proven leadership, tangible results
I was first elected to Blacksburg Town Council in 2008: I've served three times as Vice Mayor since then, and will finish my first term as Mayor at the end of 2021.
Though I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, I'm glad to say that Blacksburg has been my home for nearly 40 years. My husband and I both grew up in cities, but quickly learned to cherish our adopted home in these mountain foothills.
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 Up on the Roof, a mixer for young professionals; co-founded the Summer Solstice Fest; and am now engaged with 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