Dede Smith Running for Council

Dede Smith is the latest Democrat to declare her candidacy for the party’s City Council nomination. The Fry’s Spring resident and former Charlottesville School Board chair doesn’t lay out any specific campaign promises in her candidacy announcement announcement, but presumably will have more to say on Monday afternoon when she announces formally. Her press release follows.

Dede Smith will announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination to City Council on Monday, June 13 at 12:15 pm at Forest Hills Park off Cherry Ave,. Please meet under the large white oak at the corner of Forest Hills Ave and Forest Hills Rd.

Dede has lived in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood of Charlottesville for more than 30 years and has been involved in many civic, educational, and environmental issues. Please see Dede’s bio attached. She believes that

“Our quality of life here in Charlottesville is unique and precious, and that we can have it all, a deep enriching history, stunning landscape, a vibrant urban culture, and opportunities for all of our citizens. But if we are going to preserve this quality of life, and make it even better for all residents, we need strong, creative leadership. Charlottesville has 20th century problems that require 21st century ideas and solutions. I believe that by finding innovative solutions we can ensure an even higher quality of life for future generations.”

Please join Dede and supporters on Monday for a brief press conference followed by an opportunity to ask questions. Stay for a picnic lunch if you can.

32 thoughts on “Dede Smith Running for Council”

  1. This news is very troubling for many of us in the community who watched Ms. Smith’s poor leadership (an assessment by the mayor and a city councilor at the time) as chair of the Charlottesville City School Board. I hope she will directly address a number of troubling issues from that time, including the numerous secret meetings she presides over (her Board was censured by the Virginia Coalition for Open Government), bullying CCS school principals in a private meeting, and allowing the hiring of the outgoing School Board Chair, Linda Bowen, by the new superintendent, Scottie Griffin, immediately after Ms. Bowen’s School hired Dr. Griffin. The good news here is that much of the record of that time remains accessible via the internet. (Google “Dede Smith Scottie Griffin” or “Dede Smith School Board Chair”.) As far as I know, Ms. Smith has never publicly addressed her poor leadership of CCS during the Scottie Griffin tenure. It will be interesting to see how she handles this now.

  2. Sounds like Mr. Ackerman never got over his differences from so long ago in 2005. On the other hand Ms. Smith has the support of several past Mayors and both of the incumbent Vice-Mayors (Dave Norris and Holly Edwards). It appears that the test of time in on Ms. Smith’s side and that Mr. Ackerman should take the hint and fade away. His memories of the 2005 school board years need not plague the community any longer.
    Ms. Smith tossed her name into the current City Council Race today. She was joined by many of her supporters which numbered several times the amount who turned out for ANY other candidate. Let’s let the people speak and let Mr. Ackerman fight his windmills of the past.

  3. Mr. Lloyd, you believe my serious concerns about Dede Smith’s leadership style mine alone. That they are groundless–my “windmill of the past?” Really? Were you living in town then? Did you read the newspapers? (See the journalism of Bob Gibson referenced in earlier blog posts on this site.) Scottie Griffin’s tenure in the city schools was one of the lowest–if not THE lowest–moment in CCS history. I don’t know that anyone would argue with that characterization. (Please correct me if Dede Smith campaign intends to extol her leadership of the schools during the Scottie Griffin era. That would make for an interesting discussion.) She was the chair of the board during the full 9 months Griffin held the job. She was Scottie Griffin’s boss. Dede Smith set the agenda for meetings, and she ran them. That she chose to hold many meetings in secret–out of town without a taped record, in a classroom at CHS before the regular meetings–speaks to her disregard for Virginia’s open meeting laws. (See the August 2005 newsletter of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government’s report on the Charlottesville School Board’s illegal effort to hide the amount of Griffin’s buyout.) That she bullied principals and teachers speaks to her leadership style. She has not apologized for her behavior, so I am left to assume she is proud of how she behaved. So we should expect that she will act the same way if elected to the city council. Do we want round 2 of Dede Smith? Or do we want city leaders who collaborate, follow the spirit AND the letter of the law, and get things done?

  4. What we really don’t want is another round of Karl Ackerman with his secret email lists full of innuendo and rumor mongering. People have moved on, Karl, including the four present and former mayors and two former city councilors who stood by Dede at her announcement on Monday (Dave Norris, Maurice Cox, Frances Fife, Nancy O’Brien, Kevin Lynch, and John Conover).

  5. I do think Ms. Smith made some missteps during her time on school board, but I can’t think of a single teacher who felt “bullied” by Dede Smith during that time period.

    I can, however, think of many teachers who felt bullied by various members of the public during that time.

  6. So, at best, a divisive candidate?

    Please give me a dredge-first, grade-separated-interchange-first candidate who can be competitive in this race, and I’ll support them.

  7. P.S. Who did the due-dilegence in the hiring of Griffin?

    (Honestly, I don’t know.)

  8. I’d like to hear from the School Board members who served with Dede Smith: Ned Michie, Peggy Van Yahres, Byron Brown, Julie Gronlund, Muriel Wiggins, and Bill Igbani. How well does she collaborate with others, and with the public? Did they feel well served by her leadership on the School Board? We need city councilors who can get things done, not just on one issue, but on all the issues facing the city. The only thing Dede Smith did as School Board chair that I could support was casting her vote to buy out Scottie Griffin’s contract. And that cost us $300,000. @ Walt: yes Ray and Associates was the search firm that found Scottie Griffin. And the school board paid them to do the background check. We never did that ourselves.

  9. What we really don’t need is another round of elitist democrat clique(and I am a liberal) bashing of Karl Ackerman whose only problem is he tells the truth and blows the whistle on incompetence even in his own party. When you sign up for a political party you don’t leave your brain, your long-term memory, and your principles at the door in exchange for a party card. Or maybe you do and that’s why no one votes.

    To personalize this as Ackerman not getting over some gripe he had in the past is just so mendacious, sleazy, and disingenuous. Read the Hook, the Progress from that time as data for making an informed decision about candidates in this election. It wasn’t Ackerman making stuff up, it was Bob Gibson reporting the facts. It was City Council Members questioning the leadership of the school board. Some of the above comments are like a slight-of-hand trick where the speaker tries to get you off message by getting you to pay attention to his other hand, in this case Ackerman supposedly tilting at windmills. Its not Ackerman’s memories that plague the community it party people running their friends despite their lack of qualifications. Its that kinda crap that makes us independents think twice about Schilling or the Citizens Party. “Innuendo” and “rumor mongering” are only a smoke screen for “please stop telling the truth about what is going on in dark, smoke-filled rooms.” Ackerman is as much a rumour monger as Robert Reich is.

    Charlottesville is used to being this town run by a few party people. Well the times they are a changing. The demographics are changing. We want more transparency and open politics, not boss hog.

    Talk about not letting go of the past: The dam and the parkway. Perhaps that’s what’s behind all this. I may have not supported either of those things either but its over, get over it…or can you only dish it and not take it. We have other things to worry about in our city like poverty, racism, economic development, our schools and the increasingly disenfranchised kids in them, the redevelopment process, public housing.

    The last election should have taught us something.

    Norris and Szakos were not party insiders, like the the ones who showed up the the above-mentioned announcement rally-that should tell you something. Cville is tired of the same old, same old party clique who have been running this town for years. You know the ones who chased David Toscano into the Citizen’s Party years ago. They want fresh faces and ideas, like Dave and Kristen and Collette Blount and Kathy Galvin. Oh but Dave Norris showed up at the rally you say. Yeah… but come on, we all know he’s paying back the water policy favor, he’s loyal to a fault-you gotta give him that.

    Maybe Karl Ackerman should run, and you might be surprised, the 75% of people who came out and voted for the elected school board might just turn out and vote for him. For now, Ackerman’s not running so how about people on the blogosphere stick to the historical facts and lay off the defamation and slandering of a private citizen who is not a public official or running for office (hint hint)or I’ll give him 10,000 to run and another 10,000 for an attorney :).

    BTW, I thought the dems had a rule that if you run in the firehouse you can’t support non-dem approved candidates? Has that happened recently? Dem, heal thyself.

    From what I saw with the elected school board referendum (and how did we get to an elected school board?), cville voters will do the right thing in August. They are smart and principled.

  10. Thanks, Truth. Bit late getting to see this due recent efforts to tilt at windmills, which these days are on set very tall poles…. Just so people who read this blog know, I am a Democrat who doesn’t get involved in the squabbles of the Democratic Party in Charlottesville. More focused on good leadership. And good leadership, to me, starts with people of integrity who respect good governance and process. (That’s why Kathy Galvin has my vote in this race.) Good leaders aren’t true believers. (They are broad-focused and open-minded.) Dede Smith is a narrow-focused, closed-minded, true believer. She doesn’t listen well. She makes up her mind about what she wants to do and will attempt to roll over whoever is in her way. This was what anyone who watched her saw in the last job public service job she held as school board chair. She was a failure in that job because she didn’t see herself as accountable to the stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, voters. In the Scottie Griffin days, Dede Smith had the School Board meet regularly (and illegally) in Mike Evan’s classroom at CHS before regularly scheduled meetings–to draft statements, talk strategy, and get their ducks in order. As chair of the Board, it apparently didn’t matter to Dede Smith that the open meeting laws were being routinely violated. (When the School Board came into meetings with statements of support for the superintendent prepared, many of us in the audience wondered, and I asked, where the conversation had taken place that allowed the Board to draft statements outside the public eye. We never got an answer.) If Dede Smith has flouted the political process in the past, and violated open meeting laws, why shouldn’t we expect her to do so again as a city councilor? Answer: we should. My favorite open meeting violation story: Dede Smith’s School Board went to Williamsburg for a retreat and met illegally in Nov, 2004. (There wasn’t proper notification of the meeting and the meeting wasn’t tape recorded, as required by law. I know this because I asked other school board members and they told me.) So, citing FOIA, I asked Dede Smith and Scottie Griffin to provide the tapes of the Williamsburg meeting. I was invited to Central Office to listen to these tapes. More than a little intrigued since I knew there were no tapes, I went to Central Office. Poor red-faced Bobby Thompson led me to the conference room and sat me down at the table with a cassette tape recorder and a stack of tapes, and then told me that the meeting had been recorded, but the machine had failed. All the tapes before me, labelled “Williamsburg” with the date, were blank. So the tape deck is still broken, I said. No, he replied. It works now. It just didn’t work then. I looked at the stack of tapes and imagined how such a scenario might work. Sudden tape recording malfunction with the red taping light on? Tape after tape? Then, upon return to Charlottesville, the tape recorder starts working again? I didn’t believe the story for a second because Bobby Thompson hadn’t looked me in the eye the whole time, and all but fled from the room when I thanked him for the story. I sat there thinking about what it must be like to work for someone like Dede Smith, who had ordered a subordinate to lie. What are we to make of a leader who would do this? If Dede Smith won’t address her serious errors of the past, why should she expect our vote?

  11. I know Dede smith. she is a sweet person. I went to school with her son. I wish her all the best. you have my support dede.

  12. “We have other things to worry about in our city like poverty, racism, economic development, our schools and the increasingly disenfranchised kids in them, the redevelopment process, public housing.” These issues are no more important to this community than the issues she has been working on for years.
    @Karl Ackerman, you should be able to guess that I agree with every negative comment that have been posted on this blog about you and your actions. You know that all meetings dealing with personnel matters are closed to the public and are held “behind closed doors.” Yet you try to convince such naive people as truthtopower to think otherwise. I remember those Dr. Griffin days well – the hours you and Lictensomebody spent in school board meetings screaming at the school board about Dr. Griffin’s transfer of two elementary school teachers and calling her incompetent for doing so. Of course the school board met frequently because of your screaming at every meeting about this personnel matt5er. Every year teachers are transferred. Your behavior doing those months was despicable and it will come back on you and your family. Thank you, Former Teacher for your comments. Karl Ackerman is quick to spout out conclusions but he has always failed to give examples of the former superintendant’s incompetent actions because she was not here three months before he and his pack moved in for the kill. That’s why so few people applied to replace her.
    Kathy Galvin? She has just voted to waste $36M in remodeling schools to move the fifth graders back to the elementary schools (in an effort to save money tax money supposedly) and now she wants to move onto Council to be in a position to get the money for this project. Other than the schools I have not seen where she has been interested in anything in this town and she will not be getting my support for anything.

  13. CvilleEye, I stand by everything I wrote and said (never screamed–no need to–the actions of Dede Smith and Scottie Griffin spoke loudly enough) during the 2004/2005 school year. The public issue was never merely about the transfer of teachers (see list below). This is not my story, it was investigated and reported by the best journalist we (once) had in Cville, Bob Gibson. Much of the community discussion occurred on this site. The letter to Scottie Griffin from the assistant superintendent she had hired five months earlier first appeared on

    It outlines many of the issues, from the perspective of an insider.

    The city school principals asked to speak with the mayor–that’s how poisoned the atmosphere in the schools became. Who caused that? Dede Smith and Scottie Griffin. If this is leadership Dede Smith is proud of, I welcome a public discussion where she explains exactly why she was proud.

    As I wrote on the Hook site the other day, see :

    “Every politician runs on her record. It is time for Dede Smith to talk about the $300,000 buyout of Scottie Griffin’s contract, the secret meetings she convened, her poor supervision of a superintendent whose faulty background check was well known within a couple months of her hire, the atmosphere of meanness that the city schools principals had to work under during her tenure as school board chair, highly questionable hiring practices she approved, highly questionable procurement practices she condoned, dismally low morale in Central Office that she allowed to fester that led the #3 person in the division to write a stunning repudiation of Scottie Griffin’s leadership.”

    As to your point that the School Board was allowed to meet secretly because they were dealing with a personnel matter, you are incorrect. ALL meetings by public bodies such as School Boards must be properly noticed; and if a meeting is closed the public body must note the valid reason by which the public will be excluded. When our school board met in secret–in Williamsburg, in a classroom at CHS before regular meetings, in their lawyer’s office, and perhaps other locations, the meetings weren’t noticed. These weren’t “closed” meetings; they were secret meetings. The 2004/2005 Charlottesville City School Board, with Dede Smith as chair, was publicly criticized for this behavior by the Virginia Coalition for Open Government in their August 2005 newsletter.

  14. Also, for anyone who might know real info or else opine in absence thereof: why didn’t the City or the City School System sue the search firm?

  15. #1 We (the city and the schools) wanted the whole mess to go away. (That’s why we bought out 2 years of Griffin’s contract for $290,000.)

    #2 We may not have had grounds for a lawsuit. Can you sue a firm for doing a lousy background check if the terms of background check weren’t spelled out? (I don’t know if they were or weren’t.)

    Dede Smith would have more info on your question, perhaps.

  16. @Karl Ackerman, that woman’s letter was written in February 2005. Your group was yelling before November 2004. Check the dates on your bradcastmails enlisting citizen support to “take back our schools.” That employee was constantly trying to do the work that was assigned to ofther staff members, getting in their way, and not doing what she was assigned. That was put in writing by Dr. Griffin. I met the woman – flighty in mind all over the place. Made me somewhat dizzy after a while. You don’t remember flailing your hand about at one of the public meetings? The opinion of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (whoever they are)is just that, an opinion. We have no idea what evidence it used to come to its conclusion and who supplied it. I am sure you stand by everything you wrote then and now. I also stand by everything I have written.
    As for the principals, it is my understanding that a Councilman asked the principals to meet with him. One of the principals at the time told me he thought he was being setup or manipulated by the Councilman but he was curious to know what would be said.
    As for what was printed in the Hook – that was mainly he say she say as was the articles written by Bob Gibson for whom I have lost total respect for becoming a pack rat. Glad he left the paper.

  17. @ Walt– the search firm offered to re-do the failed hire with a free search. that was a standard part of their contract. the problem was, who in their right minds would have taken them up on the offer at that point?

  18. CvilleEye@ says: “We have other things to worry about in our city like poverty, racism, economic development, our schools and the increasingly disenfranchised kids in them, the redevelopment process, public housing.” These issues are no more important to this community than the issues she has been working on for years.”

    Yeah, right… the water issue is more important that the history of racism in this town, just more propaganda from the old dem guard of Cvill, supporting Smith. Who is naive? Ackermen didn’t need to convince me of anything, I saw it with my own eyes and heard it from my own ears from principals and other division employees. So did a lot of other people who showed up and did the right thing though it was unpopular and uncomfortable, as whistle blowing often is. CANDIDATES RUN ON THEIR RECORD!

    You obviously refuse to see the facts. Ackerman and MANY OTHER CITIZENS IN CHARLOTTESVILLE were just out in front of the news story that verified the facts and the conclusions. What makes you think that woman who wrote the letter in February was not in contact with other in November?

    73% voted for the elected school board after this episode. Just face it the preponderance of evidence supports Ackerman’s conclusions. Or are you one of those folks who believed there were WMDs in Iraq?

    You don’t like Gibson because he told a truth you didn’t want to hear. Some folks just like knowledge control, keep the public in the dark. Its not the public’s business, they just get in the way of the elite bosses.

    I think you are an apologist for the old guard of the democratic party that got us into that mess, refused to admit they were wrong and fix it, and cost us $300,000. I was really disappointed with the City Councilors then until they finally stated thier lack of support for the then school board chair. Now that “old dem guard” (and I understand Schilling too, is that right?)is supporting Smith and you want the community to forget the facts and the outcomes so we can get more of the same. This is so old school party machine nonsense. Charlottesville voters didn’t buy that nonsense when they showed up to vote for the elected school board. That’s a sign that voters want out with the old and in with the new. I hope the Left of Center Dems are smart enough to figure this out.

    The entire move to an elected school board was a result of Smith’s lack of leadership on the school board, the old guard’s trying to bury their heads in the sand. I remember that old guard saying in the papers if we went to an elected school board, the board would lose its diversity found under the patronage appointment model- looked how that turned out. The school board has never been so diverse and collaborative (Blount and Galvin are products of this). So just say thanks to Ackerman for helping to fix that problem and to remind us not to repeat bad history this coming election. Your counters to Ackermans chronology are weak and transparent.

    There are plenty of other good candidates out there who have a good record of elected service-vote so for them. Who else voted with Galvin on the School board to reconfigure the schools and save us money?

  19. @truthtopower, I am not nor have I ever been a democrat. I do not belong to political parties (packs). I did support the elected school board. “Who else voted with Galvin on the School board to reconfigure the schools and save us money?” I doubt seriously you can explain to me how spending $36M is actually saving money. I never saw where you stated any of the “preponderance of evidence” that “supports Ackerman’s conclusions.”

  20. Okay, here’s the April 16, 2005 story from this blog. Waldo writes, quoting Bob Gibson:

    “When members of the Charlottesville School Board hired Scottie Griffin as the city’s school superintendent, did they check out her background?”

    “Did they know that Griffin had sued the Flint, Mich., school system in 1999 and that the suit was settled behind closed doors?”

    “Did they know that about 30 students and two parents had picketed outside Flint’s Dort Elementary School when Griffin was principal there asking that she be removed from her position?”

    “Did the Charlottesville School Board know when they hired Griffin from New Orleans that she was being sued there in federal court?”

    “Did anyone in Charlottesville know that two months after Griffin started in New Orleans that Clay had informed her she was requesting a transfer away from Griffin “due to intolerable working conditions?”

    The list goes on, and on, and on[Waldo writes]. Some folks here on had done some homework on Griffin and dug up a couple of these things, but obviously the Progress has been hard at work, because, as I said: damn.

    The bottom line (Karl A. writing) is that if Dede Smith, as the leader of the school division, knew the checkered past of our superintendent and chose to do nothing, she is fully responsible for all that went wrong that year; if she did not know, she is unqualified to hold a position of leadership on the city council.

  21. And this from this site, April 21, 2005:

    Waldo writes:

    “Frankly, though, between Bob Gibson’s piece in Sunday’s Progress and The Hook’s discoveries in this week’s issue (I can’t find the article on their website, but they got a copy of Griffin’s resume and — hoo boy — it’s a humdinger), I can’t see why she’d want to stick around. She’s essentially been exposed as, at best, incompetent. Seven jobs in ten years, four of them she left midway through the school year, two lawsuits (one of them brought by a black subordinate, FWIW), and no real accomplishments to her name… Why continue in this line of business?”

    I saw Scottie Griffin’s resume in August 2004. Dede Smith saw it before she was hired.

  22. @Cville eye,

    wow we have a lot in come, no party affiliation (at least for now), voting for the elected school board. I think the vote on the reorganization of the schools was 7-0.

  23. My gratitude to Karl Ackerman for speaking the difficult truth of Ms. Smith’s failed leadership on the city school board. She will need to address these relevant matters directly in order to have any chance of rebuilding public trust.

  24. “I think the vote on the reorganization of the schools was 7-0.” The vote to reorganizae the schools is one thing. A vote to do so at a cost of $36M is another. That vote does not accomplish what the school board set out to do in the first place which is to save money. Personally, I worry more about $36M more than less than one tenth of that. If any of the current school board members are elected to Council in November, will she care about the sidewalk on Belmont Bridge that will take at least 8 years to fix or care just about the bells and whistles of school reorganization?
    I wonder if the controversy surrounding Dede Smith will cause the local Democratic Party to implode and begin the destruction of its election machine. It will be interesting to watch from now to November, especially since many of those voting then will not be here to vote in August.

  25. Vote for Dede Smith to cause the destruction of the Democratic Party in Charlottesville? Okay, Cville Eye, NOW I get your position! Thanks for clarifying.

  26. @Cville Eye: Our schools need attention too. Facilities are an important part of educational quality. I was recently at a school in Manasas Park and it was state of the art learning environment that was so much more conducive to learning. Do you thin all those candidates focused on the water issue are going to care about the things you mention? Galvin, would as she is the most interested on the livability and design issues in our city.

    I think there are those who would like to see democratic party implode and I suspect Schilling’s support of Smith in his recent blog posting is probably all about that: make the dems fight internally so the Republican/independent candidates benefit. I like Galvin, Blount and ? hmm open to the third candidate as long as they don’t have a poor record of prior service on a govt. body like a previous school board that ended up costing us 300,000 in a buy out for a bad hiring decision.

  27. @Karl Ackerman, read this statement again and see if you come up with a different interpretation of its meaning: “I wonder if the controversy surrounding Dede Smith will cause the local Democratic Party to implode and begin the destruction of its election machine.”
    @truthtopower, “Our schools need attention too. Facilities are an important part of educational quality. I was recently at a school in Manasas Park and it was state of the art learning environment that was so much more conducive to learning.” $36M pays for more than just attention. What is the nature of this “attention?” Will these renovations make Charlottesville’s school facilities state of the art? If so, how so. Is that the new purpose of reorganization? If so, why hasn’t the public been informed? Does our School Board know what state of the art entails? Has the School Board determined how long it expects the staff to incorporate this state of the art into the curriculum? Is it expected that student academic performance will improve. Does it has any evidence that this state of the art has improved student performance in other localities? Will there be a reduction in staff in order to realize the savings that were intended from the outset?
    Nobody is making the dems fight. They seem to be doing that themselves quite competently with seven candidates for the nomination. As we approach August, I suspect we will see more of the candidates criticized publicly by members of their own party. It seems less confrontational to just simply say “I support (blank) for these (one)(two)or(three)reasons and then move on. Far less destructive.

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