ALBANY — When Leroy Smith came back to Albany, he said he saw a disconnect between the residents and local community.
“I looked around and saw a lot of work to be done,” Smith said.
An Albany High School graduate, Smith is from a military family. He was in the Army for 22 years before retiring in 1999. He came back to Albany in 2007 to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Since his return, he said he has been talking to people about their concerns and has coordinated with government officials on the local and state level to get these concerns resolved.
Smith said a sewage infrastructure issue in the Shadowlawn Drive area, the intersection at South Slappey and Oglethorpe boulevards — which required the help of the Georgia Department of Transportation — and an issue involving Carver Avenue have been among the issues that he’s gotten involved in.
That’s the kinds of things that have earned him a reputation for getting things done.
“Folks have called on me to help them,” Smith said.
A perceived disconnect between the city and the residents of Ward VI led Smith to challenge for the seat on the Albany City Commission that is up for grabs during the Nov. 5 municipal election.
Smith briefly attended Darton College following his high school graduation, until he was old enough to join the Albany Police Department.
“I worked there a year and decided it was not my calling,” he said.
The brief stint in law enforcement was followed by his military career, retirement and the return to Albany. During his time in the Army, he has served in a number of capacities, volunteering when needed.
“Wherever I have been, I always have been involved in the community,” Smith said.
During his time in Albany, Smith said he has acted as a private citizen when reaching out to leadership on issues that impacted the community. If elected as a commissioner, he said he will work to move Ward VI in a new direction.
“Ward VI has been without representation for a long, long time,” Smith said. “We have a commitment to join in local government.
“There is great work being done. I want to represent Ward VI to move them in the right direction to get more work done.”
Public safety, sewage improvements and public service are among the things Smith said he would like to tackle if he is elected.
“This city can do a much better job serving the public than they have been,” he said.
The public safety improvements Smith singled out include addressing personnel shortages and bringing in more technology to make the jobs of law enforcement easier — including cameras and monitoring services.
“I believe the police officers in the city of Albany can be more technologically advanced,” Smith said.
Public service issues that have drawn Smith’s attention include maintaining sidewalks that may be buckling, fixing lights that are not functioning and keeping up with the beautification process after Hurricane Michael.
“We could just do a better job in public services,” Smith said.
The commission hopeful said a focus needs to be placed on ensuring Albany has a positive public image, specifically by preventing crime and cleaning up litter on the city’s streets.
“The way people look at the city of Albany is that it is a dangerous place to live,” Smith said. “There are a lot of places not kept very well.”
Parks still needing to be beautified, trash cans tending to overflow, handrails in place not connected to anything, he said, are among the issues people see generally see in the city.
“Once we improve our image, our population will increase, people will stay here, and businesses will want to come here,” Smith said. “Once I get onboard, my goal is to (do) what I can to improve Ward VI.
“I think our community resources are not as bad as (people) think they are.”
Smith said, in the end, strong leadership is all that is needed. But personal ownership also plays a part, he said, in cleaning up the community.
“It’s a large ward geographically and in population size, and for that ward to have gone as long as it has without a voice, that is why it has gotten (like it has)” he said. “I am a proven leader in experience and training, and first and foremost, committed to serve.
“That carries a lot of weight.”
Smith describes himself as someone who likes to shake hands and interact and said he intends to merge that interest into his role as a commissioner if he is elected.
“Community input and feedback play a role,” he said. “I plan on having monthly town hall meetings for Ward VI. It’s the feedback I need to be the driving force to serve the community.
“I can’t lead people if I don’t know them. I can’t lead the community if I don’t serve in the community.”