As the construction boom in Charlottesville continues, Dede Smith said she wants a second term on the City Council to help preserve the area’s environment and historic character.
“I’m running on my 30-some years of deep experience in the community and what I’ve done,” Smith said. “A lot of other candidates are instead talking about what they’d like to do or plans they’ve made.”
Smith, 59, moved to Charlottesville in 1979 when her husband, Tim Wilson, took a position in the psychology department at the University of Virginia. Since then she raised two children, served six years on the city School Board and spent 14 years as executive director of the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
She credits the latter experience as not only a sign of her environmental credentials, but also with connecting her with the community’s African-African history. The natural area includes some of the 125 acres once owned by Hugh Carr, a freed slave who built his own farm in the late 19th century.
“In my time, we did the research and it’s now designated as an African-American heritage site,” Smith said.
Smith also is an outspoken opponent of the community water supply plan adopted by Albemarle County and Charlottesville in January 2012. She called for dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as opposed to the construction of a new dam at Ragged Mountain.
In 2011, Smith placed third in a “firehouse primary” held by the Charlottesville Democratic Party, beating fourth-place contestant Paul Beyer by 31 votes. This time around, she thinks she’ll benefit from a regular primary.
“I think people will feel more comfortable going to their own polling place,” Smith said. “I prefer it this way. I don’t think it will have a huge impact on the election.”
This time around, Smith is running on a broader campaign based on her experience as a councilor. She says she was instrumental in preventing the closure of the Barrett Learning Center, a preschool on Ridge Street that announced in July 2013 that it would close.
“What I bring to the table is a lot of relationships and a lot of experience,” Smith said.
Smith also pointed to the launch of city-run workforce development programs as another accomplishment.
“I was really proud to have helped launch the [Growing Opportunities] programs that match unemployed city residents with employment partners who have jobs waiting and have jobs that are hard to fill,” Smith said. The GO Driver program graduated a dozen new bus drivers for Charlottesville Area Transit.
Smith also said she wants a second term on the council to help ensure that today’s leaders make careful decisions that will affect the future, particularly in the city’s historic districts. She voted against The Flats at West Village to have additional height and density on West Main Street.
Smith also wants to proceed cautiously with a proposed rezoning of that corridor in part because it would reduce the influence of the Board of Architectural Review.
“The BAR is, in some cases, the place in the process where a neighborhood can have a say,” Smith said.
For instance, the BAR was the only public venue in which neighbors of the future Atlantic building in the 500 block of West Main had the chance to speak their minds about the project.
“If the rezoning strips away the role of the Board of Architectural Review, then we won’t have any say in some of these projects,” Smith said.