In a historic moment in county politics, delegate William C. Smith Jr. was appointed to the Maryland Senate on Dec. 7, becoming the first African American representing Montgomery County to do so. He defeated fellow delegate David Moon by a vote of 19 to 8.
Smith replaced incumbent representative-elect Jamie Raskin for the District 20 seat and was sworn in on Dec. 21. District 20 comprises the areas of Takoma Park and Silver Spring and is the most diverse district of Montgomery County, with one third of the population being African American. According to Bethesda Magazine, he said, “I represent a voice that’s never been heard, that’s never been at the table.”
Smith previously served in the Maryland House of Delegates as a member of the Judiciary Committee and Advisory Council on Determination of Impact of Regulations on Small Business. He has also served and as a director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council under the Obama administration, in addition to holding positions in the US Navy Reserve, Women’s Legislators of Maryland, Maryland Legislative Hispanic Caucus, and the Legislative Black Caucus in Maryland.
Smith’s platform promotes community development and civil rights, as evidenced in his legal career at the ACLU following his graduation of The College of William and Mary. His plans include legislation involving the juvenile justice system and a ban on suspensions for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Justifying his plans, Smith said, “Suspending students in their formative years leads to lower academic achievement and a propensity for those students to miss school,” according to Bethesda Magazine.
Smith’s appointment has been well received by members of the community for the representation his position provides and his progressive ideals.
As the advisor of the Black Student Union at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Nichole Kellerman commented, “William Smith is a great addition to the Maryland Senate.” She continued, “Now, there will be one African American and one Asian American [Senator Susan C. Lee] representing Montgomery County’s diverse population in the Maryland Senate. There is strength in diversity, and working together enhances our ability to be strong.”
“Montgomery County and its schools are becoming more diverse, so it’s nice to see that reflected in the Senate as well,” Preston Gilmore, parent of a student at Ashburton Elementary School in Bethesda, said.
Senator Smith’s appointment represents the increasingly diverse makeup of Montgomery County, and his policies indicate a progressive voice in the Senate for his tenure to come.
Article by MoCo Student Staff Writer Tatum Shirley of Walter Johnson High School