"He is our spokesman, and he's made it very clear to us he wants the hospital to really be involved, to have a voice and be present," Ceballos said.

In addition to serving on Laurel Regional Hospital's board, Smalls also serves on the board of directors for Dimensions Health Care, the hospital's parent company.

Carol Cawthorne, Dimensions' vice president of ancillary services, has worked alongside Smalls for nine years, and described him as the kind of leader who is not afraid of being challenged.

"He's a decision-maker, and he's not afraid to make decisions that aren't popular," Cawthorne said. "He's done a lot to make board members aware of their roles, and I'm impressed that he's gone to the lengths he has to make the board as functional as it can be."

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Liking local government

While it's almost a full year away, Smalls, after some light prodding, addressed what his future might hold after his fifth council term is up in November.

"I'm focused right now on being the best council member I can, and doing the best job as president I can. My job and family commitments are making me think very seriously if I want to continue to serve, but I'll serve in other capacities whatever I decide to do," Smalls said.

In 2008, Smalls unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Prince George's County Council, an experience he said was a real eye-opener for him.

"I enjoyed the campaigning, but I like local government. I like walking into Giant or Safeway, or anywhere else around the city, and running into someone with a problem, making a phone call and taking care of it. I like that kind of contact with the folks I live around," Smalls said.

When asked if he would consider a mayoral run some time down the road, Smalls smiled and shrugged it off.

"Would I like to be mayor? Sure. But we have an extremely capable mayor, and I will continue to support him until he decides he no longer wants to be mayor," he said.