November 20 - November 26, 2014


BY MWEZI DAKE...Genetics may play a large part in how a family looks like 2014but the Smith family of Palmetto, Florida has a Political gene in the family as well as was evident this week, the City of Palmetto and Manatee County are going to be the benefactors of this family’s ambition, drive and work for and in Manatee County.

Monday night the Smith family and many friends and supporters gathered at Palmetto City Hall to proudly celebrate the Swearing-In ceremony of Harold Smith to fill the position of Palmetto City Commissioner left vacant by Charles Smith and gathered together again Tuesday morning, November 18, at the Administrative building in Bradenton to proudly watch Charles Smith at his Swearing-In ceremony to the position of County Commissioner.

Palmetto Mayor, Shirley Groover-Bryant opened the Palmetto City Commission meeting with good-byes to outgoing Charles Smith and with a turn of minute, Harold Smith was standing in front of the room and with his hand raised in the air, his family by his side, Harold Smith became a Commissioner for the City of Palmetto. Charles Smith, (who just so happens to be the brother of Harold Smith) had been in the position of Commissioner for the City of Palmetto and was known for his tenacious attention to community and being a “Servant of the People” and unafraid to address issues that may not have been popular but Charles Smith took on those issues.

The roots of Charles and Harold are well set in the City of Palmetto and 2014Manatee County. Their father, Robert Smith, who is affectionately referred to as, “Smitty” has been a main crux of economic growth and foundational builder of Palmetto for many decades. Robert Smith was among the first African-American men in Manatee County who employed many men and women in the agricultural field. Robert Smith has owned and operated “Smitty Bails Bonds” for many years located in Palmetto. Long before Charles and Harold were born, Robert Smith and his siblings were in the fields working alongside their mother and Aunts and other family members picking tomatoes and earning a living.

Lessons of integrity, hard work and honesty were instilled in the family at a very young age and the hard life of being known as “Migrant workers” was seen as a challenge and not anything to be ashamed of. At the heart of this family was their mother and she taught them lessons of , “Honesty is the best policy and hard work doesn’t kill a person, laziness will kill your dreams and you.”

Charles, Harold, and their father, Robert attended Lincoln School in Palmetto and while Charles and Robert did not attend school during the time of segregation and the struggle of integration, all these men have known what the sting feels like to be treated differently based on the color of their skin and at times having to swim against the tide of societal barriers to accomplish their dreams. Robert Smith began at an early age to demonstrate his strong business savvy. Robert turned down a scholarship to the University of Michigan after graduation from Lincoln in Palmetto and instead chose to stay locally and establish businesses related in the agricultural field ranging all up and down the Eastern Sea Coast where the migrant crops were located and to help with the family business. According to Robert’s brother, Henry Lawrence, people don’t realize that Robert at one time was one of the largest employers of people in Manatee County and helped many to establish their own businesses. Henry spoke of how Robert was like a “human computer” and was able to calculate large sums of numbers in his head and then write them down as well as keeping track of five to six hundred employees and knew where all of them worked and what was going on in the business as an independent contractor. Henry Lawrence went on to say the family was raised by their mother to, “Work hard, earn your money, learn how to handle your money wisely and by all means work in your community to make it a better place.”

Harold Smith seems to have taken the advice of their Grandmother and father and upon graduation from high school joined his father in business and has been an integral part of Smitty Bail Bonds. Harold has worked very hard in the community to insure people were treated fairly, worked on many community projects. Harold said at his present age of forty-nine, he is proud to be born and raised in Manatee County. Harold said his wife, Monica and children, sons, Brandon and Harold JR. and daughter Brittany were the main reason he is who is today and thanked them for their love and support. Harold responded to the question how he felt about filling his brother Charles position with the City of Palmetto, Harold said, “I wanted to run for the position (City Commissioner) for a long time but I wouldn’t run against my brother (Charles). Since Charles is now going to be a Manatee County Commissioner this was the perfect time to add what I see will benefit the City of Palmetto.” Harold went on to explain that he feels the City of Palmetto is headed in the right direction and needs to continue to look into ways to grow. Harold said he plans to work closely with the Mayor and he spoke highly of her leadership and the other Commissioners. Harold concluded the interview with this, “We (Commissioners and Mayor) all know each other well and we all want the city to grow and increase the economic growth, businesses and make Palmetto the best place to live. “

Charles Smith is well known for his tenacity and “get it done without excuses” attitude and work ethic. Charles, like his brother (Harold) is born and raised in Palmetto and is well acquainted with what hard work looks and feels like. Migrant farm life can be a life that comes with harassment by other children and sometimes children and adults who make a living by “working in the fields” are labeled as second class citizens but Charles Smith has never thought of himself as “second class anything”. Charles has accomplished many things and with his election to City of Palmetto Commissioner, Charles found his voice for the people he represents. Before Charles was sworn into his new position as Manatee County Commissioner, he gave a tour of his new office which has a spectacular view across the water and bridge with Palmetto in plain view.

Charles spoke of the view as a great way to remind him often of where he grew up and how important it is to keep his strong work ethics and growing up in Palmetto as a focus to accomplish what is best for all of Manatee County residents. When asked about his goals while serving Manatee County he replied, “I see many areas where Manatee County can continue to grow while we increase jobs and keep economic growth on the rise. We need to look into whether disbanding the CRA was the best decision in Manatee County and if it was what we will need to do to insure the county is continuing to move in the direction it is. Manatee County is a great place to live and I want to work with the other Commissioners to continue to build a strong economic base with growth and make Manatee County a safe place for all of us to live in and be proud of.”

Both Charles and Harold credit their father and family as the impetus for their ability to serve in the political arena and remain true to their values and ethics.

“Our family set a clear example for us to follow what hard work looks like and how to be compassionate and caring for the communities we are a part of, said Harold and Charles. Henry Lawrence, retired NFL Oakland Raider,(and Uncle to Harold and Charles) who recently put his hat in the political ring running for Congress had this to say about Harold and Charles. “Both Charles and Harold have been fine business men and leaders in the community long before they were elected to office. Their father, my brother “Smitty” has worked side by side with them and led by example. Our family always fed people in the community through our family restaurant on 2nd Avenue in Palmetto and no one ever left hungry even if they didn’t have the money to pay. This kind of compassion and community and civic minded focus set all of us to serve in our community. Our family has been a large part of employing people, helping people who needed jobs and encouraging political activism by setting an example to follow.”

Congratulations to Charles and Harold Smith who have set their site and focus serve all the people in the City of Palmetto and Manatee County and will be able to do so by their current positions in local government. Charles Smith was the first African-American male to be elected to the City of Palmetto Commissioner and first African-American male to fill the position of Manatee County Commissioner. Let’s give them a round of applause. Both men said they are looking forward to working with the other Commissioners and hope their love and care for all Manatee County residents will be clearly evident for many years to come and they stated their door is always open for the citizens of Palmetto and Manatee County to come and discuss what concerns them.


SARASOTA – Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) invites you to participate2014 in a roundtable discussion with community leaders about issues and concerns in the Newtown community.
The event will be held on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. in the East Multi Purpose Room of the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex. 1845 34th Street, Sarasota, Florida 34234.