Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Nov 28, 2007; Section:Upstate; Page Number:1B

Smith set to challenge Hill for 7th House seat

By BEN INGRAM Press Staff Writer

“Opportunity” was one word Johnson City resident Todd Smith didn’t shy away from Tuesday in announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination for 7th House District seat.

So far, Smith is incumbent Rep. Matthew Hill’s only competition in his quest for a third term in Nashville.

Smith said he stood behind a long list of experience that has prepared him to be an effective legislator and pointed toward three words that characterized himself as a candidate.

“One is faith, I am a follower of Jesus Christ,” said Smith, who works for the city of Johnson City as a business management analyst. “Another is family ... my mom and dad are here and they are the two people who instilled the value of hard work in me.

    “The last is actually two words — proud American. Having served in the United States Air Force, I was taught what patriotism and serving your country really means and as a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard, I’m proud I still get to put on that uniform once a month.”

    Smith noted his efforts to develop a strategic plan for the Med Tech Corridor as well as overseeing infrastructure development in Med Tech Park that eventually led to investments totaling more than $150 million in Johnson City.

    “These are all parts of my background that I believe make me a viable candidate for 7th District representative,” he said.

    “I’ve also worked for Johnson City as liaison to the Public Building Authority, in charge of economic development projects like the Millennium Centre — which recently had the best financial year in its history.”

    While Smith said that he is still involved in the development of the Med Tech Corridor, it’s the opportunities in working with local leaders to build on the area’s economy that led him to seek the 7th District’s GOP nomination.

    “There are many opportunities to build on our area’s great economy,” Smith said. “Opportunities like the $700 million in infrastructure needs we’re faced with, or opportunities to upgrade various interchanges along (Interstate) 26.”

    Smith specifically pointed out interchanges at Okalona Road, Gray and Boones Creek as important infrastructure projects he would get to work on if elected.

    “These interchanges are critical for supporting various business opportunities in the years to come,” he said.

    “There is also the need to work with the state to improve our local educational opportunities so local students are best prepared for tomorrow’s technically centered jobs.

    “In the 7th District, you need a candidate that will be an effective leader and build on these opportunities ... I’m not a politician and I’ve never run for office, but my experience speaks for itself and I’m asking for your vote for 7th District state representative.”

    Though he did say that Hill, from Jonesborough, was a friend of his, Smith said there wasn’t anything in particular that had led him to challenge him for the nomination.

    Hill, meanwhile, was reluctant to talk about campaigning at such an early point in the race.

    “Clearly my opponent is a politically ambitious man but any political campaign can wait till next spring,” Hill said. “Right now, I’m 100 percent focused on going back to Nashville for session and serving the people of Washington County.

    “I’m very proud of my record in Nashville and I’m proud of the endorsement I’ve twice received from the people of the 7th District.”