Marlon Lee will bring three issues to the table when he takes a seat on the Smithfield Town Council: safety, education and economic development.
Lee will be the next District 1 councilman, representing East Smithfield. He is running unopposed and will replace longtime councilman Charles Williams, who did not seek re-election.
He decided to run because he is passionate about giving back to Smithfield.
“Just the biggest thing now is continuing to make Smithfield a great place to live,” he said.
Lee said safety should be everyone’s priority; he would like to see more community watches and police foot patrols.
“Just making it a safe place where kids can be out and enjoy themselves,” he said.
For education, Lee wants to see more community involvement. He lives in Smithfield but works at Clayton High School as a graduation coach; he helps struggling students get back on track for graduation.
Lee wants Smithfield residents to volunteer in the schools and to make education a priority, even if they don’t have a child in school. He slso wants more partnerships with businesses, especially ones that could provide on-the-job training or job shadowing.
“That's a form of education itself right there,” he said.
Community and economic development
On economic development, Lee wants to take advantage of the Interstate 95 corridor. He said Smithfield should try to attract businesses and keep them from moving on to Clayton and Raleigh. Vacant houses are another problem: Lee said the council should find a way to develop those properties.
Smithfield’s biggest issue is accountability, Lee said.
“Making sure what needs to be done is done and you’re not just saying it, you’re doing,” he said. “And you’re going about doing it the right and ethical way.”
Many people in East Smithfield feel they haven’t been given their fair share, Lee said. For instance, Piedmont Natural Gas never ran gas lines to some East Smithfield residents, even though the company provided natural gas to the rest of town.
He said East Smithfield needs revitalization and more recreation opportunities. Though renovations at Smith-Collins Park have improved the area, people still need more space for recreation, he said.
When the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center opened, the town closed the public pool in East Smithfield.
“That was just one of the places in the summertime that the kids could go and swim for a dollar, cheap,” he said.
But many kids, especially those without transportation, can’t afford to go all the way to SRAC.
Lee also plans to focus on communication.
“A lot of it has been a communication barrier, but I would do my best to roll up my sleeves, to be that voice, to let them know what’s going on,” he said.
Lee said his time on the council will be a team effort, and he looks forward to working with the other councilmen and mayor.
Background in education, business
Outside of his dayjob, Lee coaches varsity volleyball and basketball teams at Clayton High. He also started the Men of Distinction, a group that teaches young men to stand “TALL” – To Achieve, Learn and Love.
Lee is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, the East Smithfield Improvement Organization and the Johnston County Citizens’ Association. He also volunteers at SRAC as a referee.
Lee, 39, graduated from St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh with a degree in business administration. After a brief stint in sales, he jumped into teaching, earning his teaching certification while substituting at Clayton and Smithfield-Selma high schools.
Louise Sewell, a community leader in East Smithfield, said she looks forward to Lee’s time on the town council.
“I think he will serve well on the town council,” she said. “He’s young enough to stay up with the latest trends and to study to see what other towns are doing.”
Sewell agrees with Lee’s goals, especially recreation.
“We’re in dire need for recreation in this area,” she said. “We have a beautiful center, but it’s over at (Smithfield-Selma) High School, and that’s quite a distance, especially if you don’t have transportation. We need more recreation over here in District 1.”
Tony Nixon, chairman of the East Smithfield Improvement Organization, said Lee will bring a fresh approach to how the town council interacts with the school board and the county on education.
“Marlon is such a strong advocate for education,” he said.
Nixon also agrees with Lee’s points about economic development and safety. Lee lives in the heart of District 1, and Nixon said this helps him know what the community needs.
“We look forward to a new vision and a new direction for the entire town,” he said.