Home City Ohio U graduate student wins dynasty City Council primary; remains uncontested in upcoming election

Ohio U graduate student wins dynasty City Council primary; remains uncontested in upcoming election

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Athens City Building

Arian Smedley returned to her hometown and intends to represent the city’s west side in council 

Athens native, Ohio University graduate student and public servant Arian Smedley will soon be taking on a new role when she starts her tenure as the First Ward Representative for the Athens City Council.

Smedley, the assistant superintendent of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, moved to Athens with her family when she was 8 years old. She grew up on the West Side, attended Athens City schools and graduated from Ohio U in 2007 with degrees in journalism and Spanish.

“I’m pretty familiar on where we have progressed and where we haven’t as a city,” Smedley said. “To serve your city, you really have to know it.”

For a period of time after college, Smedley moved to New York City to pursue a career in journalism, but she knew she wanted to return to her roots. So, she moved back with her husband, Sidney, and her son, Sebastian, and transitioned from working in journalism to public service. She enrolled in graduate school at Ohio U in the public administration program. 

Smedley is no stranger to Athens City Council. She was appointed as an at-large council member in 2017 to replace Jennifer Cochran, former at-large member, when Cochran vacated the seat. It was a taste of what serving on council entailed, Smedley said.

Smedley, however, lost her re-election bid later that year. She hoped to run again, but she didn’t know it would be so soon.

Councilmember Kent Butler’s decision to vacate the First Ward seat was the perfect opportunity to throw her hat into the ring, she said. Butler, who is stepping down after 12 years of service, said Smedley put a lot of thought and consideration into running for City Council.

“I have complete faith in Arian Smedley’s ability to represent all of the citizens of the First Ward,” Butler said. “I believe that she will do so with tact and sincerity.”

Smedley won the First Ward seat in May 2019 after running against Democratic opponent Sam Miller in one of the city’s only contested primaries. While the general elections for City Council seats aren’t held until November, no one filed to run in the First Ward by the deadline, meaning Smedley won’t face any opposition.

When she takes her seat in November, Smedley said she wants to hone in on issues specifically facing the West Side of the city.

“I’d like to see more attention paid to the West Side,” she said. “We have a number of areas where we can see improvement. It’s a lovely place to live, obviously, I’ve chosen to raise my son here. But there’s always room for improvement.”

Smedley finds infrastructure issues pressing, like crumbling sidewalks and dilapidated properties.

“It’s a matter of keeping those issues at the forefront and making sure that the West Side gets the attention it deserves,” she said. “It’s all about connecting with people, talking with people, understanding their needs and concerns and advocating that we do what we can as a government.”

Smedley draws inspiration from members of the U.S. Congress who energize national issues and engage voters, she said.

While Smedley, a Democrat, said running for City Council had always been a goal, President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was all the more reason for her to run. 

“Running for City Council is a very small role to play,” Smedley said. “But seeing that happen, you could be disappointed and not do anything about it, or you could find a way that you could get involved with your own community to try to do what you can to counter any negativity that might come from that sort of leadership.”

Smedley is busy — she’s still a mother, she’s still a graduate student, she’s still working full time.

“But you only live once, right?” she said laughing.

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