We first got to know Donnie Smith when the Georgia State Patrol lieutenant returned from a volunteer stint helping keep order in the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina. We were struck by the profound impact it had on his heart, and on his optimistic view of an America that knows how to pull together.
Now, Smith is wanting to pitch in here at home – as an Augusta commissioner. And we’re thrilled to ask District 7 voters to let him.
We have had the privilege of meeting scores of candidates over many years, and we can tell you we’ve never, ever, met a more earnest one than Donnie Smith. When he pauses to respond to a question, you’re not exactly sure whether he’s composing an answer or himself. He’s that passionate, and compassionate, for this community.
It’s noteworthy that, in his going door to door in commission District 7, the No. 1 concern on voters’ minds just so happens to be the reason he’s running: As a member of the Leadership Georgia class a few years ago, Smith was impressed by the amount of cooperation and progress he saw in other Georgia communities, large and small. Voters tell him that’s precisely what they want here, particularly on an Augusta Commission historically infamous for its infighting.
Meanwhile, Smith had to ask himself what he was doing to help get us to a better place. So he decided to run for the commission seat being vacated by the end of Jerry Brigham’s term.
Smith pledges to be a fiscal conservative like Brigham, but Smith’s 28 years of law enforcement experience – with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office as well as the state patrol – immediately show up in his short list of priorities. Besides addressing millions in budget deficits, he points to making Highway 56 safer, as well as “restoring Lake Olmstead to its former beauty, improving drainage problems in National Hills and making Skinner Mill Road safer for motorists and pedestrians.”
These issues will be all the more important when the expanded Panama Canal and deepened Savannah port put thousands more trucks through Augusta.
“We’re positioned for success if we have the vision,” he says.
He also wants relief for high fire taxes near Fort Gordon, a successful merger of Augusta State University with Georgia Health Sciences University, and a commission that invests in all areas of the county – not by district, but by need and impact. And he wants to be a commissioner who gives back – by listening and helping constituents with problems, certainly, but also literally: The Rotarian and Exchange Club member has pledged to donate a third of his commission salary to charity.
Smith says he learned a lot from two role models: Sheriff Ronnie Strength and longtime legislator Jack Connell. In Strength, he saw honesty, frankness and accountability; in Connell, whom he got to know while assigned to the legislature, he saw an uncanny humility and willingness to listen.
Those qualities, plus Smith’s law enforcement skills and a heart both softened and strengthened after Katrina, cannot help but make for an excellent Augusta commissioner.
We urge you to vote for Donnie Smith for District 7 commissioner.