LUMBERTON — A recently retired real estate agent from Lumberton will seek the state Senate District 13 seat being vacated by Sen. Michael Walters when his two-year term runs out at the end of this year. District 13 encompasses Robeson and Columbus counties.
Jane Smith, 67, said Thursday that she had been considering filing as a candidate since Walters announced Jan. 10 that he will not seek re-election.
“I’ve thought a lot about it, talked with a lot of folks, and I think I have the support,” said Smith, a Democrat who has lived in Lumberton for 40 years. “I’ve always had an interest in politics, and I think with my background in education and economic development I can do a good job. This area has always been good to me and I want to give back what I can to Robeson and Columbus counties.”
The filing period for the May primary begins Feb. 10.
Walters, a Democrat, has served in the Senate since being appointed in 2009 by former Gov. Beverly Perdue to replace Sen. David Weinstein, who gave up his Senate seat to head the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. Walters won re-election twice after that.
Smith, who is married to Lumberton attorney Chris Smith, holds a master’s degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from Meredith College. She owned and managed Century 21 — The Real Estate Center from October 1979 to July 2007, and then served as the office’s commercial agent until her retirement Dec. 31.
Before opening her real estate business, Smith taught history in the public schools from 1968 to 1972 and at Robeson Community College from 1974 to 1978.
Since 1993, Smith has served as a board member of the Elizabethtown-based Southeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission, serving as the board’s chairman for the past 13 years. She also is a past chairman of the North Carolina Partnership for Economic Development and North Carolina Economic Development Group.
Smith received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian award, in 1979.
Currently, Smith sits on the board of directors for COMtech, a position she has held since 2001, and is currently a member of the Lumberton Housing Authority board of directors and the board for BB&T.
Among other civic activities, Smith has served as a board member and president of the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce; served on the Southeastern Biotechnology Advisory Board; served as chairman of the Lumberton All-America City campaign; was a UNCP Endowment Board member; and is a member of the Lumberton Rotary Club. She is also past president of the Robeson County Democratic Women.
John McNeill, chairman of Robeson County’s Democratic Party, said that Smith now has a “fairly clear path” to being the Democratic Party’s nominee in the May primary and in the November General Election.
“Of course this is politics and someone else could enter the race before the end of the filing period in February,” he said.
According to McNeill, Smith has knowledge and experience in real estate development, attracting industry and creating jobs that would not only benefit Robeson County but the surrounding region and the state.
“There’s no one in the General Assembly that would have more experience than Jane Smith when it comes to knowing what’s needed to to attract industry and create jobs,” he said. “She will do a good job because she is a business owner, has created a successful business, and has excellent people skills … . To know Jane is to like her.”
Phillip Stephens, Robeson County’s Republican leader, said Thursday that no Republicans have stepped forward to consider a run.
“I’m getting a little nervous,” he said. “We are not having much success finding a candidate.”
Stephens said that Walters surprised both Democrats and Republicans when he announced he would not seek re-election when his term ends in 2014.
“It was an unexpected announcement and is giving us limited time to evaluate and assess the situation,” he said. “Anyone who is going to seek the seat is going to have to announce their candidacy quickly.”