Earl Smith’s best-known foray into civic engagement came in 2013 when former Scottsville supervisor Chris Dumler was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery—and refused to resign from the Board of Supervisors while spending weekends in jail. Smith decided to do something about it.
“We have so many Facebook warriors who yell and scream about it,” says Smith, who announced his candidacy for the Board of Supervisors June 23. He looked up the code for getting rid of an elected official, collected the required number of signatures and petitioned a circuit court judge to remove Dumler from office, a move pretty much unprecedented in Virginia. The judge said she couldn’t oust Dumler, but five days later, he resigned anyway and Virginia code now includes sexual battery as grounds for axing an elected official.
“If I say I’m going to do something, I do it,” says Smith, 51. “That’s from being a red-headed only child. I was the ‘why?’ kid.”
Smith was born in Charlottesville at Martha Jefferson Hospital, and his family moved to southern Albemarle when he was 12 years old. “Everybody I meet is so happy to have someone who grew up here and knows the area, not someone who moved here 10 years ago,” says Smith.
Now the district manager for a local frozen custard firm, Smith has worked for Subway, Miss Utility and the former Boudreau’s restaurant, and he owned his own restaurant, Firehouse Bar and Grill on Preston Avenue. He tangled with the city in 2002 when plans circulated to build a five-story building in the triangle at Preston and Grady avenues.
Smith is running as a Republican for the seat currently held by Democrat Jane Dittmar, who is not seeking reelection, against planning commissioner Rick Randolph, whom Dittmar has endorsed.
It was the board’s decision to raise property taxes 2 cents to 81.9 cents per $100 assessed value that pushed Smith to consider a run. “They wanted to go higher,” he says. He describes his father as a man who worked overtime and saved to own his home. “My father said, ‘I’m not sure I want to live here because it’s out of control,’” says his son.
The southern part of the county has been neglected, says Smith, and it’s taken too long to get the 5th Street Station shopping center open. “Why can’t we have a Walmart or Lowe’s on Fifth Street?” he asks. With around 80,000 people living south of town and in Buckingham and Fluvanna, thousands of cars could have been taken off U.S. 29 when a big box was first proposed at that location back in 1999, he says.
And on Route 20, the main artery between Scottsville and Charlottesville, locals know where the ditches are that fill up and flood the road when it rains. “That’s a major road,” says Smith. “Fix the damn drainage.”
Smith says he feels more like a statesman than a politician, and he’s not going around asking people for money. Whether that strategy will get him elected to the Board of Supervisors remains to be seen, but if it does, he promises, “My squeaky wheel is all about Scottsville.”