Dover’s Smith aims to ease community relations

DOVER — The hope of the newly elected chairwoman of the Dover Human Relations Committee is that Dover will be a city whose government, organizations and individuals value diversity, inclusion, respect and trust.

“There is a serious need for the community to get engaged around challenges that the city faces,” said S. Renee Smith. “Whether it’s education or crime, our job is to make sure every person is respected and valued for who they are.”

Ms. Smith was elected in May by members of the committee to be the new chair. Her term expires in February 2017.

The committee’s purpose is to develop ways to measure and monitor community relations, and consists of nine members with two representatives

S. Renee Smith was elected in May by members of the committee to be the new chairwoman of the Dover Human Relations Committee. Her term expires in February 2017. “There is a serious need for the community to get engaged around challenges that the city faces,” she said. (Submitted photo)

S. Renee Smith was elected in May by members of the committee to be the new chairwoman of the Dover Human Relations Committee. Her term expires in February 2017. “There is a serious need for the community to get engaged around challenges that the city faces,” she said. (Submitted photo)

from each of the city’s four districts and an at-large member.

It was officially established in February 2002 after two incidents occurred in March 2001. One involved the shooting of a police officer in the Capital Green neighborhood and the other the death of Reginald Hannah, a Dover man who died in police custody. Both caused racial tension and divisiveness within the city.

Ms. Smith has been a member of the committee for a year and served as chairwoman of the communications committee under the leadership of former chairman Cecil Wilson before he resigned in March.

Mr. Wilson said he was gratified when she was selected as head of the committee.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Mr. Wilson said. “I had considered stepping down before I finally did and asked her about taking on the role. She wasn’t sure if she could do it, but I saw a great leader in her due to her background, her sincerity for people and her positive attitude.”

Ms. Smith said she learned a lot under the leadership of Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson is a very intelligent and results-driven leader,” Ms. Smith said. “If you sit under him and don’t learn anything, it’s because you’re not aware. I learned a lot from him.

“Some of the things that I learned from him are building the capacity to be a great listener as a leader, having a clear vision as to what it is you feel the organization does and how you want to go about doing it,” she said.

“I was able to watch and glean from him how he did it in his own way and I’ll do it in my own way.”

Ms. Smith, a self-esteem and branding expert, author, coach and motivational speaker, has worked with more than 100 clients across eight industries, including health care, banking, education, retail, nonprofit, state, government, legal and religious organizations.

A Dover High School and Delaware State University graduate, Ms. Smith is a 2010 fellow of Leadership Delaware, a program where she was groomed by state and national leaders on business, politics, education and other social issues.

She is a member of the Kent County advisory board of Delaware’s largest philanthropic organization, the Delaware Community Foundation, and is the chairwoman of the William J. & Rev. Shirley M. Smith Sr. Scholarship Fund, a scholarship named in honor of her parents. Since 2011, $15,000 has been awarded in scholarships to Delaware State University students.

She also serves on the United Way of Delaware’s Women in Leadership Council and the Commission on Early Education and the Economy.

Ms. Smith said her skills will help her transition into her new position.

“I work with multi-billion dollar companies, small businesses and individuals doing the same work,” she said. “How do you find a purpose? How do we create a plan? How do we promote it and how do we make a difference?”

Ms. Smith pointed to her skills as a self-esteem branding expert.

“I want people to feel good about themselves,” she said. “That’s what human relations is. It’s interacting with people in such a way that they leave feeling that they’re presence is valued.”

Mr. Wilson shared the same sentiment.

“All of the commissioners are leaders in their own right. However, she will carry out an agenda and will pick up where I left off, but it will be in a new direction,” he said.

Ms. Smith hopes to talk to city officials, organizations and residents to execute her vision as the new chairwoman.

“I want to meet with the residents because I want to understand what’s important to them,” Ms. Smith said.

“Also one of the first things I would like to do is talk to the commissioners about their skill sets and how we can best utilize them. It will help move the board forward so everyone can feel good about the value that they bring to the table.”

“It’s my hope my brand or reputation serves the board and people well. We’re here to listen to learn to trust one another so everyone can co-exist.”

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