Throughout February, my posts have featured women in local government, focusing on their roles and highlighting their contributions to the community. This week, we meet Kristina Smith, alderwoman for the town of Canton.
Many individuals point to a specific event that inspired them to enter public service. Hopeful MPA applicants may include descriptions of inspirational experiences in their personal statements. Politicians often tell stories describing encounters that motivated them to seek office. When I asked Alderwoman Kristina Smith what compelled her to enter public service, she pointed to a series of events. The city council meeting she attended as a young girl. The speech given by a president calling on individuals to get involved to make their communities a better place. An unexpected opportunity to lead in her new town.
The city council meeting Kristina attended as a young girl scout marked her first exposure to local government. She was struck by the diversity of leadership on the council. Following this experience, she realized serving in a leadership position does not require a specific type of person with a certain set of skills. Anyone can lead if they are willing to take on the challenge! Years later, Kristina moved to Canton with her family and became involved in her community. When the opportunity to run for local office arose, Kristina accepted
the challenge and was elected in 2017. In her new role as Alderwoman, Kristina enjoys engaging the community, problem solving, and always searching for the best outcome for Canton, regardless of the issue.
Given her experience, I asked Kristina if she had any advice to share with women interested in local government careers. Don’t doubt yourself or question your abilities, she said, “rather than asking yourself ‘can I lead?’ tell yourself, ‘I’m ready to lead.’” She emphasized the power of transferable skills and how beneficial they can be in taking on new opportunities. “There isn’t a single role for you,” she remarked, “think about all of your experiences and how they complement different roles.” As Kristina learned in that city council meeting, anyone can lead. The only limitations you have are the ones you put on yourself.