By Dana Munro Capital Gazette | Dec 21, 2021 at 5:00 AM
Noel Smith, owner of Noel Smith Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Fitness in Glen Burnie, decided to run to represent District 2 on the Anne Arundel County Council as a Republican after he said the current council abandoned his small business and his family when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“There was no help given to the businesses once they were shut down. There was no help. There was no guidance. There was zero leadership. It was just, ‘Hey you’re shut down. We don’t know how long, but good luck.’ That’s pretty much how I saw it,” Smith said. ADVERTISING
He also felt the effects of the shutdowns in his home life. His 8-year-old son, Richard, who has autism, struggled with virtual learning while school buildings were closed due to the pandemic.
“He didn’t get any of the special education that he needed. He should have been provided that special education. He’s now more than a year behind in school,” Smith said. “I talked to lots of parents. Lots of autistic kids, lots of kids who were home-schooled, their education was pretty much left behind last year and no one seems to care.”\
Smith said he paid out of pocket for a private tutor for his son after quickly seeing that virtual lessons weren’t a viable option. He said his son shuts down when overstimulated, and the video classes did just that.
He said that, though he can’t go back in time and make the decisions he wishes were made on the council, he can be an advocate for small businesses and special education if elected. Specifically, he’d work to cut taxes, he said.
“The working middle class and small-business owners are being hit with all these tax increases which, if [the council was] able to budget properly and stop wasting money on pet projects, I think we’d be in a lot better situation right now,” Smith said.
He doesn’t yet have specific ideas of what parts of the budget should be cut, but he does see issues that he wishes money was being put toward, specifically crime in Glen Burnie.
Smith said, as someone who lives and works in downtown Glen Burnie, he sees the crime that goes on there, specifically at the Cromwell Field Shopping Center. He said, if elected, he’d try to work with the building’s landlord to see if the council could help fix some safety hazards in the area and develop it into a facility less prone to crime. In the meantime, he said he’d work on increasing police presence there.
On the education front, Smith said he’d advocate for better pay for teachers and getting teaching students involved in special education at Anne Arundel schools.
“Children with special needs need special attention,” Smith said. “Providing tutors, even high school students who are interested in being teachers or I’m sure there are some intern programs or college programs for interns. They could have college kids or behavioral learning students. Every time I talked to a teacher or called a counselor, they pretty much said there’s nothing they can do. They’re short-staffed.”
He also spent eight years in the military during which time he served in the Navy, Marines and Army. He spent much of that time working as a nurse, he said.
Smith said what sets him apart from incumbent Allison Pickard, a Democrat who lives in Millersville and is running for reelection, is that he lives and works in the heart of the community. District 2 includes parts of Glen Burnie, Millersville and Severn.
“I’m a veteran of eight years, a small-business owner. I’ve lived in this area over 20 years. I’m known in this community. What happens in the community is affecting me personally,” he said.
The county’s primary election is June 28, while the general election following on Nov. 8.