Rep. Billy Richardson’s retirement has created an open House District 44 in Cumberland County, covering western Fayetteville and surrounding areas. Attorney Charles Smith won the competitive Democratic primary there, and no Republicans are running, so he’ll join the House in January.
What are the current and past jobs you’ve held outside of politics? In high school, and during summer breaks in college and law school, I waited tables. After law school, I was an Assistant District Attorney in Cumberland County, specializing in domestic violence and child abuse. Currently, I’m in private practice with The Charleston Group, where I handle a variety of civil litigation matters, but spend most of my time representing the Department of Social Services in neighboring Hoke County.
Why did you run for state legislature instead of another elected office you might have considered? I love law: justice, mercy, accountability, honesty and helping people. My interest in the law naturally sparked a desire to become involved in the creation of laws and policy. In 2019, I was interested in a judicial appointment to the Cumberland County District Court bench. As a judge, I would have interpreted the law. As an attorney, I argue the law. As a legislator, I welcome the opportunity to help write and pass laws that others argue and interpret.
If you could enact a single piece of legislation into law today, what would it be? There are a few pieces of gun safety legislation that we, as a state, desperately need. Teachers are leaving public education in droves, and we are not doing enough to incentivize the retention and recruitment that they, and our children, deserve. We’ve got to make drastic changes to our teachers’ pay scale. Lastly, for a profession that is run by and filled with women, we are not doing a good job of supporting them. Public education will not be a competitive career choice without competitive benefits, such as paid maternity leave.
Where do you most enjoy taking an out-of-town visitor in your district? There’s a great locally-owned craft beer taphouse, District House of Taps, in Haymount. From there, my wife and I will take visitors on the new Coldwell Banker Trolley to Segra Stadium for a Woodpeckers game. Our out-of-town friends are always surprised by all that Fayetteville has to offer.
What is your favorite hobby outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Mary Kelly, and our pets, Scout and Mowgli. Whenever we have the opportunity, Mary Kelly and I enjoy traveling. Most recently, we’ve been to Maine and D.C. When I have free-time, which is increasingly rare, I enjoy reading. Currently, I’m reading How The Word Is Passed by Clint Smith, which examines how we are reckoning with our racial history and remembering slavery.
Who do you most admire, and why? Growing up in a family of UNC graduates, I’ve always admired Dean Smith. As I’ve gotten older and read more about his life and legacy, my respect for him has only deepened. Coach Smith was a quiet revolutionary during the Civil Rights movement. While he’s known for his impact on the basketball court, his impact off the court reaches much farther.