Show up every day
Presidential Leadership Forum inspires
During Bluffton University’s Jan. 24 Presidential Leadership Forum, “Journey to Leadership,” Sharetta Smith spoke about the challenges as well as the successes on her path to becoming Lima’s first African American mayor and first female mayor in its nearly 200-year history.
Her journey included hardships such as being raised by essentially a single mother while her father was incarcerated, raising three children as a young, single parent, and surviving cancer in her late 20s.
“But as the lyrics of an old Gospel hymn once proclaimed, ‘I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey,’” said Smith.
Smith’s three pieces of advice included: no one is successful on their own, regardless
of your profession be a person of character and keep showing up.
Elected in Nov. 2021, Smith leads a team of about 140 city employees and oversees a $141 million annual budget. She is also the chief advocate and lobbyist for the city and its 35,000 citizens.
Leading to her current role, Smith’s “big break came when a middle-aged, white, male conservative, Republican judge helped me become a magistrate in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” she explained.
As a public defender in Chattanooga, Smith handled cases ranging from public intoxication to first degree murder, and the judges she served under, including the late Bob Moon, had the opportunity to witness her work ethic.
“How I treated others, whether I showed up on time, whether I was compassionate, whether I was truthful in my dealings, whether I was fair,” said Smith.
Recognizing their similar values and challenging childhoods, Moon encouraged Smith
and helped her navigate the political process to becoming a magistrate.
The second piece of advice is essentially the Golden Rule.
“I measure success not by the withdraws I take in life, but instead the deposits I make through service to the community,” said Smith. “I really believe we all have a purpose in life.”
Finally, she encouraged students to make the most of their lives by being active and present.
“Through cancer and chemotherapy, I kept showing up. Through raising three children and trying to finish school, I kept showing up,” said Smith. “Through getting behind on rent and facing eviction, car trouble, day care and insurmountable medical bills, I kept showing up.”
Because she kept showing up, even when she “didn’t have much to show,” Smith earned three degrees, passed the bar exam, became a lawyer, served as a magistrate and is now the mayor of her hometown.
“I get to show up every day for the citizens of Lima,” said Smith. “I am grateful for this opportunity to partly shape the future of our city, and I’m humbled to share this place in history with each of you.”
In addition to the work she does for the greater region, Smith is connected to the university in a few ways. In high school, she took courses at Bluffton to gain college credit. Currently, she meets with each section of “Learning in Community,” a class where Bluffton students learn about hands-on community partnerships in Lima.
The Bluffton University Presidential Leadership Lecture Series brings to campus a leader from business, industry, service or nonprofit organizations. The goal of the lecture series is to create a forum for considering leadership values and cooperative efforts for shaping our world by hearing first-hand stories of leadership.