Mr. Smith wants to go to Atlanta… again
by Eric Johnson
When Democratic State Rep. Earnest Smith is out campaigning for the District 125 seat, he talks to people who are worried about their futures.
“Primarily, they’re looking at job security and new jobs,” he says. “And career changes.”
As a senior executive strategist for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Smith sees the way the new economy has changed the workplace and he wants to help the region keep pace.
“I’ve been working within the school system to make sure that our young people understand that what companies and corporations are looking for now are critical thinkers,” he says. “They’re not simply doing what we did 30 years ago, which is looking for people who have degrees in accounting or business management. They want someone who really and truly has some technological expertise.”
He points to the expansion of Plant Vogtle, the changes at SRS and the new combined university to highlight the magnitude of these changes and the impact they will have on the region. He says his understanding of these changes makes him a more dynamic candidate to the movers and shakers interested in investing in the community.
“I talk to quite a few of CEOs, and CEOs will talk to you if they think you kind of get what they’re actually looking for,” he says. “If you really don’t have an experience in these realms, they’re disinclined to want to talk to you as a policy maker, but if they know you’re steeped in these areas of professional expertise, not only do they call you back, but they’ll seek you out, and that’s kind of what’s been happening to me.”
A former air traffic controller in the Air Force, Smith put in several years on the Aviation Commission, where he was part of the group arranged for the new terminal to be built.
“Legislators have to have some business acumen to really, truly craft policy, extrapolate what’s necessary for a region and to bring that into a worldwide initiative right here in our area,” he says.
It comes down to leadership.
“Leadership is about compassion, and when you’re compassionate and you have a vision, you can put these things together and really make some things happen,” he says.
Making things happen — more specifically, the lack of making things happen — is one of the things Smith’s opponent, Republican David Hopper, is running on. Accusing him of simply filling the seat vacated by Hardie Davis when he left the House to run for State Senate, Hopper alleges Smith has accomplished little of value during his time in Atlanta.
“I don’t believe in trying to get frivolous legislation passed just to say, ‘I got this passed,’” he says. “But I co-sponsored a bill this past session that affects everyone in Georgia — the Whistleblowers Protection Act, which means that if you’re an employee and your employer is doing illegal activities and you blow the whistle on them, they can’t retaliate against you.”
Smith says the bill a long time coming.
“It was a hole that we needed to fill because when you see the downgrading of the lawsuits and the amounts that claimants can receive for the lawsuits because of the tag that’s put on them of frivolous — it’s been detrimental to the actual people who were really getting hurt, which were the employees. So we had to put something in place that would really help everyone.”
Aside from that, Smith says he found some of the other legislation passed during the last session disappointing.
“I don’t think the immigration bill was a good bill for the state, because it’s hypocritical,” he says, singling out the E-Verify language. “I’d like to see it shelved and start back over and do it the right way.”
He also isn’t happy with the drug testing requirement attached to female welfare recipients, saying evidence shows that women on welfare aren’t the ones typically with drug problems.
“If you want welfare women and women on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to take a drug test, how about we ask the leadership of the state to step up to the plate and lead by example,” he says. “Why don’t we take a drug test once a year? That was summarily voted down.”You Might Also Like: