Ellen Smith, who served on Oak Ridge City Council from 2007 to 2012, has announced that she is a candidate for City Council in the November 4 election.
Smith is a 33-year resident of Oak Ridge who describes herself as “an Oak Ridger by choice.” As newcomers to East Tennessee in 1981, she and her husband Rich Norby looked around the area and then chose to buy in Oak Ridge and make this city their home.
Both have made their careers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where Ellen is a research staff scientist in the Environmental Sciences Division and Rich is a corporate fellow in the Environmental Sciences Division and Climate Change Science Institute. Their adult son Karl was born here and attended school at Linden, Robertsville and Oak Ridge High School.
Smith says she decided to run for City Council this year after many citizens from diverse sectors of the city urged her to do so. People tell her they value her knowledge of Oak Ridge, its history and city government; her thoughtful analysis of issues and proposed solutions; and her responsiveness to citizens who contacted her with concerns. She says she is committed to working for the community and all of its citizens.
“Oak Ridge is an extraordinary place with unique assets and opportunities, and also some unique challenges. This is a time of transition for the city. We need to ensure that Oak Ridge remains as attractive for new generations (for example, the ‘millennials’) as it has been for the people who founded this city,” Smith says.
“I’m gratified to see progress from efforts started during my time on Council. We have a first-class city manager who is providing the creative leadership we need in a time of change. New retail developments send the message that Oak Ridge is open for business – and they have demonstrated that new projects can be built without harming the interests of existing residents and property owners. New greenways, our first dog park, and new traffic signals at pedestrian crossings are examples of the quality-of-life amenities that younger generations seek,” she adds.
“Of course, there’s plenty more that needs to be done. The city’s future requires community leadership that recognizes the challenges we face, makes choices that will make the most of our assets and opportunities, and comes together – in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect – to accomplish shared goals. I’m prepared to be one hard-working member of that community leadership,” Smith says.
Smith’s long record of community activity includes nearly two decades as a member of the city’s Environmental Quality Advisory Board (EQAB), on which she currently serves; charter memberships in Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR), Keep Anderson County Beautiful (KACB), and the East Tennessee chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS).
She has participated on various task forces and committees, including groups that developed the greenways master plan, delved into issues related to DOE-related contamination, studied karst (sinkhole) problems in the city and made recommendations aimed at reducing future problems, and provided input to the city center master plan and concepts for the high school renovation project. She currently serves on the nonprofit boards of AFORR, KACB, and TORCH – the Trinity Out-Reach Center of Hope, formed in 2012 to provide services to address homelessness in Oak Ridge.
Smith has continued to monitor City Council activities since leaving Council and has contributed as a volunteer to several city government initiatives. Recently, she participated with other EQAB members in an environmental safety review for the CSX rail line that the city hopes to convert to a trail, and she helped develop a grant proposal for an ambitious “extreme energy makeover” in some of Oak Ridge’s older homes.
A native of Connecticut, Smith received a bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in Minnesota and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service “Elected Officials Academy” for city government officials.