After college and the Navy Reserves, Will Smith has turned his attention to one of three District 20 seats in the Maryland House of Delegates that will be up for grabs in the 2014 primary.
Dels. Sheila Hixson and Tom Hucker, both of Silver Spring, and Del. Heather Mizeur of Takoma Park — all Democrats — now represent the district, which covers Takoma Park and much of Silver Spring.
“I really feel compelled to give back,” said Smith, 31, who credits the community support he received growing up in Silver Spring for helping him achieve success.
Smith announced his intentions to file earlier this month. Justin W. Chappell is the only candidate who has formally filed thus far, but over a dozen have expressed interest or been named as potential candidates by local political nabobs.
The interest in the seat may well be because of Mizeur’s apparent interest in running for governor, according to former County Council member Gail Ewing.
Incumbents have name recognition, a big bankroll and other advantages, she said. An open field, meanwhile, draws “everyone who’s thought about [running].”
“District 20 is a hotbed of young ambitious Democratic party activists, the easiest thing to run for is for an open delegate seat,” said Gus Bauman, the former chairman of the county planning board.
A 2004 graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Smith said the sacrifices his parents made to help him earn a good education are part of what motivates him to run for office.
His father, William C. Smith Sr., worked as a cab driver for decades. His salary went to putting Smith and his siblings through school.
Meanwhile, his mother, Patricia Gill Smith, worked for three decades at the General Services Administration.
Smith said his priorities include education, transportation and the environment.
He is an enthusiastic supporter of the Purple Line, he said.
“When ground is broken, I want to make sure it happens in an environmentally sensitive manner and in a way that takes the concerns of small local businesses into account,” he said. “It’s something that is essential for our community, I just want to make sure its done in a responsible way.”
Education is also a critical issue for the district, he said. One specific goal of his would be to keep tuition rates low at Maryland’s public universities, he said, along with supporting Montgomery College, which he called a “cost effective alternative” for students to earn credits before they transfer to a four year institution.
“All my policy initiatives are aimed with an eye towards economic prosperity and social justice,” he said.
Smith admits that at 31, he is young. But he says his youth is not an issue.
“I may be younger, but that doesn’t mean I’m inexperienced,” he said.
He has worked with local community groups and has two advanced degrees. President Barack Obama appointed him to work at the Department of Homeland Security on one of the department’s advisory councils.
“I was constantly interacting with high-level government officials from the secretary to sitting governors,” he said.
Oh, and the name thing? He’s used to it.
“That’s been going on since freshman year of college,” he said.