Another contender has entered the race to be the next council member for Winston-Salem’s South Ward.
A longtime resident, Smith grew up in Winston-Salem. He co-owns Village Fabric Shop in Reynolda Village with his wife Kelsey, and last year he started selling hot food out of his grandfather’s three-wheel scooter from the 1940s.
After realizing that customers were buying extras to take home and freeze, Smith started Robert Rust Foods and now sells frozen burritos and bowls to 10 grocery stores across North Carolina.
Smith is also a partner at Equilibrium Impact Ventures, a venture capital fund investing in Black and Brown led companies.
Smith thinks that Winston-Salem is ready for a new generation of leadership. A council member’s job is not only to listen to residents’ concerns and work with the city to address them, Smith said, but also to “explain to the residents what the city is doing and why things are happening the way they are.”
“I don’t think the South Ward is getting that currently,” Smith said.
With a vision for a sustainable future, Smith said that if elected, he wants to create specific goals for the city that center around sustainability and the social determinants of health — things like access to food and healthcare, civic engagement and affordable housing.
Smith thinks about sustainability in three parts — environmental sustainability, social sustainability and financial sustainability.
On the environmental side, Smith’s plan for the city is to transition to “100 percent renewable energy for all municipal operations” using primarily solar energy.
Social sustainability is where social determinants of health come in, Smith said, adding, “If you don’t have enough money to feed your family, it’s gonna be really difficult to think about recycling properly.”
Financial sustainability is very important to Smith. He went to grad school in Colorado where he studied sustainability and business with an additional focus on finance, which he said was “unexpected.” While finance can be intimidating, Smith said that it can be a great tool to “get what you want done” and believes that he can “translate policy ideas around affordable housing, or solar energy, or food waste, into budgets.”
Smith said that he’s responsive and active in the community, and thinks that the South Ward is “looking for some new leadership and somebody that can be a little bit more responsive to their needs.”
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