Smith breaks barriers with Councilman-at-Large win

Councilman-at-Large elect Betty Sawyer Smith

Betty Sawyer Smith was the only outright winner to obtain a city council seat after all votes were tallied from the Saturday, July 11 election. She defeated incumbent Don Mims for the Councilman-at-Large seat. Hardrick Rivers also defeated his opponent to become Powhatan mayor.

Smith said in a phone interview that she encourages other women to be persistent. “If you don’t make it the first time, don’t be discouraged. Stand up. It’s time for women to take our place and make things happen,” she said. Smith did that by becoming the first woman, and first African-American, to hold her new position.

As Councilman-at-Large, Smith will act as mayor pro temp in all mayoral duties. “I will act in the mayor’s stead in any meetings and for any other duty he is not able to attend,” she said. “I will also be a voting voice for the community.”

Her four grandchildren drive Smith’s platform of focusing on economics, crime and housing. She has two granddaughters and two grandsons ranging in age from 8 months to 10 years, all in the Natchitoches area. “I want them, my grandchildren, your grandchildren, all children to have a better future,” Smith said.

To achieve that promised future, Smith said the city leaders must look at economics. “The City cannot survive on tourism alone,” she said. “There aren’t enough jobs here to earn a decent wage to support a family. Some of the areas of Natchitoches are beautiful, but what about the rest of the city? Natchitoches is not thriving as much as other cities of the same size and economic status.”

She said having affordable housing is of utmost importance. Citizens need to be able to afford good homes. “We have people here for college, but they’re leaving to get a decent job. We want them to stay here and to do that they also need to be able to afford a home.”

Smith said another factor affecting the future of the city is crime. She cited boredom as a contributing factor. “The crime rate is up because people don’t have jobs. They’re bored. They need to be engaged in work and have things to do. We have a lot of one-parent homes and the children are in daycare. Having the Boys & Girls Club helped and that is gone. We need programs that allow parents to work. The youth have nothing to do and that has made crime increase.”

Smith says she doesn’t foresee any great challenges to joining the veteran council members. “I’m going in with the mindset to work effectively with everyone to do what is best for Natchitoches,” she said. “Thank you for wanting a change and for exercising your right to make change with your vote. I appreciate your confidence,” she said in closing.