“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.
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.
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.