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About Ellen Smith


Invested in Oak Ridge

  • Homeowner and resident for 41 years (since 1981)
  • Married (to Rich Norby) and a mother — child was born here, attended Oak Ridge Schools, now works in San Francisco Bay area tech industry
  • Retired research staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Environmental Sciences Division)
  • An Oak Ridger by choice — as newcomers to East Tennessee,  Ellen and Rich looked around the area, then chose to live in this city

Qualified by city government experience

  • Oak Ridge City Council (2007 to 2012 and 2014 to present)
  • Environmental Quality Advisory Board (1991 to 2007, 2013 to 2014, served several years as chairman)

Qualified by education and training

  • BA, Carleton College (Minnesota), Geology
  • MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Water Resources Management
  • Graduate of UT Municipal Technical Advisory Service “Elected Officials Academy”

Committed volunteer and participant in community organizations and initiatives (list is alphabetical)

  • Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR), charter member and officer
  • Altrusa International of Oak Ridge – member
  • Association for Women in Science (AWIS) – East Tennessee Chapter, charter member and officer (1980s)
  • Community Leadership Award, UT-Battelle (2001)
  • Cub Scout Pack 226 (Linden School) volunteer leader (1996-1998)
  • Friends of ORNL (FORNL) – board member
  • Greenways Oak Ridge – member
  • Joint City/Schools Preschool Planning Committee (2015) – represented the City Council
  • Keep Anderson County Beautiful – founding board member, still serving
  • League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge – member
  • Lower East Fork Poplar Creek Citizens’ Working Group (1992-1994)
  • National League of Cities – Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Advocacy Committee member (2017 to present; chairperson in 2021)
  • NAACP, member of Anderson County – Oak Ridge Branch
  • Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club
  • Oak Ridge City Center Master Plan Steering Committee (2001)
  • Oak Ridge Civic Music Association board (since 2021)
  • Oak Ridge Greenways Task Force (1992-1993)
  • Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA) – member
  • Oak Ridge High School Stakeholders’ Committee (2003) member
  • Oak Ridge Reservation Local Oversight Committee (LOC) – served as member and chairman of board of directors
  • Oak Ridge Site-Specific Advisory Board’s Environmental Management and Stewardship Committee (citizen member)
  • Oak Ridge Regional Planning Commission Karst Task Force (1997)
  • Oak Ridge Reservation Stewardship Working Group – Contributor to Stakeholder Report on Stewardship, Vol. 2 (1999)
  • Plan ET (2011-2013) – Helped represent Oak Ridge in this regional project by serving on two technical working groups
  • SOCM (formerly Save Our Cumberland Mountains) – Member of strip-mining committee; contributed technical services as expert witness. Recognized as “Friend of SOCM” in 1988 and 1997.
  • Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning
  • TORCH (Tennessee Out-Reach Center for Homeless) – board member, currently board secretary


  1. Joan Cassns says:

    I tried to email you an invitation to an event but I had an incorrect email address. Please send me your correct email address.

    September 9, 2014

    Dear Ellen

    You are invited to a “Meet the Candidates” event for candidates who will appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Oak Ridge, Anderson County, Tennessee.

    The event will be held on Thursday, October 9th from 7:00 – 8:30 PM in the Oak Ridge Civic Center gymnasium. We are providing the room, light refreshments, and publicity. Tables will be provided so that each candidate can display literature and campaign gear. We encourage you to arrive at 6:45 PM for set up. There will be plenty of time and space for the candidates to talk individually to constituents.

    We also encourage you to publicize the event by inviting supporters and the general public and listing the event on your website.

    A group of concerned citizens, Democracy for East Tennessee, is sponsoring this event, so that citizens can become better acquainted with the candidates. We have hosted these receptions in the past and found them to be an effective way for candidates to meet voters in a relaxed atmosphere.

    You are welcome to bring your campaign materials and signs, including yard signs, which may be displayed at the table assigned to you. Yard signs may not be displayed outside the gym on Civic Center grounds.

    Please let me know if you will attend by replying to this email or calling me at 865-220-8900. Or you may call our President Tom Burns at 865-482-5735.

    Sincerely hoping to see you there,

    Joan Cassens
    DFET Corresponding Secretary

  2. Ellen Smith says:

    Thanks, Joan. I received your email a little while after you posted here, so apparently you found my email address: ellen@ellensmith.org. I look forward to participating in the DFET candidates event — thanks to DFET for sponsoring this opportunity for voters to meet local candidates.

  3. Jim Anderegg says:

    What is your party affiliation? I couldn’t find it anywhere, just a reference for Democracy for East Tennessee, which doesn’t technically address any party in its title.

  4. Ellen Smith says:

    I responded to your question by email. (I was out walking neighborhoods and couldn’t edit the blog.) Here’s a more polished version of what I typed on my phone earlier today:

    The omission of party affiliation is deliberate. Oak Ridge city government offices are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Accordingly, I try to keep my political party leanings out of my local government activity.

    The Oak Ridge city charter calls for our city government to be nonpartisan. I think that’s a good thing, for several reasons. Potholes, police cars, and the other things city government deals with don’t have much of anything to do with party affiliations or ideologies. (I’ve never seen a Republican pothole or a Democratic pothole…) And local officials need to be able to cooperate to get things done, but the U.S. Congress shows us how party labels can get in the way of productive cooperation.

  5. Jaret M says:

    I am a student of ORHS and i was wondering what you will be doing to change OR schools? I know i do not have a vote yet because i am under 18, but i will be effected by what you plan to do.

  6. Ellen Smith says:

    Hello, Jaret.

    As a potential City Council member, I have no plans to change Oak Ridge schools. Under our city charter, the Oak Ridge Board of Education is in charge of the schools. The City Council adopts an annual city budget that provides city tax money that helps pay for the schools, but the City Council is not supposed to tell the Board of Education how to spend that money or how to run the schools.

    However, it is important for the City Council to understand the needs of the schools — including understanding what the money that the schools request from the City Council is going to be used for. After the election, the City Council and Board of Education need to sit down together to study the schools budget so that both groups have a good understanding of the school board’s priorities long before it’s time to adopt the budget for the 2015-16 school year. I know that there are needs at the preschool building that Council will need to address. Also, I know that the possibility of teacher pay raises needs to be discussed. Good education depends on having good teachers, so I think it’s important to ensure that our teachers are paid enough.

  7. Charlotte Patterson says:

    Ms Smith, my client living on North seneca road, has a concern about a parcel of wooded property behind her home,she understands it was sold, with intentions to remove the timber! A call to her would be most welcomed. Thank you!
    nd the Byers intent
    tips are to log the property

  8. Mary Ellen Frost says:

    Ms. Smith, I have a personal matter which I wish to discuss with you ASAP. My email address is mefrost60@gmail.com; however, I wish to speak to you personally regarding this issue. My phone number is 865-216-4141. I do not answer phone numbers I do not recognize. If you would leave your phone # and what time would work best to speak to you personally. I would sincerely appreciate your time.


    Mary Ellen Frost
    139 Outer Drive
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

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