Ron Smith, 64, has spent most of his life as an advocate for children, the disabled and the elderly, working in various state government departments. Now, he wants to take this experience and serve his community.
Smith is running for Bloomington City Council’s District 3 seat and said he wants to focus on preserving Bloomington’s charm amidst development, advocating for neighborhood improvements and more transparent government.
He said his platform does not ignore smaller aspects of life that greatly affect residents.
“It ranges from these really big ideas like development to little things like sidewalks and trash pickup,” Smith said.
Smith is especially interested in the redevelopment of the now-abandoned Kmart on the west side of Bloomington, which falls within District 3.
The developers are proposing a 8 to 12-story office building which does not follow city building codes according to the Unified Development Ordinance. One resident in the area told Smith that if the developers were to build a building that tall, it would block the sun from his house.
“It would negatively impact traffic and the people who live next to it,” Smith said.
The city council can allow exceptions to city height limits – like they did with the Graduate Hotel and Smallwood apartment complex – and Smith wants a say if it comes to that. He has already led two meetings with residents to discuss the issue.
Carl Wilson, a friend of Smith's since college and IT worker at Cook Medical, said Smith’s initiative on the Kmart redevelopment shows his ability to coordinate discussion and listen to residents’ ideas.
“He spent most of his career solving problems,” Wilson said. “I think he’d be great at navigating the issues of his constituents.”
Smith said his ability to read and apply federal and state regulations in everyday life – a skill he gained from a career as a civil servant – would boost his ability to understand complex ordinances that come before the council.
Before working for the state, Smith moved to Bloomington from his home in the Region to attend IU in the '70s. He got his bachelor’s degree in political science and worked as a coordinator of the Community Kitchen in Bloomington after graduation.
He went on to get his master’s degree in social work and worked for the state for almost 30 years in various departments including the Department of Child Services, the Division of Aging, the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning and the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services.
Smith currently works as a care manager at Area 10 Agency on Aging. He coordinates health care, food delivery and other services for people over 60 who live in poverty.
Mary Held, a former colleague of Smith’s at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, said Smith’s social work background has made him a good listener, open to diversity and others' opinions.
“He’s a hard worker,” she said. “He’s not someone who sits still for very long.”
The two worked on a project together to improve training and wages for people who work in disability services. It was state funded and lasted for about five years before the state cut the funding for it.
“It was really good while it lasted,” Held said. “We made a difference in a lot of people's lives.”