new leadership, with better results
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Though I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, I am glad to say that Blacksburg has been my home for 35 years. My husband and I both grew up in cities, but quickly learned to cherish our adopted home in these mountain foothills. I was first elected to Blacksburg Town Council in 2008, and I'm now serving my third term as Vice Mayor.
We joined a small faith community when we first arrived, and I went to work helping it to organize and grow. Along the way, I discovered a talent for leadership and a passion for service. That small congregation of 50 now has over 250 members and has outgrown its building – twice!
When one of our three children was diagnosed with epilepsy, I founded a support group for parents. I served on the Special Education Advisory Board of the Montgomery County Schools; and remain a regional liaison to the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia.
I am a “Do-er.” Where I find misunderstanding, injustice or need, I work to affect a solution. I was a co-founder of Sustainable Blacksburg and I am a supporter of the Montgomery County Educational Foundation. But I am not an idealogue: I am pragmatic and results-oriented.
My career has likewise focused on community engagement. I have been a news reporter and columnist for the Roanoke Times; Director of Community Programs for the YMCA at Virginia Tech; and also Director of the Downtown Merchants of Blacksburg. On their behalf, I conceived and launched the popular Up on the Roof event; co-founded the Summer Solstice Fest; and am now engaged with installation of The 16 Frogs, a public arts project with an environmental conscience.
There are three things that matter most for place attachment, according to a three-year study of 26 communities by the Knight Foundation. Those three things are: Social offerings, openness and aesthetics. I have devoted my public and private lives to fostering these qualities in the town I love. Growth is a given: Community needs to be cultivated.
- Leslie Hager-Smith