For Kelly Smith, running as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the District 2 seat on the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners is more about civic duty than personal achievement.
“I really am coming at this from a public service standpoint. I never imagined I would run for office,” says Smith, who has lived in Wesley Chapel for 10 years and will oppose Republican incumbent and fellow Wesley Chapel resident Mike Moore in this year’s general election on Tuesday, November 6.
Neither candidate will face a primary opponent. In addition to partisan primaries for local, state and national offices, the primary election, which also included the only elections for Pasco School Board and several judges, were held on August 28.
Smith says that watching District 2’s boundaries evolve from relatively pastoral to thoroughly suburban provided her with the motivation to enter politics. She says her goal is to ensure that Pasco voters have distinct options as to who will best help manage the area’s growth.
“We need to bring change to our community and really be looking at how we can serve our community the best,” Smith says.
The foot-shaped Dist. 2 extends from the Hillsborough County line to north of S.R. 52, with its western border between U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Pkwy., and extending all the way to U.S. 301/Gall Blvd. at its easternmost edge in Zephyrhills.
Smith says she believes that the current lineup of Pasco commissioners has fallen short in meeting residents’ needs.
“Without a doubt, (they’re) not planning for the infrastructure and the service needs that go along with the growth we’re experiencing,” Smith says.
She says that growth is coming at a cost, and usually one that prospective homeowners can’t afford. She believes that future development needs to include a wider variety of affordbale housing for residents.
“One of the big components that’s missing in Pasco County is a better variety of dwelling types and a better variety of (housing) price points,” Smith says.
Smith also says she wants to attract more skilled jobs to the area’s economy, which already has a lot of customer service positions. Pasco County government can encourage wage growth in the private sector, she says, by setting an example and adopting a minimum salary of $15 an hour for full-time positions.
“Currently, 24 percent of full-time employees (who work for Pasco County) make less than $15 an hour,” she says. “As the second largest employer in Pasco County, that would certainly set a standard that hopefully the rest of the community would follow.”
Smith says her more than 20 years of professional experience provides an informed background from which to draw on when it comes to addressing quality-of-life issues like congestion. Her resume includes positions in engineering operations (including data analysis and contract administration) for site development and transportation projects in the private sector and serving as a zoning administrator for the City of Marco Island, near Naples, FL.
She also has been a coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the City of Naples and Collier County. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Liberal Arts (with minors in Computer Science, School Health Education and Special Education) from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.
“I really do think that my experience has put me in exactly the right position to be a county commissioner,” says Smith.
In addition to her professional work experience, Smith volunteers on behalf of young people, advocating for kids going through the legal system with the Florida Guardian ad Litem program and as a photographer with Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco, a nonprofit organization that promotes the adoption of children in foster care.
“I have always looked at how my actions can have a positive consequence outside of me,” says Smith, who lives in Meadow Pointe with her husband Patrick and their three adopted teenage children: Macy, Andrew and Carter.
Running as a Democratic against a popular Republican opponent in a county where President Trump won 58 percent of the vote in 2016 might seem to be a formidable task, but Smith says she’s up to it.
“I really do think I have a chance,” she says, adding that she gets a good response from people, including Republicans, when she canvases neighborhoods. “Local government is not so partisan. It’s about what’s best for your community.”
Visit KellySmithforPasco.com or “Kelly Smith for Pasco County Commissioner” on Facebook to find out more.