Smith says town politics is for the people

November 03, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - It may not be as dramatic as Jimmy Stewart's role in the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," but don't tell that to Thomas B. Smith, who is getting his feet wet as a first-term councilman in his adopted town of Smithsburg.

"Not any one issue got me involved," said Smith, a town resident since 1997. "I would call about things and then come to meetings."

Smith said he is convinced that town politics shouldn't be government against the people.

"It isn't meant to be adversarial, but rather they should be one and the same."

A native Texan, Smith, 39, and his wife, Sue, have two children, ages 9 and 21 months.

Employed by the Coca-Cola Co. since 1998, Smith commuted to the metropolitan area daily until recently, when he was relocated to the Hagerstown office as district sales manager.


"The commute used to be terrible," Smith said. "I used to panic if I didn't wake up by 3 a.m. so I could try to hit Interstate 270 before 5:30 a.m., when the bottleneck slows everything down."

He said that in the eight years he commuted to the metropolitan area, he could see the difference that growth is making in the area.

"This was especially evident coming home," Smith said.

Smith is getting used to spending more time with his family now that his commuting days are cut down to size.

Elected in the spring of 2004, Smith said he has attended about six meetings so far and is trying to evaluate the political situation.

"I want to know how things work," Smith said.

Meetings are at least two hours long each first Tuesday of the month because there are so many things to address.

So far Smith said it is apparent that growth is a major issue for Smithsburg.

"Growth is inevitable, so smart planning is the key," he said.

An example of that involves a tract southeast of Smithsburg where initial plans are to build a 71-home development near the intersection of Md. 64 and Md. 77.

"The developer has bought the land and will put housing there," Smith said. "Now we need to decide if it will be in or out of the town limits."

Streets, water and sewer, the impact on the town's schools - all of these things need to be addressed to best serve new and current residents.

In his own housing development, Whispering Hills, there have been issues.

"We dealt with those and we should learn from them," Smith said.

He said he believes strongly that town officials need to let people say what they want to say about their town.

"We'll have public hearings and hope the citizens will show up," Smith said.

After serving in the U.S. Army in North Carolina, Smith drifted north and found himself in Frederick, Md. His wife is from Brunswick, Md., and is vice president of the Smithsburg Elementary School PTA.

Currently the town government in Smithsburg consists of Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and council members Shirley Aurand, Jerome Martin, William Mills, Ralph Regan and Smith.

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