Smith to run for City Council; Pait says she won’t file

Whiteville native Justin Smith announced Monday his intention to run for a District One city council seat in the November general election.

“I am proud to live in Whiteville and am optimistic about its future,” Smith said. “I will focus on job creation, parks and recreation and cultural opportunities, while remaining committed to the city’s core responsibility of providing public safety and infrastructure.”

Smith, 32, returned to Whiteville after college. A former television reporter, Smith currently works in the chancellor’s office at UNC Pembroke.

“I am proud to be a third generation Whiteville resident and want to ensure that my children and everyone in our great city have an opportunity to succeed here,” he said.

A graduate of Whiteville High School, Smith earned a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication at UNC Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Wilmington. He is also a graduate of Leadership North Carolina.

Smith’s wife, Rachel, has been employed with the Columbus County Schools for nine years. They have two children: 4-year-old Scott and 1-year-old Julia. They are members of First Presbyterian Church of Whiteville.

Two District One seats are on the fall ballot. They are currently held by Vickie Pait and Tim Blackmon.

Pait said Wednesday she had almost decided not to run again when Smith approached her about his possible campaign.

“I think he will do an excellent job,” Pait said. “You could say he was the last encouragement I needed to decide not to run again.”

Pait, who operates Families First crisis intervention program, said she wants to spend more time with her grandson in Raleigh, and didn’t feel like she could properly represent the people of the city by being gone for several days at a time.

“It’s kind of self-imposed term limits,” she laughed. “I almost didn’t run in the last election, but I wanted to do a little bit more for the people of our city.

“I think Justin can bring us a new perspective for the city,” Pait said. “He’s young and energetic, and has a different outlook on some things. I think he’ll bring some new blood to the council.”

Smith said he hopes to see Whiteville become a vibrant community again.

“People are looking for the type of charm and convenience Whiteville offers,” Smith said. “I believe our community is poised for continued success and growth if we take advantage of our assets, including our proximity to areas like Wilmington and Myrtle Beach.”

The municipal elections are non-partisan, and registration does not officially begin until June.