In the year 2003, Wanda Grantham Smith was trapped in her house on Cottage Street. At the end of the driveway was a huge pile of snow courtesy of the town snow plow. She couldn't get out. She couldn't get to work. Finally the snow melted triggering the sewer at the West end of town to make its nasty presence known 24/7. All Wanda wanted was some attention for and relief from very unpleasant conditions. It wasn't too much to ask. "I complained all the time and my mother got tired of listening to me and said "Stop it. If you don't like what's going on then why don't you run for office and do something about it'." Mama knows best.
So Wanda, with the prompting of her mother and Jim Schmidt, ran for Shepherdstown Town Council in 2004 and garnered more votes than any other candidate. She then ran for re-election in 2006 and 2008, and was the high vote-getter in both elections. Sitting in the early spring breeze on the porch of the chez Grantham, I asked Wanda why she thought she'd won so overwhelmingly. And in her good-natured and forthright manner she burst out laughing. "I haven't got the faintest idea."
Well, I do. The voters wanted a candidate who'd focus on "their" issues, the issues that affect the quality of their everyday lives and they saw that candidate in Wanda Grantham Smith. Today Wanda is the chairman of the personnel committee and right now at work interviewing for a police chief. She had high praise for Jim Auxer whom she calls "a good man who would do anything for you and really tries to respond rapidly to the people's concerns."
Wanda Grantham Smith
Staff photo by Michael Theis
Wanda was born in Martinsburg, the oldest of William and Dorothy Grantham's seven children: Wanda, Vickie, Karen, Jacqueline, Judy, Michael and J.R. She attended the all-black East Side Elementary School, the site of Shepherdstown Day Care Center today, and by the time she graduated from Shepherdstown High the schools had been integrated. It was the '70s.
In 1974 Wanda went to work as a secretary for the CIA. Of course I asked her about the Watergate scuttlebutt around the office water cooler and she refused, her good humor notwithstanding, to comment. Wanda did tell me though that every night she had to lock her typewriter ribbon in the safe. Amazingtoday we send everything out over the World Wide Web and thirty five years ago we were locking up typewriter ribbons lest someone decode the resulting gibberish of overlapping key strokes. "We had to hand in our weekend itinerary every week. The CIA insisted on being informed about where we were and what we were planning to do."
Wanda was the mother of two little boys, R.C and John Marshall Branson, through a previous relationship when, in 1975, she married Lindell Smith. Lindell was a Shepherd University grad from Gainesville, Florida and soon he moved his new family back to his hometown.
The Smiths soon doubled their family with the advent of two more little boys, Kevin and Tracey; and Wanda went to work in the as a teacher's aid in Hawthorn Elementary School. After concentrating on the fifth grade at Hawthorn for a couple of years, she branched out to The University of Florida. Her first position was in the Registrar's office and then she moved over to P. Y. Yonge, Florida's LAB School, as a Guidance Secretary for all grades. Wanda was at the LAB School for nine years and made so many good friends, students and their families alike, that she still goes back to Gainesville often for reunions. Wanda really loves that townit's just that she loves Shepherdstown more.
When it came to Gainesville football, however, you could say Wanda was "conflicted." One day she met former UVW head coach and then, and now, Florida State head coach, Bobby Bowden. She recalls the day. "Instead of just saying hello, shaking my hand and moving on, as I thought he was going to do, he stayed and we talked. He was so nice, so down-home." Wanda's became an instant Seminole fan. Her men, however, stayed true to the Gators. Now they all support Shepherd.
Sports conflict seems to be a way of life in this family. While Wanda is a hard-core Red Skins fan, most of the Granthams root for the Cowboys' and the Steelers. Fun times on Sunday.
In 1990 the Wanda and Lindell parted company and in 1992 Wanda decided she wanted to "go home." "I called my mother and told her and she just said "well come home then, we're here." This gives you and idea of the closeness of this family.
I walked through the front door and was greeted by smiles from two of Wanda's five grandchildren. A handsome eight year old, Keyon Beane, was playing a video game, while a gorgeous fifteen year-old, Leneya Branson, was multi-taskingwatching TV with a book. It felt good.
Wanda's other grandchildren are Kaylee Branson, age 12; Tarea Branson, 15; and three year old Xavier Smith. All of whom live near and visit often. It's all about family.
Wanda, Kevin and Tracy, returned to Shepherdstown in 1992. While Tracy went into middle school and Kevin to Jefferson High and the baseball team, their Mom eventually found her niche in the Shepherd University Admissions Office. "I've seen lots of good change," she said. Wanda had been at Shepherd through four administrations and sees "Dr. Shipley's penchant for "getting out there and interacting with the students and the community" is a real plus. She's a people person and that's very good for Shepherd. "
If there was one thing about Shepherdstown Wanda could fix it would be the parking situation. "We need a parking garage on campus and in town." No contest, that's the pressing problem. "The on-street parking isn't adequate." She wasn't smiling. "I don't have a problem because we have a driveway, but there are other residents who do and it's not right. More time on the meters would help too. I'd like to fix that."
Unlike the CIA, Wanda doesn't have to register her itinerary at Shepherd or at the Town Council so her free-time activities aren't documented and I was curious.
"I love Wednesday bingo at the fire house. It's fun whether you win or not, but I was a big winner once. "She recalled that her winnings financed a trip to see her best friend in, you guessed itGainesville.
The Asbury United Methodist Church is a huge part of Wanda's life. As church secretary, funeral co-coordinator, long time member of the woman's group, she's an active member of this growing community. And last Friday Wanda joined 800 Shepherd University and town participants in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. "I did it because I want to see an end to cancer during my lifetime. It gave all of us a unique opportunity to celebrate together the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and support the American Cancer Society's lifesaving mission to fight back against a disease that has already taken too much."
Wanda Grantham Smith is such a real person, such a giver. Whether she's giving someone she's never met before her time and a welcoming smile, or she's giving to her church, or the students at Shepherd or the citizens of Shepherdstown, she radiates one message "I'm blessed and thankful."
"I'm so grateful to see another spring and another birthday."
April 11 ... that's tomorrow is Wanda's birthday.
Happy Birthday Wanda, and thanks.
- Sue Kennedy is a former public relations executive and Emmy Award winning