smith’s campaign Website at www.loriesmith.com.

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