Councilman resigns ahead of family’s move from ward

BROWNSTOWN

Looking across a cornfield, about 200 yards away from his current home, Matt Smith can see the home he and his wife soon will be moving into.

That, however, is bittersweet because the move means he had to resign from his seat on the Brownstown Town Council.

Since Jan. 1, 2016, Smith has represented Ward 3. The location of his new home is in Ward 5.

His last meeting as a councilman was Monday.

“I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity for me to make my wife happy, to make myself happy and better ourselves,” he said. “I was actually a little disappointed to hear that I was going to have to resign. It was unfortunate. The disappointment was more from not being able to serve versus having to resign. It is what it is, and I understand rules are rules.”

At 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown, the county Republican Party will conduct a caucus to fill the Ward 3 seat. Eligible precinct committeemen for the town will be voting.

Anyone interested in filling that seat has until 4:30 p.m. Friday to submit the required paperwork to Jackson County Republican Party Chairwoman Amanda Lowery. She can be reached at 812-216-4872.

The person chosen will finish out Smith’s term through the end of 2019. That seat will be on the municipal election ballot in November 2019.

In August 2015, Smith, a political newcomer at the time, defeated incumbent C.J. Foster 39-33 in a town convention for the Ward 3 seat.

Foster continued to represent the ward through the end of 2015, and then Smith’s term began at the start of 2016.

Smith said he declared his candidacy because he wanted to get more involved in the community where he was born and raised.

“We had a Republican sitting in the position at the time, but I had been back here for about five years, and I wanted an avenue to be involved with the community and have direct input on whatever direction the community was going,” he said. “That was my only avenue at the time. Unfortunately, I had to run against someone that I know and I respect that was on the board already.”

After living in Terre Haute and Colorado, Smith moved back to Brownstown in 2011 and became the property manager of a family business, Hillview Mobile Home Park. He also joined the Hickory Hills Golf Club board of directors.

Deciding to run for the council seat was his first time venturing into politics.

Early on, he said it was a learning experience.

“I found myself just kind of trying to listen more than provide input,” he said.

“It was a learning process just dealing with local government,” he said. “I come from a private sector business, and seeing the difference in how decisions are made and the actual political process of things, it was kind of enlightening to know that this is the essence of our government. It made me gain respect of why the policies are the way they are, why the rules of government are the way they are.”

During his tenure, Smith said the highlights included working through the grant process to establish Heritage Park, providing benefits to police officers and starting the process to get the police chief in an administrative salaried position.

He also introduced an ordinance to establish traffic regulations for the registration and operation of off-road vehicles on streets and alleys in Brownstown.

Once that became official, Smith ordered decals for owners to place on their vehicles after paying the $25 registration fee and passing an inspection. He initially had 25 made and already has ordered more.

“I think that’s going to be a good bump for the town as far as revenue and just the traffic coming in wanting to experience Brownstown more, giving the local community more opportunity to open the doors to create revenue for themselves,” he said.

“Brownstown is trying to position itself to get more toward the recreational sightseeing approach and come in here and look at the shops and restaurants and tourist attractions,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be sitting in a country setting, a rural atmosphere here, and I think we should embrace that.”

Looking back on his time with the council, Smith said it was a valuable experience.

“You’ve got to be open-minded,” he said. “You’ve got to put politics aside and do what’s best for the community, not so much the political party. When I sought the position, I really didn’t view it as a political position. I wasn’t bringing my political beliefs to the table, aside from being fiscally responsible with the taxpayer money.

“That’s kind of No. 1 in my book, but at the same time, you’ve got to be a little progressive and change with the times and do things to try to keep people in the town and families staying here and kids wanting to stay here after they graduate from school,” he said.

Smith said he hopes the next person will have a similar approach.

“I think we’ve got a great council,” he said. “People have got some vision of where they want to see the town go, and everybody seems to be very analytical about their decisions. I hope that will continue and not just be a rubber stamp for special interests that people want to come in here and use their political or their local clout to sway someone the other way. Just do the right thing and always keep the community as the No. 1 objective.”

At a glance

The Jackson County Republican Party will conduct a caucus to fill the Brownstown Town Council Ward 3 seat.

Eligible precinct committeemen for the town will be voting at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the clerk’s office inside the Jackson County Courthouse, 111 S. Main St., Brownstown, to replace Matt Smith, who recently resigned from the town council because he is moving out of Ward 3.

Anyone interested in filling that seat has until 4:30 p.m. Friday to submit the required paperwork to Jackson County Republican Party Chairwoman Amanda Lowery. She can be reached at 812-216-4872.

The person chosen will finish out Smith’s term through the end of 2019. That seat will be on the municipal election ballot in November 2019.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.