A chat with City Council President Virginia Smith

By ANNE WOOD

City Council President Virginia SmithWhat are your plans for the city of Mountain Brook?
I have no specific plans of my own. We all set the tone together with the mayor and council, and we listen closely to our professional staff, Sam and Steve for starters, and the chiefs/directors of our departments as well as listening closely to our various boards/chambers and their members. So our “plans” therefore usually evolve out of what we hear is needed.  For example, the Village Design and Review Committee wants to make some changes to the sign ordinance, and I have heard their concerns and encouraged them to make suggested changes and that I would assist in getting the council to pass them.

But plans:  well, let us see.  I want to keep the city being a great place to live and work.  I like adding green spaces where we can. We have a good relationship with our neighboring cities, and I want that to continue, even when we disagree over an issue.  I do not want an elevated 280. I do want to see good redevelopment of the Trinity site.  I want to encourage new business and commerce within our villages.

How long will your term as president last?
My term as president ends in November 2012 when a new council starts and has its organizational meeting and votes on a new council president and president pro-tem. Assuming I run again, which is my present intention, and am reelected, then I would be willing to be president again but also delighted to give that honor to another council member.  I do not believe, and the council we have now knows this, that being president gives me any more power than another member.  We are a team and work that way.

What improvements do you think need to be made in Mountain Brook?
We should continue to make our villages welcoming, sprucing up certain areas and protecting residential properties. The school system is fabulous, so we will continue to work with the school board as needed.  Again, the council and school board, though separate, listen closely to each other and work as a team when needed. I also would like to see some commercial areas redeveloped–if the plans are good.

How do you keep the lines of communication open between you and the residents of Mountain Brook?
This is a good question.  Sometimes people will complain about something, and I ask whom within the city they have addressed their issue with and the answer is nobody.  So I encourage anybody to call us—council, mayor or city employees—whenever an issue or concern comes up. I do not have an office (none of the elected officials do), but we are all in the phone book, on the city website, or can reached by calling city hall and asking for our names and numbers.
Sometimes people will call and apologize for calling me at home.  No, no, please do call me at home or by email.  I also encourage people to come to city council meetings, both the pre-meeting and the formal meetings.  Both are open to anybody, and we will listen to anybody.

What did you do before joining the council?
I am now, and was 11 years ago when I was first elected, a wife and mother of three (now ages 21, 19 and 17).  I took the children to my parents’ home when I was first elected so they could babysit them while I went to meetings. My husband, David, would be at work and pick them up from my parents’ on his way home.  I could not have done the job without them, my parents or my husband.
I am a lawyer but have not practiced since my second son was born, 19 years ago now. I was and still am a stay-at-home mom though I enjoy doing various civic and charitable volunteer jobs.  I also love to work in the yard, though you would not be able to tell that by looking at mine.

Is there anything you love, specifically, about your job?
What I love about my job is meeting new people.  It is interesting. I also love knowing what is happening about town.  It is fun to know that such and such building has a new owner who wants to open a retail store, restaurant or service.  Or, that the police cars are getting a new look, or that the sidewalks connecting a certain area to another will be built next summer. These are just examples of things that are happening all the time in Mountain Brook.

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