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Smith says farewell to City Council — and HHS

Jerry Smith describes the city’s new paid parking during a ‘Council Conversation’ at the Health Sciences Building on Monday — his last day as a City Council member. Jerry Smith describes the city’s new paid parking during a ‘Council Conversation’ at the Health Sciences Building on Monday — his last day as a City Council member.

Jerry Smith, a Hendersonville City Council member for the past 14 years, resigned from the council last week without saying what his political plans in the future may be.

“I do not know what the future holds,” he said. “I look forward to helping my city in other ways. Who knows what the next chapter will hold in my service to the city.”
The council plans to discuss the open seat — and potentially appoint Smith’s replacement — during its Oct. 25 work session. The person that fills the seat would serve until December 2026.
One of the council’s staunchest defenders of neighborhood rights, Smith also was vocal in support of the city’s right to maintain authority over its water-sewer system despite efforts by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to exert more control and was a strong proponent of spending on parks and greenways.
He’s made a big change in his teaching career, too. After resigning over the summer from his civics teaching job at Hendersonville High School, he starts Monday at East Henderson High School teaching senior English — a subject a reporter noted he had not taught before.
“You’re correct,” he said. “I told the principal that and he was like, ‘You know what, a guy like you, you’ll figure it out.’”
“No comment,” he responded when asked whether it will be hard to switch from “Go Big Red” to “Eagle Strong.”

Smith delivered a lengthy farewell Thursday night thanking his fellow council members, city staff, voters and his family for their support during his council service. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
“For the past 14 years, I have been able to meet the needs of my family while also serving as a council member. While challenging at times, I feel that I have been able to fulfill both roles to the best of my ability. … My favorite part of being a council member has been the moments I could help an individual with a problem by finding the right person in local government to assist them. I even had a chance to do this today for a constituent. It is extremely fulfilling to see local government work for the residents, businesses, and visitors. … Second, it has been a pleasure to serve on council with some great council members throughout the years. Jeff Collis, Jeff Miller, Ron Stephens, Steve Caraker and Ralph Freeman, and of course the council members with whom I currently serve, have all been exemplary elected leaders of our hometown.”
He thanked the mayor and current council members, making personal tributes to each, and called on constituents to understand that “these four leaders are first and foremost, dedicated family members. They often talk about their families and what they are doing with them, whether as a mom, grandma or spouse. You should also know that sitting as a council member is not easy. There are complicated issues with many angles that have differing impacts on us all. … They are real people who are trying to do the best they can. You may disagree with them but please do respect them and what they are trying to do.”
He praised the team’s leadership team and recalled bringing on the top administrator, City Manager John Connet, in 2013.
“I remember lobbying hard to hire you when you were applying for the manager position,” he said. “Like a seasoned major league manager, you know how to surround yourself with great talent and then let those talented people perform with confidence.”

A fruitful 14 years

After his announcement, council presented Smith with a retirement rocking chair and adopted a resolution crediting him for taking part in notable achievements during his 14 years on the board. During his tenure on the council, Smith was instrumental in:
• Implementing a five-party agreement between the city, Henderson County, Wingate University, Blue Ridge Community College and Pardee Memorial Hospital for the construction of the Health Sciences Building on the Pardee campus.
• Construction of Fire Station No. 2, purchase of multiple fire apparatus, hiring of more than 15 firefighters and life safety personnel, construction of the new Fire Station No. 1, the purchase of land for Fire Station No. 3 and other improvements that helped the city earn ISO Public Protection Class 1 rating for all residents and businesses.
• Investing millions of dollars downtown including streetscape improvements, public restrooms, a public parking deck, repaving of public parking lots and multiple downtown events including Rhythm and Brews.
• Construction and reimagination of the Laura E. Corn minigolf course at Edwards Park.
• Supporting the sale and redevelopment of the Grey Hosiery Mill into workforce housing and putting it back on the tax rolls.
• Advocating for city employee salaries, benefits and service excellence.
• The construction of the new police station on Ashe Street and investment in a home repair program to maintain the character of the Historic Seventh Avenue District.