By Dani Salgueiro
After serving on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council for two years, Councilwoman Selena Smith is seeking re-election to the Group 3 seat on Tuesday, March 13.
In her bid for a second term, Smith faces a challenge from businessman Sam Roman.
Smith’s work on the board of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce caused her to fall in love with Royal Palm Beach and eventually influenced her to move to the village in 2009.
Smith’s community involvement has rapidly expanded since relocating to Royal Palm Beach. Smith served on the board of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber for three years, was president of the Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club and was a founding member of the Western Business Alliance. She graduated from Leadership Palms West in 2010 and Leadership Palm Beach County in 2012.
“I have spent most of my time in Palm Beach County working with local businesses and being involved in the area and the community,” Smith said. “I have a really good understanding and appreciation of the western communities.”
Smith was elected to the council in 2016 and said she has spent her time advocating for the matters she said she would tackle if elected: the senior community, local businesses and government transparency.
Shortly after being elected, Smith was influential in the creation of the Senior Ad-Hoc Advisory Board, to which Smith served as council liaison. The board studied senior issues and issued a report with recommendations.
Smith noted that the council has committed to enacting many of those recommendations, such as putting money toward improvements in senior transportation.
“I first came [to South Florida] when I was 10 years old and lived with my grandparents, so I have a huge affinity for the older population,” Smith said.
Smith works closely with the nonprofit Wellington Cares and is working with other village officials to create a similar “Royal Palm Beach Cares” volunteer program to aid the community’s elderly population. The program would provide senior residents with free of charge assistance from a team of volunteers.
Further, the council has recently approved a new assisted living facility and memory care facility on Okeechobee Blvd. near Wildcat Way, Smith said, with the goal of serving those senior residents who need additional care but who also wish to remain living in Royal Palm Beach.
Supporting local businesses has also been another top priority for Smith. Working with her council colleagues, Smith said that she has been able to resolve some of the issues that affected local businesses in the past.
For example, the council worked on revamping signage codes that were previously overly limiting local business owners, she said.
The village has also added new links and features on its web site, making the process of setting up or expanding a business easier and more assessable for owners. Through the online business portals, businesses can be registered quickly. Business owners also have access to information about business permits, code enforcement, zoning, taxing and licensing.
From her experience working with nonprofits and local businesses, Smith strives to ensure that business owners have what they need in order to succeed in Royal Palm Beach. “Every business varies in need, so we make sure that [all businesses] have the tools they need to thrive,” Smith said. “It’s all encompassing that businesses succeed in Royal Palm Beach because these are people who live in our area and whose kids go to our schools.”
Smith has also been working to improve the village’s transparency. Throughout her two years on the council, she has worked on providing the public with information about the village in the way that is most convenient and effective for each individual.
Building from the fact that people receive news and information in varying ways, Smith has worked to incorporate different communication methods that appeal to all of the different people making up the village’s community. These methods vary from social media and newsletters to face-to-face conversation.
“Coming from a marketing background, I am always looking for new ways to get information out there,” Smith said.
Smith said that her efforts to improve transparency and encourage open communication between residents and the council are evident at council meetings. Also supported by other council members, she stressed that the meetings are not only for the council to discuss issues, but also an open platform for residents to join in on the conversation and voice their thoughts and opinions.
“We always have an agenda item to address non-agenda items,” Smith explained. “It’s a public meeting, and we are here to serve the public.”
Her goal is to continue building on and adding to the improvements she has already made for the village’s senior residents, local businesses and all residents through government transparency.
“I have accomplished all three things that I promised to residents, and I will continue to work on them in the future,” Smith said.
If re-elected, Smith would focus on advocating for more assisted living facilities for seniors, filling the village’s empty storefronts by encouraging and aiding local businesses, and improving the current village web site, newsletters and social media sources in order to further enhance residents’ access to information.
Smith also serves as the council liaison to the Recreation Advisory Board, which oversees how Royal Palm Beach uses money through the one-cent sales surtax program. Through this position, Smith said she helps oversee a lot of what the village and its residents need, ranging from recreational yoga classes to road resurfacing projects.
Overseeing the surtax money has also given Smith additional insight into the village’s budget and finances. Smith credits those who came before her for the reserve of extra funds that has accumulated over time. The funds, she explained, are what allow Royal Palm Beach to operate without financial pressures felt by other communities.
“We are in an amazing [financial] place,” Smith said. “We are the envy of everyone else in the county.”
When discussing traffic issues and future influence on the village from development to the west, Smith emphasized that she, along with the council, will continue to do what they can to keep the village accessible for residents.
“It’s important to make sure we work with the county to come up with viable solutions, not just for now but for the future,” Smith said, adding that the emphasis should be on “smart growth.”
The village has made improvements so that residents can now bike ride continuously around the village, as well as to any of the village’s 22 parks, she said. Park entrances, meanwhile, have also been architecturally changed so that people can walk or bike there instead of having to drive, she added.
Smith sees Royal Palm Beach in the future as one that has done exactly what she aims to do if re-elected: continue building on established foundations in order to enhance the living experience of all residents in the village.
Smith imagines a Royal Palm Beach that continues to listen to the opinions and needs of its residents in order to develop and enhance services, facilities, roads and lifestyles.
“My overall wish for Royal Palm Beach in the future is that we remain the village that residents want to live in,” she said. “I moved here because I love the school and park system here, and I hope that we never lose what makes us unique, which is our hometown community.”
Smith promised to keep building on the foundation of improvement that she has already started, explaining that it is just the foundation for the bigger changes and improvement she wishes to make for the Royal Palm Beach community.
“I’m very proud of the fact that two years ago I made a promise to the residents that I was going to work on our senior population, our local businesses and transparency,” she said. “I have spent the last two years promoting and building foundations for each of those, and I will continue to do so if I am re-elected.”