Future-focused and hyper-local: Meet Deputy Mayor Chloe Smith
From Ashfield to Petersham, Chloe Smith has spent her whole life in and around the Inner West. At just 29 years old, Smith is the area’s youngest Deputy Mayor – and she has a vision to lead the community into the future.
“I want our community to grow and change with the times, not be stuck in a time capsule,” says the Stanmore-Damun Ward councillor. “I’m particularly passionate about engaging more young people in politics and ensuring that our voices, concerns and ambitions for our community are being represented.”
When not reading through council documents, listening to stakeholders, or attending meetings or events, Smith enjoys Pilates, podcasts and pooch-walking. And, despite her age, her tastes are rather vintage. “The way to my heart is through ‘80s pop and expensive cheese,” she says.
We find out what motivates her to make local government relevant, and why she has a hyper-local focus.
What attracted you to local government?
My parents instilled in me an understanding and respect for the role of government and political leadership in improving social outcomes, particularly for marginalised communities. I’ve always felt driven to make a contribution and drive the change I want to see, rather than sitting on the sidelines complaining.
I really appreciate the power of local government to deliver real change quickly and locally. Things that might seem small can have a real impact on people’s lives – I’ve seen that in action and it’s powerful. Good local services, community facilities, and public infrastructure are important to make our community fairer and more accessible.
Why is it important to engage young people in government?
Local government, or perhaps all levels of government, can often seem stuffy and dull. But they touch almost every aspect of our lives and have a real influence over our community. It’s critical that young people are engaged with politics and have their interests represented. Losing them means losing the vibrancy, diversity, and fun that make the Inner West the best place to live. Ultimately, if young people aren’t engaged, things don’t change. It can be intimidating to get involved at first, but it’s also an excellent way to challenge yourself, gain new skills, and learn how to effect real change.
Living in the Inner West my whole life, I know and love this community and feel that local government is a wonderful way to give back. I also want to continue living here, which means I have an investment in its future.
What does your role entail?
Being an Inner West councillor comes with a busy schedule of responsibilities, mostly meetings and event commitments. Our council is very active and engages with a lot of community and stakeholder groups, so there’s often at least one or two events every week that I try to attend. It’s also pretty cool having our local member, the Prime Minister, regularly attend our community events like the opening of Pride Square!
As the recently elected Deputy Mayor, my new responsibilities include representing the Mayor at functions and meetings. This usually includes a public speaking role or chairing a meeting.
What are you most proud of as a councillor?
My top three achievements so far:
Supporting live music and the arts: including convening the Arts and Music Recovery Summit; establishing the state’s first Special Entertainment Precinct on Enmore Road; and opening up our town halls for use as creative and cultural venues.
Combating climate change: expanding our food and garden organics recycling program; introducing our electric vehicle charging stations pilot; and establishing a trial energy efficiency service targeted at low-income households to be rolled out next year.
Putting renters’ rights and affordable housing on the agenda: convening our roundtable to be held later this year and commencing work with the state and federal governments to identify sites for affordable and social housing development.
What are your favourite parts of the Inner West?
It’s hard to beat the amazing Portuguese food around Audley Street (especially the tarts!), a swim at Fanny Durack in the summer, and a quiet bevvy at the White Cockatoo. Otherwise, you can catch me watching the Jets on a sunny winter arvo at Henson Park.
If a visitor had one day in the Inner West, what would you recommend they do?
Kick-off with an excellent coffee and brunch at one of our several hundred Inner West cafes. If the weather’s right, head to Dawnies or Fanny Durack for a swim. Grab Vietnamese for lunch in Marrickville, then arvo drinks at a brewery or in one of our world’s-best beer gardens. Or, if you feel like taking a walk, wander down south King Street to explore the unique shopping. Head to Enmore Road for dinner, a gig and a drink – and don’t forget to grab a kebab on the way home!