While some candidates for the San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor's seat stress their distance from the corridors of power, Bob Smith highlights his.
The retired sheriff's deputy's campaign has sent out a steady stream of announcements, highlighting a variety of endorsements since Smith announced his intention to seek Brad Mitzelfelt's seat on the board.
The continuing support of those elected officials will be valuable even after the election, he said.
"When we start having to work through issues, having those connections is going to be key," Smith said.
After a rocky start in life — the son of two alcoholics, Smith ping-ponged through half a dozen foster homes growing up — he has rubbed shoulders with officials since becoming an adult. And he didn't have to leave high school to do it: As a 19-year-old deputy, he worked undercover in county schools, buying drugs for the sheriff's department, like a real life "21 Jump Street" character.
Smith spent 28 years in the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department before retiring.
"It was just an awesome career."
But retirement didn't mean taking it easy: Smith jumped into local politics. He's the chief of Yermo's volunteer fire department, the president of the Yermo Community Service District, served on the Silver Lakes school board and was formerly the school board president at Summit Leadership Academy.
"I've had a lot of opportunities and never said no," he said. "And because of that, it was wrong for me to sit home on the couch."
He made waves while on the Silver Lakes school board, which brought him to the attention of the 1st District's then-supervisor, Bill Postmus. He went on to work as a field representative for Postmus, before being promoted to senior field representative and later director of operations. He's currently on leave as a community liaison for Mitzelfelt.
In all, he's spent 34 years working for the county, which he says gives him an edge over the other six candidates seeking to replace Mitzelfelt on the board.
"A mayor or a city councilman goes in and actively works a couple times a month," Smith said. "At part-time jobs, these politicians have done a good job. I've done it as a full-time job and know how the (county's) bureaucracy works."
If elected, Smith says he'd bring in outside consultants to evaluate the county's functions and help streamline processes. He would also force county inspectors to be more accountable, recording what they ask of businesses and residents they inspect — something he says isn't the case now.
"The county is not in the business of making jobs," he said, but it can do more to get out of the way: "I don't believe we have a business-friendly environment."
Smith would also create a would create a "businessmen's coalition" to advise the board of supervisors and try to get the county to be better about copying programs that work well elsewhere. He'd also promote training programs to prepare local residents for what he sees as the inevitable interest of big business in the High Desert.
"We've got to train people in the High Desert for the jobs that will come," he said. The 1st District "is the only place in San Bernardino County with lots of expansion room."
Still, he says that the recovery won't happen overnight, as government revenues only rise once the private sector has recovered.
"It's four years we've got to have good experience in these seats," he said. "I know all of those department heads."
But if he's elected, Smith says he'll be staying put, and that he has no designs on higher office.
"This is my last public service," he said. But he added, "I can't let my experience go unused."