Twenty-year Southold resident Rona Smith has made her mark on the community by leading advisory committees and thus influencing policy. Currently, she serves as Chair of Southold’s Housing Advisory Commission, sits on the town’s Economic Development Committee, and is Vice-Chair of the Southold Local Development Corporation. All three of these groups have taken direct steps to improve the lives of residents under Rona’s determined leadership.
Rona began her career as a JHS English teacher in South Jamaica, Queens. Successful (and joyful) teaching led to a federal grant for her MA degree at NYU. That led to higher educational aspirations. This from a young woman who was the first person in her family to attend college! A PhD fellowship followed, along with the birth of her son.
New York’s budget crunch in the late 1970s, led Rona down another career path, however. Her longtime interest in real estate led to a job as a real estate broker and ultimately involvement in investment real estate rehab and renewal. After these unexpected changes, Rona’s professional career was primarily in the housing industry; from selling to marketing to development and to financial analysis. Rona was the longtime head of an investment development group specializing in multi-family housing and which she built from scratch. She has taken that extensive experience and knowledge and shared it with her community in pursuit of much needed workforce housing on the North Fork. She has been involved in workforce housing exclusively since 2000.
The need for affordable housing is dire, sending our well-educated kids to live elsewhere, forcing businesses to scrounge for workers, and often causing young people to postpone establishing their own households. A fifty unit complex is about to be built in Southold, thanks to Rona’s efforts to proactively pursue affordable housing developers, encouraging them to build in Southold. This was accomplished working across party lines. The development is soon to be home to 50 local families!
The loss of her son, David, in 2012, personalized her focus on health care. David did not have health insurance because of the high cost. He postponed seeing doctors and, when he finally did, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. If not for the Affordable Care Act and its preexisting condition provision for cancer, he would not have received the aggressive treatment that was his only hope.
Watching the Affordable Care Act coverage being ripped to shreds is a source of fear. Hard-working people should not be afraid to get sick. Rona will work in New York State to re-establish a diminishing safety net. With the opioid epidemic on the rise and mental health care limited or non-existent, these serious crises are on her urgent Assembly agenda. Rona supports single-payer healthcare!