Lima mayor to students: 'Keep showing up'

Jan. 24—BLUFFTON — In November of 2021, history was made in Lima when Sharetta Smith was elected as the first woman and first African-American to take office as the mayor of Lima. The journey to the office was not without adversity. Smith shared her journey with students at Bluffton University on Tuesday morning.

Smith reported she had 3 children before she turned 21 and overcame cancer in her late 20s.

"Becoming mayor has been full of ups and downs," said Smith. "I am a child of a formerly incarcerated parent — I am also a single mother who had three children before I was 21 years old. I had many long days and late nights trying to raise my children in a loving household and put myself through school. I am also a cancer survivor. Having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in my late 20s. As the lyrics of the old gospel hymn proclaim, I wouldn't take nothing for my journey."

The mayor encouraged students as they move forward in life to "keep showing up." In the face of different opposition, Smith overcame those obstacles through her faith, prayer and the help of others.

"I have always had a deep sense of faith and prayer really is my strength," said Smith. "If I have to look back and think how could I make it through all of the challenges? It is really because I grew up in a family who taught me how to pray and always believe that no matter what the scripture says: 'I know the plans that I have for you and those are plans to prosper you and give you hope and a future.' I hold onto that."

Although she grew up in Lima, the current mayor lived in Tennessee for a period of time before returning to her hometown.

Smith shared the story of one conservative judge who encouraged her to become a magistrate for Hamilton county court in Tennessee. Working as a public defender for Chattanooga, Smith felt the pull to go back to Lima and help the city. Before she could make the move back home, Judge Robert 'Bob' Moon recommended she apply for the open position of magistrate. There she served for more than five years. Later, she applied for a position with the City of Lima, which eventually led her to become the next mayor.

"That story is important to me in these times because we are in an era where polarization divided by race, gender and political idealogy try to keep us apart," added Smith. "When you think of people that say that we cannot help one another because we do not look alike, we are from a different race, gender or political background, remember the story of Judge Bob Moon and a young public defender Sharetta Smith."

Reach Precious Grundy at 567-242-0351.