Former radio journalist running for Canton town council
BY PAUL MITCHELL
North Country This Week
CANTON -- For Martha Foley Smith, she acquired a sincere admiration for local government early in her career in journalism as a reporter covering the Canton Town Council.
“I really loved that beat, even the long, policy-wonky meetings. I learned so much about the town and the people here, but also about local government, and how it fits in all the official and unofficial forces that make a community,” Smith stated, a Democrat and Focused on the People candidate. “Professionally, journalists have to stay on the sideline. When the opportunity of actually serving on the Town Council came up in January, I saw a chance to participate first-hand in the business of the town that’s been my home for over 50 years.”“I love Canton, the opportunities I’ve had, the quality of life here, and I want to give back. There’s so much to do to keep what we’ve got, and even more to do to keep Canton moving forward,” she continued.
Smith said the newsroom atmosphere over the past four decades and her knowledge of many topics makes her a good fit on the town board.
“Forty-odd years in small newsrooms have made me an effective and fun team player. I enjoy working with strong individuals and personalities, smart people who are working together in a common cause,” she remarked. “I’m a quick study, a good thinker and communicator, and a willing worker. I like being a generalist, rather than a deep-dive expert in a particular subject. That suited me as a journalist and is very much suited to the work I’ve taken on during my nine months on the town board.”
If elected, Smith said she will be taking a close look at recreation, economic development and strengthening town and village collaboration.
“I was appointed to the town council in January, joining the recreation committee just as the town and village Reimagining Recreation initiative was in its final weeks. The collaborative process was inspiring and it produced actual results,” Smith stated. “Also as a result of the Reimagining work, the town and village are now seeking funding for a comprehensive assessment of all our municipal recreation assets, and a strategic plan to make sure they serve the whole community better. I’d like to see that through.”
Smith pointed out that as a member of the economic development committee, she has seen the alphabet soup of municipal economic development opportunities - REDC, DRI, CFA, CDBG - from the inside.
“This is fascinating and time consuming, but working together to make sure Canton gets its share of state and federal incentives and grants turns out to be crucial to some of our basic public services, as well as private business and local arts and culture,” she explained.
If elected, what challenges would Smith face?
“In my experience, working in any small, underfunded organization, in a small rural town on the far edge of a big, bureaucratic state, there is no end to the basic struggle to just thrive and sustain,” she said. “More specifically, the Covid pandemic will continue to be a challenge for the town board in terms of public policy and response.”
Smith said the town board needs to deal the best they can with a wave of proposed solar developments. She added there is also the continuing challenge of the basic job of balancing public services and expectations while keeping taxes low.
“This is a difficult time for governance. Polarization, disinformation and distrust of government from top to bottom are pervasive; the current climate makes it hard to engage productively with the public. This is truly an unfortunate challenge for all of us,” she said. “We need a more civil climate that encourages cooperation and collaboration instead of division and contention. This election, local as it is, you can make a crucial vote in favor of continued local progress.”