Biglerville Borough Council Member Rob Smith hopes to advance his community service by becoming an Adams County Commissioner.
Smith is seeking a Democratic nomination for one of three seats available on the board. Smith is adamant that he is not running against any of the three incumbents – Republicans Randy Phiel and Jim Martin and Democrat Marty Qually.
“I am running to bring a fresh eye to the job,” Smith said.
Road to Gettysburg
Smith, 50, is an account manager for the Coca-Cola Company. The New Jersey native arrived in Adams County in 2002 when his father and stepmother purchased the Bendersville Station, now the Elkhorn Inn. Smith and his wife Mary live in Biglerville with their three school-aged children.
“Mary and I met in Gettysburg and share the same values and same faith,” Smith, a Catholic, said.
Road to public service
Smith does not believe his path to service was an accident, but he certainly took an unconventional route.
He was driving to vote in 2011 when he realized Biglerville’s polling place had changed. A frustrated Smith called his wife to confirm where he was to go. He contemplated going straight home, but Mary stopped him.
“She said ‘you always vote,’ and she was right,’” he said.
There were three slots for Biglerville Borough Council on Smith’s ballot but only two names. On a whim, he wrote his name into the third spot. He and another resident tied as write-in candidates and went to the courthouse to cast lots, a process used to determine winners of ties. Smith drew the lowest number and was Biglerville’s newest councilor.
“I don’t believe things happen by accident, I believe God put us here for a purpose,” Smith said.
Smith did not necessarily seek a spot on the borough council, but he said he took the job seriously once he took office in 2012.
“You have to deal with people where they are at,” Smith said. “You have to be able to compromise and see other points of view.”
The Democrat enjoys working with four Republicans, another Democrat, and an Independent. Smith said he believes politics is everywhere, but issues council members tackle such as fixing roads and managing sewer systems are best handled through compromise.
“We work together on everything. It has been a great education on things we take for granted daily,” he said.
He also prides himself in listening to the citizens he serves.
“If you take the time to talk to someone, even for five minutes, you realize they are interested in what is going on,” he said. “Some people don’t think they matter but they really do.”
Smith’s job takes him to many parts of Adams County, especially the East Berlin and Abbottstown area. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith said he witnessed neighbors having a high level of compassion for their fellow citizens while the national rhetoric became heated.
He also realized citizen engagement is low.
“I would like to get those people involved,” he said.
Smith said the commissioners’ biggest responsibility is allocating county funds to numerous departments. He said he has a passion for social services and would like to examine how departments such as Children and Youth and mental health services can best help citizens.
“No kid should be hungry and should suffer from neglect,” he said. ”It is not that the county is doing a bad job. We could always do better.”
Smith admits he doesn’t have a magic wand that can fix problems but believes his talent for talking to people will bring a collaborative approach to county government.
“I want to knock on doors and listen to what they have to say. If I disagree with them, that’s OK,” he said.
Smith plans to host town hall meetings throughout Adams County to introduce himself to voters. He knows that in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one, it is unlikely he and his fellow Democrat, Qually, will both be successful in November.
“The numbers are the numbers. I am going to vote for Marty and myself,” he said. Voters have the ability to choose two candidates for commissioner. The three candidates who receive the most votes earn a seat on the board.
The 2023 Primary Election is Tuesday, May 16. Eligible residents not registered to vote have until May 1 to register. Registered voters who desire a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot must request one by May 9. The courthouse must receive mail-in and civilian absentee ballots by 8 p.m., May 16.
Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
Alex encourages readers to contact him at email@example.com.