Selena Smith, one of three candidates seeking a vacant seat on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, believes that her business background and community service make her the best choice when voters head to the polls Tuesday, March 13.
Smith joins Jeff Hmara and Ken DeLaTorre in the race for the council’s Seat 4, which has been vacant since the resignation of longtime Councilman David Swift last summer.
Smith, 38, was born in Antigua, a small island in the West Indies, and moved to Miami at age 10 to live with her grandparents. She attended middle and high school there, then attended Barry University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
She worked in sports promotion with teams including the Miami Dolphins and the Florida Marlins, and with the National Hockey League.
After a stint as marketing director for Roger Dean Stadium, she recently decided to open her own public relations and marketing company. “I also work for Costco because I need to pay my bills,” Smith said, explaining that she works in the marketing department at the Royal Palm Beach Costco.
She and her husband, Adam, have lived in Royal Palm Beach for three years. They are residents of La Mancha. Smith serves in leadership roles in a number of local organizations, such as the Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club, Women of the Western Communities and the Palms West Chamber of Commerce.
Smith considers her top accomplishment as being able to reach the goals she sets for herself. “Every time I set a goal for myself, I accomplish it,” she said.
Smith believes that she is the best choice for the council because she has the community experience that is crucial to the job. “I’m involved with the community, and I serve the village,” she said. “I’m here to continue to serve the residents of the village in how we can continue to grow and develop.”
Her top goals for the next two years, if elected, include cutting through red tape that she said seems to delay village projects. “I know there is a due diligence and it takes time, but I’m not sure why they seem to drag out as much as they do,” Smith said.
Another of the top issues for her is promoting small businesses. “There are lots of storefronts that are still vacant that need to be filled,” she said. “Another part is the vacant homes. As I drive around the different communities, I see the foreclosure signs out there.”
Also a priority is to follow through on the proposed senior living facility near Royal Palm Beach Commons Park. “I think it’s a tremendous compliment to the village that we have residents who plan on remaining residents, so I’d see what we can do to help them,” she said.
Although the village faces another tough fiscal year, Smith said she would not support a tax rate tax increase in the current economic climate. “Some salaries have been cut in half since 2008,” she said. “They haven’t come back to where they were, so I don’t think there’s a lot of room to say, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to pay more.’ I think what we need to do is look at where we’re spending our money and make sure we’re spending it correctly.”
Smith said that she would not cut parks and recreation funding because that is one of the big draws bringing people into the community.
“If you don’t have anything that’s drawing people in, you’re not going to have the funds you need to do what you need to do,” she said. “I don’t want to cut salaries because people rely on those, but you have to look at where you are spending the money.”
Smith does not believe that the recent village ordinance to combat problems with foreclosed homes went far enough.
“I know the Realtors are not happy with it,” she said. “I have many neighbors who take care of vacant properties just to keep the property value where it is. I commend them for doing that because it gives the overall feel that the village is not becoming dilapidated.”
She said she might consider offering neighbors a stipend for their upkeep, as opposed to having village staff do the work.
Smith generally approves of the job Village Manager Ray Liggins is doing.
“From the times I’ve had to work with Mr. Liggins, he has been open and helpful with the questions that I had, helping me understand certain perspectives,” she said. “Overseeing quite a bit of the village is quite difficult. I’m not sure if having one person oversee all those departments may be the correct thing to do.”
As for possible changes in village policy, Smith said she would look for changes in code enforcement fines so residents are not charged as much as they are and that the village is more lenient.
“I say this about code enforcement specifically, I would take it on a case-by-case basis,” she said, noting the instance of a resident who asked to have an 8-foot hedge rather than the 6-foot hedge enumerated in village code. “He was breaking the rule, but he and his neighbor agreed that it was the right thing.”
As for the future of the former wastewater treatment plant site off Crestwood Blvd., Smith said she would consider a trade school there. “I’m not an expert in the field, but just from a resident’s standpoint, considering the different opportunities we have with it, I would like to see it be more of a trade school,” she said.
Smith said she could foresee “mechanics, electricians, repairmen, repair businesses on the first floor, then have classes on the second floor. Those are industries that have been recession-proof.”
Some critics have asserted that Smith lacks experience to serve on the council, but she said many of the things she does, such as her work with the Palms West Chamber and the Royal Palm Art & Music Festival, involve direct interaction with the village. “I’ve had to deal with them on one side,” she said. “Have I been involved in government through the village? No. Have I had to work with them on various projects? Yes.”
Smith pointed out that as a member of the chamber’s Economic Development Task Force, she has worked with the “buy local” program to help local businesses. “I think that was a huge program,” she said. “I would promote a small business Saturday once a month,” she said.
In conclusion, Smith said that people should vote for her because she would bring a fresh perspective to the council.
“My business background is different than other backgrounds that are there,” she said. “I’ve had to work with multiple entities in order to get results.”