Former city school board chair Dede Smith , announced Monday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for a seat on Charlottesville City Council.
“I believe I can bring a wealth of experience, energy, informed decision making, and a grassroots style of government to this council,” said Smith at the city’s Forest Hills Park .
Smith was introduced by former Charlottesville mayor Maurice Cox .
“You can see how her passion and her vocation can easily be translated to the things that we all care about,” said Cox. “In 2000, [Smith] was appointed to the Charlottesville School board and had a six year term. It was an extraordinary time, it was a challenging time, and every single step of the way Dede was leading it.”
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About 30 people attended Smith’s announcement. In addition to Cox, Smith supporters present included Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris , former mayors Francis Fife and Nancy O’Brien , and former council members John Conover and Kevin Lynch .
Smith, 55, moved to Charlottesville in 1979 and served for fourteen years as Director of the Ivy Creek Foundation. Smith was chair of the Charlottesville School Board from 2004 to 2005.
After leaving the school board in 2006, Smith’s community activities became increasingly focused on the Charlottesville-Albemarle community water supply plan. In 2007, she co-founded Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan with Betty Mooney, a local group that has opposed the construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir .
“Given all the new information that we have, we should reconsider the approach that we are taking to expanding our water storage capacity for the future,” Smith said.
Smith said the existing Ragged Mountain Dam should be repaired to address safety concerns, but not raised to store more water. In the first phase of the almost $140 million water plan approved by city council, a new earthen dam will be built downstream raising the reservoir by 30 feet.
Smith said she believes that restoring existing facilities like the Sugar Hollow Pipeline , the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir , and the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam are adequate measures to address the community’s water needs.
“I absolutely believe that we need to restore the current infrastructure, the infrastructure we have already paid for, which is valuable not only for the water supply, but also for recreation,” Smith explained.
Smith said that she would be someone willing to work with neighboring Albemarle County and she highlighted parks as one of the many ways the communities work together today.
“I believe that City Council has a responsibility to represent what’s in the best interest of the citizens of Charlottesville in all negotiations with our neighboring counties,” Smith said.
In her speech, Smith made preservation of park land and open spaces a key part of her platform, as well as her commitment to supporting social diversity in the city.
“I believe in the preservation and the protection of our natural and historic landscape,” Smith said. “Whether it’s in our education system in the arts culture in our city, or in the availability of housing, we need to honor the diversity of income, of ethnicity, of race in our city.”
Smith has joined a group of six candidates who are seeking the Democratic nomination to run for City Council. Four independent candidates have also announced their candidacy. A Republican candidate has yet to announce intentions to run. Democrats vote nominate three candidates in a firehouse primary on August 20th. The general election will be held on November 8th.
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