compiled by Kym Byrnes, photography by Nikola Tzenov

Mayor Melinda Smith: Manchester Mayor Balances Small-Town Feel With Progress

Melinda Smith is Manchester’s first female mayor. While she acknowledges that this achievement is a milestne, she said that she ran and won on her merit and qualifications and doesn’t think being female had anything to do with her election to the office. She has lived in Carroll County since 2007 and has been involved in municipal government — as a city councilwoman for eight years and mayor since 2023. While the job as mayor has its share of challenges, Smith says owning her own business and raising several children has helped her build the skills needed for success. She looks forward to keeping her promise of maintaining Manchester’s small-town feel while also acknowledging that progress is necessary regarding important issues like water, safety and a balanced budget.

“My goal for Manchester has always been to keep it very small town but with progress mixed in. That’s what I ran on, and that’s my goal. When I moved here, I got involved. The more I participated, the more I liked being a part of things. The only way to get to have a say is to get involved.” – MAYOR MELINDA SMITH

Where did you grow up, and how long have you been a Carroll County resident?

I was born and raised in Randallstown. We moved to Carroll County in 2007, built a home here and raised our three children. We have two daughters, a son and a grandson. We love Carroll County, and the school system was important to us as we raised children.

I was with a big insurance company for 29 years, and two years before my retirement, I decided to start my own real estate business. The real estate did so well that I retired and went into real estate full time. I was on Manchester Town Council for eight years, took a two-year break while I started my business and then ran for mayor in 2023.

What motivated you to run for mayor? Have you always had aspirations to be in politics and public service?

I have loved being a part of a small town, and the former mayor was great; however, he was busy, and I felt I had a little more time to put into the town and could bring about positive changes. My goal for Manchester has always been to keep it very small town but with progress mixed in. That’s what I ran on, and that’s my goal. When I moved here, I got involved. The more I participated, the more I liked being a part of things. The only way to get to have a say is to get involved.

I’m still working full time in real estate. I have been a volunteer EMT for over 20 years and am still a member of the Hampstead Volunteer Fire Company. My family started one of the volunteer fire companies in Baltimore County, so it’s always been a family affair, and I just continued it. My husband has been in the volunteer fire service for 40 years, and my older daughter is in volunteer services as well.

What prepared you for this position? What skill sets are required?

Throughout my life, and I’ve worked since I was 15, I’ve managed people and worked on teams. My career has helped me a lot with public speaking, working with people and learning how to work on a team. Having children and juggling a busy schedule and a career helped me become good at problem-solving, time management and understanding people. I work off lists upon lists. My husband teases me about needing all these lists. I’m a little bit OCD; I believe that there is a certain way to do things.

You’re the first female mayor in Manchester. Does this recognition mean anything to you? Do you feel like this element played a role in getting elected?

When I was running, that wasn’t important to me. It’s wonderful; it’s a great milestone. I didn’t want to win on being a female. I wanted to win on my own merits.
I believe in winning on merits, not what you can use to make more people vote for you. I don’t think it matters if the mayor is a man or woman; if you can do the job, you can do the job. That’s one lesson I learned in the fire department long ago.

Melinda SmithWhat are some of your priorities in this position? What did you want to jump into on day 1?

I want to keep small businesses in our community, to keep it very small town. The schools are very important. We have to keep them safe, and we have to stay on top of education. There are a lot of things going on in the town. We have a wastewater treatment plant being renovated, and that’s a big project.

I want Manchester to be a family-friendly community, and it has to be safe. We have a wonderful police department, and they do a wonderful job.

What are the joys and the challenges of running a small town?

The joys: I get to meet the community and understand how the town works, what the community is, what people are interested in and what they want to see happen. I love that I get to be a part of that. The challenges: We work on a very strict budget. We do the best we can to provide everything the town should provide and more on such a small budget, and we pride ourselves on that. Keeping the budget balanced with such a small budget and making everything fit is a challenge. The cost of everything is going up, and there is only so much money to spend. Small towns have wants and needs. You have to fill the needs first, and then we go onto our wish list. We try to get grants to help support initiatives; the police department has done wonderful with that.

Is this job what you expected?Are there any parts of it that have surprised you?

My experience serving on the town council prepared me as much as it could to be mayor. I’m still adjusting to being mayor. Sometimes, people call me Madame Mayor, and it catches me off guard a little because I still think of myself as Melinda Smith.

What does success look like for you in this position?

To me, the biggest success is when I have the community say it’s going well, they’ve seen changes and they’re happy with the way it’s going. That includes the people who work here (the Town of Manchester). It’s important that the people doing the internal work are happy. There is the public and what they see, and then there’s what people don’t see — that things are running smoothly and everyone is working together. That is really important to me. If the people who voted for me are not happy, then I’m not going to have a good experience.

What are you doing when you’re not running the town or managing your business?

I love horses. I grew up with them and continue to enjoy them. I have two chocolate Labs; they’re my babies. We enjoy camping, and I love to travel. I love the change of seasons and anything that has to do with being on or in the water.

What is something that people may not know about you?

I love to negotiate about anything and everything. Even when I was younger, I enjoyed it. Then, it became part of my work in insurance and real estate. It’s a good skill; I find it useful in every facet of life, including as mayor.