Mak­ing HERS­tory

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer

“Be­cause Of Them We Can” is a web­site ded­i­cated to cel­e­brat­ing the achieve­ments and con­tri­bu­tions of African Amer­i­cans in the U.S.

The site also strives to tell the rich, com­plex and il­lus­tri­ous story of black cul­ture and her­itage — past, present and fu­ture.

The day af­ter the Gen­eral Elec­tion on Nov. 6, the web­site posted a Woman Crush Wed­nes­day hash­tag spot­light­ing 10 black woman around the coun­try who made his­tory on elec­tion night.

Among them was Veron­ica Smith-Creer, who shat­tered sev­eral his­tor­i­cal records on her way to be­com­ing the next mayor of El Do­rado.

When Smith-Creer made the de­ci­sion on Christ­mas Day 2017 to live up to a com­mu­nity-se­lected nick­name of “Mayor,” she made his­tory by be­com­ing the first black woman to seek the city’s top elected post.

An official an­nounce­ment fol­lowed in Jan­uary, and even be­fore the lo­cal elec­tion sea­son shifted into gear, Creer-Smith knew her quest for the official ti­tle of “Mayor” was more than a cam­paign.

It was a move­ment, she said, one that en­com­passed the en­tire com­mu­nity and extended beyond the walls of the mayor’s of­fice, City Hall and even El Do­rado — a sen­ti­ment to which “Be­cause Of Them We Can” has tes­ti­fied.

A part of the move­ment that is still reg­is­ter­ing with Creer is the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of her elec­tion win.

As the fi­nal votes were tal­lied on the night of Nov. 6, the un­of­fi­cial results re­vealed that Creer — with a nar­row lead of just 87 votes over her near­est chal­lenger in a three-way race — will be sworn in Jan. 1 as the first woman and the first African Amer­i­can to serve as mayor of El Do­rado, a city that was founded in 1843.

“I didn’t re­al­ize the mag­ni­tude of that, of be­ing the first African Amer­i­can and the first woman,” she said.

Not just a cam­paign Smith-Creer said she had toyed with the idea of a may­oral run for 12 years.

The small busi­ness owner — she and hus­band Bobby are the names and faces be­hind BC Car­pet and Floor Clean­ing — and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer who serves on nu­mer­ous boards, com­mit­tees, ad­vi­sory pan­els, coali­tions and min­istries rarely misses an op­por­tu­nity to serve the pub­lic or es­pouse her love for El Do­rado.

Af­ter los­ing a bid for the Ward 2, Po­si­tion 1 seat in 2006, words from a well-re­spected fam­ily el­der com­pelled SmithCreer to con­sider aim­ing for an­other po­si­tion in city govern­ment.

“My aunt told me to run again but next time run for mayor,” Smith-Creer re­called.

In the years that fol­lowed, Smith-Creer main­tained tightly packed sched­ules filled with run­ning a busi­ness and loads of com­mu­nity ser­vice,

while cop­ing with the loss of some of those who were clos­est to her, her mother Al­berta Smith and younger sis­ter, Ve­met­ric Smith-Foster.

Through it all, a run at mayor re­mained in the back of her mind.

“I was taking care of my mother. My mother was ill and she died. My sis­ter died in Oc­to­ber 2017. I was griev­ing, but I was look­ing at what was go­ing on around me, what’s go­ing on in the coun­try, and it was just like the plan­ets aligned and the tim­ing was per­fect,” she ex­plained.

At the out­set, she knew the word “cam­paign” could not ac­cu­rately de­scribe a bid for mayor, and she in­cor­po­rated those thoughts into a slo­gan that did not quite catch on at first. “Join the Move­ment” Smith-Creer said she was ad­vised to change the mantra for her cam­paign early on.

But she stuck to her guns, main­tain­ing that she could not be her au­then­tic self if she didn’t.

“I think the term ‘move­ment’ didn’t make sense to a lot of peo­ple, but I think it ig­nited peo­ple and I saw peo­ple get­ting ex­cited,” she said. “I thought that if I let them change that, what else would I let them change about me?”

She also had a thought-pro­vok­ing ex­pla­na­tion for those who doubted her in­tu­ition on the mat­ter.

“A cam­paign for mayor is about get­ting a po­si­tion. A move­ment is about po­si­tion­ing,” Smith-Creer shared.

To spread her mes­sage, Smith-Creer did not change any be­hav­iors or com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties in which she was al­ready en­gaged.

When she be­gan vis­it­ing churches around the area, she did not wait for an in­vi­ta­tion.

She went on her own, not as a can­di­date to cam­paign, but as an out­go­ing peo­ple-per­son who wanted to blend in with the cit­i­zens she was hop­ing to serve as mayor.

“I don’t think church is the best or ap­pro­pri­ate time to cam­paign for of­fice. I wasn’t cam­paign­ing. I was do­ing what I al­ways do, meet­ing peo­ple. I en­joy peo­ple, and I al­ways walk into a room full of friends,” she said.

Her sunny dis­po­si­tion is not lost on those who know her. It was the many peo­ple whose lives she has touched over the years who nick­named her mayor.

“They call me that be­cause they say I know ev­ery­body,” she said with a chuckle.

Through that 2006 city coun­cil loss, a friend­ship de­vel­oped be­tween her and her op­po­nent in that race, Matt Thomas. The pair now serve as chair­man and vice-chair­man, re­spec­tively, of the Union County Demo­cratic Party.

Her eye for city of­fice was spurred by reg­u­lar at­ten­dance at coun­cil meet­ings, and as mayor, she said she in­tends to make sure city govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tion cov­ers the en­tire city and en­gages all cit­i­zens.

Re­fer­ring to the “move­ment,” Smith-Creer said she was glad to be part of a mid-term elec­tion that brought out vot­ers in un­prece­dented num­bers.

In Union County, nearly 13,000 res­i­dents cast their bal­lots, with nearly half within El Do­rado city lim­its.

“Look at the num­ber of peo­ple who came out and voted, who stood in line for two hours. No mat­ter their mo­ti­va­tion, they voted and that’s a win,” she said.

Smith-Creer thanked her sup­port­ers and gave a spe­cial nod to op­po­nent Bill Luther for run­ning a clean cam­paign. Luther was sec­ond in the may­oral race, and can­di­date Trang My Lu trailed at a dis­tant third.

Smith-Creer said she also car­ried her par­ents, the late Grady and Al­berta Smith and her si­b­lings — Michael Smith, Vanessa Smith Wash­ing­ton, Mitchell Smith and the late Smith-Foster — with her through­out the elec­tion process.

“I call us the Fab­u­lous Five,” she said of her si­b­lings.

Smith-Creer ac­knowl­edged that such an en­deavor is a sac­ri­fice, not just from her, but also her fam­ily and friends.

Daugh­ter VaShaylia, who will grad­u­ate next month from South­ern Arkansas Univer­sity in Mag­no­lia, spent her se­nior year by her mother’s side and hus­band Bobby marked a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment him­self by be­com­ing “The First Man” of El Do­rado, she said.

“I can’t credit any­one with that but God. God could have used any­body to do this, and I’m grate­ful he chose me,” SmithCreer said.

Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Vic­to­ri­ous: Veron­ica Smith-Creer cel­e­brates her vic­tory of be­ing the newly elected mayor of El Do­rado Tues­day at an af­ter­party held at the Demo­cratic Head­quar­ters.

Pho­tos by Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Cel­e­brate: Top, Veron­ica Smith-Creer en­ters her elec­tion party af­ter be­ing elected as the new mayor of El Do­rado. Above, her op­po­nent Bill Luther con­grat­u­lates her on her vic­tory. A group of Creer's sup­port­ers gath­ered at the Demo­cratic Head­quar­ters to cel­e­brate her vic­tory Tues­day.

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