Hill City Hardwoods owner running as a Democrat for Ward I City Council seat (2024)


Local business owner and Hill City arts supporter Randy Smith is the Democratic candidate for Lynchburg City Council in Ward I, the seat soon to be vacated by Independent MaryJane Dolan.

The northernmost city ward, Ward I stretches from Bedford Avenue across Boonsboro Road and down the Lynchburg Expressway. Dolan took 52% of the vote in the May 2020 election against financial advisor Abe Loper, and took 58% of the vote in 2016 against current school board member Christian DePaul.

Smith, 56, runs Hill City Hardwoods — a specialized lumber supplier — out of a former laundromat building in midtown. He also rents out spaces in the warehouse to independent contractors, hobbyist woodworkers, artists and to a barber shop.

“If you’re a woodworker in Lynchburg, I probably already met you,” he said during a recent interview at the shop.

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“... I believe that local, locally-owned, locally-operated small businesses, they’re kind of the engine of the economy. And so, I would advocate strongly for those small businesses like I do kind of on a personal level here, but have a much larger platform — because that drives your economy, which hopefully can improve our poverty rate in the city …”

Smith was born in Okinawa, Japan, to a Japanese mother and a servicemember in the U.S. Navy. He grew up in Richmond and said he attended public schools in the city.

A graduate of Virginia Tech with a mechanical engineering degree, Smith moved to Alabama right out of college to take a job with what’s now Framatome. He met his wife Jeanell while living in northern Alabama and the two moved to Lynchburg in 1994. They have one daughter.

Smith is also partly behind the Midtown Outdoor Art Gallery on Fort Avenue — 10 large portraits of minority women by local photographer Michelline Hall — attached to a warehouse and facing the street across from AutoZone.

“...[W]hen I first did this with Michelline, my goal was to bring art to the local community, people that can’t get to galleries, they don’t have the time in their life, they don’t have the money. And I wanted artists that were local and artists of color that represented the people of the neighborhood, so that’s why when I saw Michelline’s stuff, I was like ‘Oh, that’s it. That’s exactly what I want.’”

On Friday, those photos will be replaced with a new outdoor gallery: photographs that astronaut Leland Melvin took from space. Smith again collaborated with Hall to make the exhibition happen.

“He [Melvin] went from this neighborhood to space. And so, it’s just a really cool, inspiring story for the neighborhood.”

Smith also has commissioned local artists and students to paint murals on his business and the warehouse buildings he owns around it.

On his city council run, Smith said, “for the first time in 30 years, I truly think Lynchburg is headed in the wrong direction. I think we’re headed in a dangerous direction.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen the accomplishments of our LGBTQ students under attack. We’ve seen diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] programs in the city under attack. Our city schools right now are clearly under attack. They’re underfunded, and under attack,” Smith said.

“I hope to redirect our focus on [the] common good and get us moving again in a positive direction.”

Support for public education is a major focus for Smith’s campaign, along with reducing poverty and improving civility on city council.

“Right now, I think everyone’s big priority is city schools and the funding for city schools,” Smith said, adding he thinks city council “stepped maybe a little too far” with its reductions to the real estate tax rate in 2023.

Smith talked about the poverty rate in Lynchburg — 20.2% as of 2022 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“That also ties into schools really on a long-term basis. If you’re not providing quality education to your children, then poverty is almost a given.”

He said the growth of the city he’s observed, especially downtown, is positive and a testament to the community and to city leadership.

“I would like to see that come on up 5th and 12th [streets] some more and I think it will.”

Election day this year is Nov. 5; in-person early voting begins Sept. 20, and the voting registration deadline is Oct. 15.


Hill City Hardwoods owner running as a Democrat for Ward I City Council seat (1)

Emma Martin, (434) 385-5556



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Hill City Hardwoods owner running as a Democrat for Ward I City Council seat (2024)
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