Indiana, PA - Indiana County

CANDIDATE: Gerald Smith

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on October 29, 2013 10:00 AM

Gerald Smith won Democratic and Republican nominations for Indiana council in the spring primary, but got the chance to start getting experience as a councilman without waiting for the general election.

Smith was elected by council in July to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Tom Shively. Shively’s departure was one of two vacancies for Second Ward council representatives within a few weeks earlier this year.

Smith enters next week’s general election as an incumbent with about four months’ experience as a sitting councilman.

A math teacher in the Indiana Area School District, Smith grew up in St. Louis and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy from Northwestern University. He taught in public schools in St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; Renton, Wash.; and Pittsburgh. He also taught in Africa while a Peace Corps volunteer.

Smith left teaching from 2004 to 2008 to become a community organizer with the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. With NWFCO, he coordinated a national health care coalition focused on eliminating racial disparities in health outcomes and worked as a regional campaign manager for the national health care campaign that resulted in the Affordable Care Act.

Since coming to Pennsylvania, Smith has been an active volunteer with local environmental organizations and Indiana County Democratic campaigns. He founded the Coalition for a Healthy County and the Indiana Neighborhoods Community Association and has worked with the Center for Community Growth, the Friends of Yellow Creek and the Three Rivers Community Foundation.

Smith said one of the main reasons he is interested in serving on council is because be believes in community, and the Indiana community is shrinking.

He noted Indiana’s population dropped 13 percent from 2000 to 2010, and last month he asked Indiana residents to share with council the reasons people stay, not leave, Indiana. He suggested policies could be adjusted based on that feedback from residents.

Smith said his experiences in community activism and in bringing people together to address issues and solve problems are assets he brings to the Indiana council table.

Smith said he wants to help expand Indiana’s reputation as a regional destination.

“We need to be proactive in developing and promoting Indiana’s reputation as a local and regional destination by building on our assets,” such as the Jimmy Stewart legacy and the Wonderful Life events.

He also supports doing more to promote the borough’s farmers market, finding ways to have local agriculture play more of a role in the borough and creating a “buy local” campaign to encourage residents to spend their dollars in the borough.

Smith considers the Indiana Free Library one of the borough’s “prime assets” and supports keeping it at its present location.

He believes borough government could be more efficient by reducing the number of council seats and by having a full-time borough manager as it has in the past.

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