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Home / Focus / Women in Government Feb. 2008 / No limitations for this supervisor

No limitations for this supervisor

Sup. Sandie Smith initially ran for the Pinal County Supervisor at the behest of the community

Sandie Smith, Pinal County’s first woman to be elected to the Board of Supervisors, says any woman’s success, whether in government or not, lies in the existence of a strong mentor.
Smith says her mentor has always been her husband Thomas. Married for 46 years, she says he was the first person who didn’t put limitations on her abilities.
“He never put boundaries around me. He never asked if I could do something, only if I wanted to do something,” Smith says, “and there is a difference in that.”
But Smith says the limitations she has felt have never had any relation to her gender.
“Never at this job or any other have limitations been put on me because I am a woman,” Smith says.
Limitations come only from one’s self, and a person’s gender is only a restriction if that person believes it to be, she says.
“If you believe that being a woman is a handicap then that limitation will always be there,” Smith says, “but if you walk into a meeting and you know that you are one of the votes and your vote is just as important as anyone else’s and your opinion is just as important as anyone else’s, then being a woman will never be a limitation.”
Battling for self-esteem
For Smith, the limitations had more to do with her up-bringing.  Growing up in Colorado, the oldest child in a farming family, Smith’s childhood was rough.
“I really didn’t have all that much self-confidence,” Smith says. “My mother was an alcoholic, so we moved a lot to stay ahead of the creditors, and my brother got in trouble with the law a lot. So, my goal in life was to be able to pay my own rent.”
After the death of her father, Smith and her mother and younger brother moved to Arizona. After moving around the Valley, Smith met her husband and settled in Apache Junction to rear their three children.
In 1986, after years of running several of her own businesses and serving as the president of the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce, Smith was elected to the governing board of the Apache Junction Unified School District.
It was while serving on the school board that Smith really began to learn about the role government plays in society.
“I never even knew you could talk to those folks,” Smith says, “I didn’t even know there was someone to talk to.”
County ‘not ready for a woman board supervisor’
After serving on the school board for five years, Smith decided to run for the Pinal County Board of Supervisors at the persistent requests of the community.
Even while campaigning, Smith says she never faced opposition merely because she is a woman.
“I had been told that Pinal County was not ready for a woman board supervisor, but the county recorder at that time was a woman and I never had anyone refuse to sign my petition,” Smith says. “I learned that if you don’t worry about it, then that stuff doesn’t matter.”
Now in her sixth year of serving Pinal County, Smith says she has come to realize that, despite previous beliefs to the contrary, it is important that there is a woman serving on the board.
“It is good to have a different kind of viewpoint,” says Smith. “Women do have a different way of looking at things.”
But Smith says that while serving on the board there has never been a time when she felt her point of view was different than the others just because she was a woman.
“You never know when someone is coming at an issue if their point of view is because of their race or their gender or just part of their personality,” Smith says.
Smith said if a woman isn’t serving in a specific position, that’s doesn’t necessarily mean there should be.
Smith says the qualifications for her job don’t come as much from the government as they do for the constituents.
“For my job, the qualifications are being 18 years of age and a registered voter, but the voters expect more,” Smith says.
Open 24/7
In order to meet the expectations of her constituents, Smith tries to make sure she is always available to them.
“On all my cards or pamphlets I include all my numbers, even my home number, because things don’t always happen from nine to five,” Smith says.
Smith also says she spends more than 60 hours a week trying to research constituent issues.
“There are so many different ways things can be accomplished,” Smith says. “It is important for public servants to take and receive voter input.”
For personal reasons, Smith says she has decided not to run for re-election, but she has no intentions of ever truly retiring.
“I have no concrete plans but I still want to work on transportation and zoning issues,” she says.
Looking forward to the role of women in Arizona, Smith says the future is bright and she advises women to not let themselves be the reason they don’t succeed.
“Don’t blame your future on your past, just get out there and get it done,” she says. ?

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