Former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith was born and raised in Reisterstown but while Smith’s roots are from the western part of the county, many Essex-Middle River residents consider him one of their own.
From the expansion of Route 43 to the opening of new communities, Smith oversaw a radical redevelopment of eastern Baltimore County during his eight years as county executive from 2002-2010.
Members of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce and the Baltimore County Marine Trades Association recognized Smith’s contribution to the community and honored him with a luncheon recently at The River Watch Restaurant in Essex.
“Jim was one of those who came from the west side but quickly learned what the eastside was all about,” said Bob Palmer of the Baltimore County Marine Trades Association.
At the luncheon Smith, now 70, was praised for his commitment to the renaissance of eastern Baltimore County. Hallmark achievements were new residential communties such as Miramar Landing in Middle River and Renaissance Square in Essex.
The latter was built on 18 acres once occupied by Kingsley Park Apartments, a World War II-era development that became blighted and known for high incidence of crime. The county purchased and razed the property in 2004.
But Smith received the most praise for the county's response in the days following Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003. The storm wreaked havoc on communities such as Bowleys Quarters and Wilson Point, which were flooded with several feet of water. It caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, destroyed many homes, cars and boats.
“People rebuilt homes, rebuilt lives and Jim Smith saw the resilience of people in eastern Baltimore County and I don’t think he ever forgot that,” said County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, an Oliver Beach Democrat that handled constituent service for Smith for more than six years.
Bevins added: “Over 6 and a half years, I watched [Smith] lead with integrity, fairness and was always a gentleman. Jim loves the residents of Baltimore County and the employees of Baltimore County. Jim made such a difference in the lives of people who live here and made a difference in my life.”
Smith said if there was a silver lining from the destruction brought by Isabel, it was it allowed him to work with residents in eastern Baltimore County and help improve the quality of life of residents.
“People believed county government wanted to work with them and would work with them,” said Smith, regarding area's recovery from Isabel. “I owe you so much that I could never repay. Through you working with us, we could do more renaissance and established credibility with other parts of the county.”