13 Sep Will Smith Announced as New Executive Director
On June 24, 2019, the Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. (BENI) Board of Directors announced Will Smith as the organization’s new Executive Director. Beginning his tenure at BENI in 2013, Smith built upon his neighborhood revitalization experience while continuing to transform Belair-Edison into a healthy community where residents and local businesses can thrive.
“After an extensive search for a new executive director, we determined that the best candidate was already a member of the BENI family,” stated Tanya R. Dorsey, President of the Board of Directors. “Will has been a true asset to Belair-Edison, bringing a wealth of knowledge of both the organization and the community, building upon decades of successes throughout the neighborhood.”
Smith joined BENI as the Community Engagement Specialist and has grown throughout his tenure to also serve as Main Streets Director, Schools Liaison and most recently Community Development Manager.
Born and raised in Baltimore City, he brings 20 years of experience in the private and non-profit sectors to the organization. He has been a partner in several small business ventures, including a convenience store and a landscaping company. With his “Will-Talk” radio show on WOLB-AM, Smith gave a platform to budding entrepreneurs, business owners, community activists and community-based organizations to help facilitate increased engagement throughout the city.
“I am honored to be selected to continue to build upon the long legacy of success of BENI”, said Will Smith, Executive Director, Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc. “We have created a great deal of positive momentum in the last several years along our Main Street corridors, with residents and our community art installations, creating homebuyer incentives and building stronger relationships in the real estate industry and I look forward to expanding this work.”
In 2017 Smith was awarded the Mayors Community Engagement Citation and the Community Champion Award from the Belair Edison Community Association, as well as many other City Citations.
Smith will lead a staff of 11 people and oversee just under a $1M annual operating budget in a community of 18,000 residents. He has developed and grown several relationships with key stakeholders, as well as the community, and will continue to expand upon these critical partnerships.
High-impact work through the community will continue under Smith’s leadership. BENI is acquiring a property on Belair Road that was heavily damaged by fire several years ago and has been an eyesore to the Main Street corridor since, they will be working with a development partner on the much-needed renovations.
The work of BENI is supported through a variety of partnerships with organizations like St. Ambrose Housing, Healthy Neighborhoods and Baltimore City Main Streets programs, as well as various lending institutions. Funding sources include Meyerhoff, Goldseker, and Abell Foundations. BENI has also been a multi-year recipient of Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Founded in 1991, BENI was previously led by Johnette Richardson, who resigned in January 2019.
Thoughts from Executive Director, Will Smith
Belair-Edison is a community that I’ve grown to love. The tenacity and resilience of the residents and business merchants are just some of the reasons I feel this neighborhood remains strong, despite numerous obstacles it’s faced over the years.
I am honored to serve as BENI’s Executive Director and excited to dive into real estate acquisitions and renovation investments using state funding we’ve secured. The façade improvement work along the 3400 and 3200 blocks of Belair Road will be transformative for the neighborhood, leading to new businesses opening and future Main Street investment.
Our newly improved financial capability program will help set Belair-Edison apart from others. We realize not everyone is ready to purchase a home and want to do our best to assist and encourage renters on their path. Our work to convert even more renters to homeowners is a priority, as well as educating them around how to maintain and sustain their home.
With our limited staff, we look to leverage the power of our 18,000 residents to expand our Resident Market Leader Program and ensure more people can effectively problem solve, partner with their neighbors, and lead block-level efforts, giving them a true sense of empowerment.
We value that people have a good quality of life, regardless of ethnicity or economic background. Litter free streets that are safe from crime, nice homes that increase in value, neighbors that care for one another, great schools with plenty of youth activities, and a thriving commercial corridor with established and budding entrepreneurs should be available to everyone in Belair-Edison.
I look forward to continuing the work of my predecessors and leading in a way that fits the needs of today and future growth of the community.