Caring, engaged, ‘the next Sarah Palin,’ Barbara Kent serves Smithfield

SMITHFIELD—Teacher at the longest running home preschool in town, City Council member, and mother of six, Barbara Kent has been active in the community for more than 30 years.

Now in her second term, she’s been on the City Council for four years.

“I got involved because people asked me to,” Kent said. “I had neighbors and friends that said, ‘You should be on the city council.’”

Kent started out on the Planning and Zoning Committee, the board of elected or appointed individuals in charge of recommending to the City Council the boundaries of the various original zoning district.

At first, Kent rejected the request to run for Council. She had a newborn granddaughter, was helping to take care of her parents. She just didn’t have the time. A few months later, Council member Kris Monson contacted her a second time.

“She called me again in April and said ‘we are ready for you’ and I didn’t really have an excuse then,” Kent said. By then, she had served on the planning commission for five years.

To Kent, it’s important for residents and Council members to be active and involved in the problems going on around the community.

“We needed to have meaning involvement and we needed to have the citizens informed with good information, that way they can make good choices,” Kent said.

One way to get information out to the residents quickly and efficiently is to have a City Council that works well together.

“I think we get along as well as any Council does,” said fellow member Brent Buttars. “We talk about things a little bit and eventually we come to a conclusion and it’s not an all-night event. For the most part, we agree and are pretty conservative.”

Kent gives back to not only the adults in the community, but the children as well. Her home preschool, which she started in 1980, was the first one in Smithfield.

“I always thought I could run a preschool someday,” she said. “After observing one, I thought ‘I could do that,’ and then my own kids could come.”

Her son, 24 year-old William Kent, remembers the preschool always being around while growing up.

“We always had a preschool in our basement,” he says. “I went pretty much from the time I came back from the hospital up to kindergarten.”

Kent has always had her family’s support, specifically her three sons, who believed she could become the next Sarah Palin.

“When I was first running for City Council it was around the time Sarah Palin was running and they were saying, ‘Palin was like a mayor of a small town, and now she could be president. You could take over the world,’” she said.

“I was their plan for world domination.”

William said that having his mother involved in the City Council has made him more aware of the issues surrounding the community. He completely supports her.

“It has made me a lot more conscious of the community in general,” he said. “When I lived in Smithfield, I realized it was a pretty great place. She’s always been a firm believer that where you live should be the greatest place ever.”

From preschool to City Council, Kent makes sure to improve the community she lives in any way she can. If William had to describe his mother in one word, it would be “caring.”

“I can’t think of a single thing she’s done that’s for herself,” William said. “She’s always trying to make things better make her community better, her family better and just help the people around her.”

Published in cooperation with the Hard News Cafe. Original story is here.