With less than three months left on her first and only term as a member of City Council, Katie Hart Smith discussed . She said it was with deliberation and seriousness that she came to this career altering determination.
Mainly citing time as the key factor influencing the decision to leave the council after one term, she quickly dispelled rumors that her departure has anything to do with her fellow council members or the handling of the .
“I don’t have an issue with anybody,” said Smith. “If we have a divergent view we voice it openly.”
This was evidenced during the when Smith accused Councilman Tony Powell of having a conflict of interest in pushing for an amendment to the Alcohol Ordinance that would directly benefit his alleged client, .
Smith, speaking directly to Powell, said that she must caution him as a member of a policy setting body, to do what is in the best interest of the entire city and not just for the good of his client. Smith said Powell had referred to Niko’s as his client in a previously held Work Session. She asked Powell for reassurance that he was speaking as a council member and not as Niko’s attorney.
Although Powell said he has never represented Niko’s and denied stating they are his client, Smith went on to cast the only “No” vote against the amendment.
This wasn’t the only time Smith cast a vote that differed from her fellow council members. During the council meeting in which , Smith and all of those in attendance seemed to have been taken by surprise at council’s haste and selection.
“I was elected to be the voice of the people and I was doing just that,” said Smith. “There is the voice of the people that truly wanted a national search done and I voiced that for them. The vote occurred and I was taken aback a bit by the process. We were putting the cart before the horse; I did not feel we were ready for those discussions. I truly wanted to hear and have input from the public, before we voted.”
These are the types of displays and the compassion expressed about items that have come before the council that has endeared Smith to many of her constituents. And because she is so well liked by supporters, her decision to not run again, was difficult for them to understand and accept.
Some have voiced their dismay at her giving up a stage that allows her to effectuate change for the entire city, to become more involved with an organization addressing the needs of a specific group, . But Smith counters this point of view, by going were the need is the greatest---helping to put people back to work.
“With we want to start small. Then branch it out to the cluster. And then we would like to make this a countywide project,” said Smith.
When envisioning this project Smith, said time must be available to help Stepping Stones program participants with career development, resume writing, interview coaching and business attire. She and her program partner, Lisa Marie Johnson, are building this effort from the ground up.
Smith said she is very excited about starting this new venture and a new phase in her life which could lead to putting more people back to work. When asked what will make Stepping Stones different from other job and career assistance programs, Smith said having and directly involved will increase options and opportunities for program participants.
Asked why she did not consider serving on the council and creating Stepping Stones, Smith again cited not having enough time.
“I am also working full-time for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,” said Smith, “so priorities become a matter of time management. Plus there are a lot of community projects that I am involved with as well.”
Often seen as the “kinder, gentler” policy maker on the council, Smith said her successes have been attributed to her having a “big girl” attitude that is confident in her decision making based on research and by listening to what the community wants and being strong enough to voice it and stand alone if necessary.
In , Smith urged voters to vote with their hearts, always, vote for that individual that will represent the city the best; that will serve as a good-will ambassador and will serve with the utmost respect for the city and the people.
As for her replacement, she advised they stay true to their principles, authentic self and best interest of the citizens. First and foremost she said follow the law. And in voting once on the council, she said to first listen to the people, to be the voice of the people, remember it is never about the individual (council member), and to vote with the heart and brain for the good of the people.
While there are no immediate political plans, Smith did leave the door open for a return to public service.
“I am excited about the Stepping Stones program and I know that the mayor and the council are leading this city in the right direction. But that does not rule out a return (to politics) in the future,” said Smith.