After serving almost nine years and five terms as an elected city commissioner, Pamela Smith-Wright announced her candidacy for mayor of the City of Owensboro on Friday in front of Owensboro High School. If elected in November 2020, Smith-Wright will serve as both the first female and first African American to hold this title.
Smith-Wright said her decision to run for mayor has been in the works for some time, but chose June 7 as the day to announce her candidacy for one specific reason.
“Today is a special day because this is the day that my mother was born — today is her birthday,” Smith-Wright said.
A special place is held in Smith-Wright’s heart for her late mother, who passed away 13 years ago, she said.
“My mother got to see me accomplish many things, such as becoming a state track champion here at OHS and graduate from this great school. She saw me graduate from cosmetology school 50 years ago, and I’m still going. She saw me open my own beauty salons, start my own catering business, and get married and raise a family.”
Smith-Wright became emotional during the tribute to her mother as she named some of the career achievements her mother hadn’t gotten to witness, including being awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission State Citizenship Award by Governor Steve Beshear, the Wendell H. Ford Regional Leadership Award, the Dust Bowl Community Service Award, the NAACP Community Award and the VFW Distinguished Service Award.
“She didn’t get to see me become Owensboro’s first woman Mayor Pro Tem, or see me serve five terms as city commissioner, making me the longest-serving female thus far,” Smith-Wright said. “So it is appropriate, on this day of my mother’s birth and while she and my daddy are watching me from heaven, that I am officially announcing my candidacy for mayor of the City of Owensboro. Today is the right day, I am the right person and this is the right time.”
Smith-Wright said she’d originally planned on running for mayor when former Mayor Ron Payne was leaving office. After hearing that Payne would run for another term, Smith-Wright chose to postpone her campaign, saying she and Payne had worked well together as colleagues.
Although Payne chose not to run for re-election that term, Smith-Wright’s friend, colleague and current City Commissioner Jeff Sanford ran for mayor that year, eventually losing the election to Mayor Tom Watson.
In the end, Smith-Wright said, the timing worked out.
“I have been at City Hall for five terms, so I feel that I’m qualified, I feel that I’ve been there and know which direction this City is going in, and I know the direction I’d like to see it continue,” Smith-Wright said.
Smith-Wright said Owensboro is her home, and that she’s always been honored to serve her community, even if not everyone in the community agrees with the choices she’s made.
“If you ask, most people will tell you that I’ve done a good job, and that I’ll continue to,” Smith-Wright said. “There’s always going to be people who don’t like what you’re doing, that it’s anything. But I’m ready for this challenge.”
According to Smith-Wright, Owensboro is facing a lot of small issues, but believes most of the major problems the City has incurred have been resolved during her tenure in City government.
“I’d like to see us be a more cohesive community, where we have more City and private partnerships. I’d like us to work together as a whole for the entire community,” Smith-Wright said.
Sanford said he fully supports Smith-Wright’s candidacy and believes Smith-Wright will do a great job if elected.
“We came into the commission together in 2010, and we’ve been pretty tight for a while now,” Sanford said. “She and I have fought a lot of battles together. We agree on a lot of things — not everything, of course, but a lot. She has a ton of experience, and she says she’s ready. I think she’ll do a great job.”
After Smith-Wright was re-elected to city commission last November, Watson said he called to congratulate her. Smith-Wright told him over the phone that she planned to run for mayor in the 2020 election.
“I wished her the best of luck,” Watson said, who confirmed he will not run for another term.