Local government is “where the rubber meets the road,” says Tommy Smith, the newest member of the Knoxville City Council. Smith was chosen to complete the term of District 1 council member Stephanie Welch who departed to serve in Mayor Indya Kincannon’s administration.
“My heart is in service,” Smith adds, a trait that will serve his constituents well.
The freshman council member learned by example. He recalls his father mowing lawns for people unable to do the job for themselves.
Smith readily notes that the local government can’t do it all. “Gaps” will always exist, but by “reinforcing and empowering” community groups and nonprofits the gaps can be bridged.
Identifying the gaps, or needs, is not enough, Smith says. You must take to action fix them, and it’s action that demonstrates the strength of public/private coordination.
It starts with advocacy, which Smith notes may take different forms. Whatever shape it assumes, individuals or groups, the first rule is to “show up” for the simplest and most complex problems.
Affordable housing and homelessness are touchstone issues in his district, Smith says. A safer Chapman Highway also ranks high among locals’ concerns.
Two affordable housing developments are underway in South Knoxville. Young High Flats will consist of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments in 156 units; Southside Flats plans a mix of 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom apartments in 172 units.
“I’m extremely proud of the reaction in South Knoxville,” Smith says of the affordable housing projects. Residents near Southside Flats plan a welcome party for their future neighbors, he adds.
Smith would like to see a single agency tasked with addressing affordable housing. This agency would employ the services of a “housing navigator,” a position in use by a growing number of communities and agencies (the Veterans Administration, for example) across the country.
In his “day job,” Smith is vice president of marketing strategy for Ackermann Public Relations. Expect him to bring his creative skills to bear as he engages new challenges on the city council. Coupled with his sincere devotion to service, the combination will be a representative the citizens of his district may rely upon.
Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday.