With a name like John Smith, the shtick about being the "every man" writes itself.
For John Mathew Smith, a City Council candidate running for a seat in Ward 1 in this November's election, it's not a gimmick; it's the truth.
"I'm a regular guy who is down to earth," Smith said when asked why people should vote for him. "I care about people."
Smith, 55, has lived in the city since 2006. A native of Carroll County and 30-year resident of Baltimore, Smith is a photographer by trade and said he has photographed more than 1,000 celebrities, including 25 Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Now, Smith is all but retired from his career as a paparazzi and photographer, which he began in the early 1990s and now photographs private functions like parties and other events.
Smith is running for a council seat alongside fellow challengers Adrian Rousseau (at-large) and Thomas Matthews (Ward 2). On Nov. 5, Smith will go up against incumbent council members Valerie Nicholas and Edward Ricks for one of two seats representing Ward 1.
Smith said he decided to run after being approached by Rousseau and Matthews, whom he did not know at the time. His campaign is focused on correcting what he says are some of the "little things" around the city.
"The little things mean a lot," Smith said. "When was the last time you thanked your child's bus driver? A courtesy, just little things, to make sure they know they are appreciated. We need a renewed sense of community responsibility."
Smith said he would like to make improvements to the city's traffic safety by putting up road signs that alert drivers to areas with a high frequency of accidents. He also said he would tweak the speed camera program, and said the cameras "seem like traps to catch people."
In addition, Smith said he wants to work to lower the membership fees for the Dr. Bruce Morley Dog Playground. Membership fees are currently $30 for residents and $35 for non-residents, per dog.
"We need to re-evaluate that situation," said Smith, who is a dog owner. "The main thing is you want people to go there."
On an issue like economic development, Smith said he sees both sides of the coin.
"On one hand, it will bring revenue to the city, but most are high-end stores that I don't think the community will use that much," Smith said. "I do wish they had some more normal-type shops, like a Family Dollar, instead of these high-end places."
Smith also echoed running mate Rousseau by citing a need for "fresh blood" on the council.
"We think Laurel is good, but we want things to be better," Smith said. "These people have been there a long time and they need new people in there with new ideas. Just people that are not those people."
North Laurel resident Ron Brown, a friend of Smith's who knows him from the dog park, said Smith is a "people person."
"He would be a good candidate," Brown said. "He has the attitude and mindset and has a heart for people and politics."
This is part of a series of profiles on candidates in this year's City Council elections.