89.1 WEMU

A Year Of Political Ups And Downs For Washtenaw Commissioner Conan Smith

Dec 30, 2016

Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith
Credit Metro Matters

2016 was a year for many changes in local government in Washtenaw County.  One elected official garnered much of the attention.


Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith says, for him, 2016 was a year of ups and downs.  A representative on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners since 2004, Smith resigned from the board last August to apply for the position of Community and Economic Development Director for the county.  Then Smith says the process turned into a political hot potato.

"It became a much more emotional ride than I had expected.  I went into the process thinking it was basically a job application, and it became a political hot potato."

Smith said he resigned from the Board of Commissioners to avoid conflict of interest allegations and believes there was only the appearance of a conflict of interest rather than the reality of conflict.

After some concerns were raised by community members, Smith dropped out of the race for the county economic development job but was still on the ballot for his former county seat in the November election, which he won back easily.  This is how he looks at the entire situation.

"I think people who assume that there was some back room deal have a general, ill feeling about government.  Rather, they're looking for things are untoward."

Does he regret his decision to withdraw from the job application process?

"I'm disappointed that I won't have that opportunity to be a part of the staff.  I think that would have been a lot of fun.  I think I could have done really good work for the county there.  But, I think, you know, withdrawing from that process was the right decision for the most number of people."

Now that he's back on the Washtenaw County board and looking for a job, what's ahead for Smith in 2017?

"I hoping to focus my time and attention on the inequality issues that have emerged over the last several years--particularly, the differential between the prosperity that we're seeing in the City of Ann Arbor and the lack of it that we're seeing on the east side of the county."

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu