Smith, a 24-year-old Salisbury, N.C., native who came to St. Mary’s County in August 2020 to work at the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corp., recently took over as executive director of the nonprofit organization.
Smith replaced Viki Volk, who began working with the nonprofit in 2015. Volk remains on staff part-time as a mentor for now, Smith said.
“I’m just really excited to get started and get some work done,” Smith said.
When asked what ideas she has for the nonprofit, Smith mentioned buying a building that can be used by local entrepreneurs and artists, who could each rent a space, for example.
The Appalachian State University graduate would also like to help get the annual Cherry Blossom Festival at John G. Lancaster Park up and running again. That could happen this year in April in conjunction with the county recreation and parks department, she said.
Smith was originally hired as the nonprofit’s associate director after she wrote a paper at Appalachian State about the nonprofit, she said.
“During my graduate program, I took a course about communities and learned about community development corporations,” Smith said in a press release. “The course solidified my interest in community development and change-making on a large scale. My final project was researching CDCs across the nation, and I selected St. Mary’s County CDC as the agency of specific interest. That selection led me to this fine organization.”
Within that role, she developed the resident services coordinator position for the new Patuxent Cove Apartments on Pegg Road, an affordable housing community built by the nonprofit and Conifer Reality that opened in August 2020. The 60-unit development features mainly two- and three-bedroom apartments for mixed- and low-income residents.
The apartments are the largest funder of the nonprofit, which also gets income from Patuxent Habitat for Humanity, she said.
The nonprofit, which was founded in 1985, split off from county government in 2014, Smith said. It has received funding from federal grants, the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development and private donations.
“We are excited about the energy and innovation [Smith] brings to the corporation and are pleased that she will be taking the helm in the new year,” Michelle Russell, the nonprofit’s board chair, said in the release.
The nonprofit’s mission is to promote investment, primarily in Lexington Park, but it is open to projects that will improve the quality of life and the economy in the surrounding area. The nonprofit encourages projects that improve infrastructure, increase economic development and provide beautification such as art installations and murals.