PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — It’s the job of a city councilperson to care about the citizens they serve.
So Treska Wilson-Smith had plenty of experience by the time she was elected councilwoman. She’s been serving others since she was old enough to walk—or at least, old enough to pick up a shovel.
“I would get Miss Helen’s walkway all cleared off in her steps and then shovel myself down the sidewalk to the next house,” Wilson-Smith said as she recounted how she would sneak out of her house as a child to shovel her elderly neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks during the winter. “[I’d] go home, sneak back in the house, put the shovel up, take my clothes off and get back in the bed as if nothing had ever happened.”
Her service became more public and impacted more than those living in her tight-knit neighborhood, as she became a teenage candy striper at Petersburg General Hospital and climbed the ranks as a Girl Scout.
“There were a lot of things that were just so limited to boys, but as Girl Scouts, we didn’t have those limitations,” Wilson-Smith said.
Decades later, she’s still a tireless advocate for the organization, believing it has the power to help transform Petersburg girls and the community.
“It’s something to push them along to know they could grow up to be great,” Wilson-Smith said. “They could grow up to be entrepreneurs, they could grow up to go to space.”
Only two years ago, at the age of 67, did Wilson-Smith finally decide to take a step back from leading Girl Scout troops. But even she admits she keeps finding herself back among the scouts.
It’s part of the Energizer Bunny spirit her friends and colleagues all described, that has had her on the go since she was in diapers. It’s what has kept her fighting for issues she believes in until she reaches her goals, even if she has to do it by herself.
“I have had to stand alone many times,” Wilson-Smith said. “I would stand alone until other people decide, you know, she’s on to something here.”
Before she won her seat on Petersburg’s city council, people recalled her heading up school PTAs, marching alone outside City Hall, pleading for more resources for Petersburg Schools.
Once she was elected to city council, she was the only woman for seven years. During that time, she said she continued the fight on issues important to her as a mother.
“It took 16 years to get uniforms in the Petersburg public school system,” Wilson-Smith said. “It took 16 long, long years and it was a fight. And that’s okay. It was a fight worth fighting.”
Wilson-Smith fought for more than a decade and a half because she felt so strongly that when children aren’t worried about what they and their classmates are wearing, they’re more focused on what’s happening in the classroom.
And now that the school board has voted to once again remove uniforms for the classroom, it’s something she knows she’ll muster up the will to fight for again. If not something else she believes in equally.
Because even when being a city councilperson is no longer her job after she steps down next year, she said it will always feel like it.
“I will continue to fight for things that I believe are right,” Wilson-Smith said.