California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith is in her first term representing the 38th Assembly District, which includes Agua Dulce, Castaic, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the northern San Fernando Valley.
Smith, a Democrat, defeated one-term Republican incumbent Dante Acosta in the November 2018 election. The election was so close it took nine days for Smith to clinch the win.
The slim margin of victory saw Smith capture 51.5% and 95,751 votes to Acosta’s 48.5% and 90,298 votes. The win flipped the historically Republican seat to the Democratic Party.
Smith was born in a U.S. Army hospital in Würzburg, Germany. “My father was in the Army and stationed overseas,” she said. “My mother joined him in Germany and I was born on a military base in Germany.” When her father’s enlistment ended, her parents moved to Indiana when she was 6 months old.
Her father, a mechanical engineer, found work at RCA Records near Fortville, Indiana, a small town of less than 3,000 people, outside of Indianapolis. The family later moved to Terre Haute, Indiana. Smith is the oldest of three children with two younger brothers.
“In 1979, when I was nearly 11, we moved to the Santa Clarita Valley,” she said. “My dad was relocating for a job. My parents looked all over the San Fernando Valley, but couldn’t find a neighborhood where they wanted to raise kids. Then they came to Valencia and loved it.”
The family moved first to the Valencia Glen neighborhood where Smith rode a bus to Peachland Elementary School. They later moved to the Meadows development. Smith also attended Placerita Junior High School and is a graduate of Hart High School.
A passion for politics
As a young child, Smith decided she wanted to become a dentist. “When I was in the second grade, I had a lot of dental work done and that was the professional environment I knew,” she said.
In the fifth grade, her interests changed after experiencing a “deep dive” into American history. “Learning about the history of America, about the Constitution and the founding of our government sparked something in me, and it became a passion for me that I never let go,” Smith said.
Throughout junior high and high school Smith was active in student government. However, she said one of her most meaningful political memories came in high school.
“One afternoon, Governor George Deukmejian, along with our congressman and state senator, came to Santa Clarita to attend a luncheon,” she said. “Clyde Smyth, the Hart Union School District superintendent, had extra tickets and he could have invited anybody, school district staff or colleagues, but instead he chose to invite the three high school student body presidents (at the time the only high schools in the SCV were Canyon, Hart and Saugus).”
Smith said the experience impacted her greatly. “After meeting the governor, I decided my future would be in politics,” she said.
COC and UCLA
Smith’s parents divorced before she graduated from Hart. “I didn’t have the resources to put myself through a four-year university,” she said. “The best bargain in town is our local College of the Canyons. I started as a student at COC and became an employee a few months later.”
Smith held a variety of positions at COC where she worked from 1987 to 1993. Her first job was with Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) a student support-services program. She then moved to the admissions office and then to the counseling office. Smith also became president of the COC classified employees’ union for one collective-bargaining term.
After studying at COC, where she became the chief justice of the student judiciary, Smith graduated with honors and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Marriage and family
Smith met her husband, Phil, at COC where the couple shared a political-science class and served on the student judiciary together. “Our first date was in May, he proposed in October and we were married in December of the same year,” she said. The couple will celebrate their 30th anniversary in December.
After graduation the couple moved to Washington, D.C. “My husband was a graduate fellow with the CIA and pursued his graduate program at George Washington University. I was able to get a job at the U.S. Dept. of Education as an analyst,” Smith said.
“It was an exciting time. President Clinton wanted to rethink the federal role in public education and I had the opportunity to serve as one of the staffers.” Smith worked on education initiatives concerning parent involvement and school-to-work.
The Smiths became pregnant with their first child while in Washington, D.C. “I had some serious complications with the pregnancy and almost didn’t survive,” she said.
After the premature birth of their first daughter the couple decided to return to Santa Clarita to live closer to family. After their return, Smith focused her attention on being a mother. Three years later a second daughter was born.
While raising their two daughters, Smith became active in local education, serving as a PTA and site council member. “This was a time when the push to put new technology in our school classrooms started to ramp up and every local district was really strapped for cash,” she said.
Smith started a nonprofit foundation in the Newhall School District, the Valencia Valley Technological Education Foundation, to raise resources and served as its initial chair. “That propelled a run for school board… and here we are today,” she said.
Smith was elected to the Newhall School Board in 2009 and served two terms. She also served as chair of the successful Measure E Prop 39 bond campaign for the Newhall District, which has provided $60 million in resources for facility and technology upgrades.
Smith ran for the State Assembly in the 2016 election and lost to Acosta. “I ran because I thought we needed a change in representation,” she said. “I felt the larger community was left out of the conversation, and access was challenging.”
As a Democratic activist Smith also saw the demographics of the district changing. “We were trending purple,” she said. “Even if I didn’t have a meaningful chance of securing the seat, running meant I would have a platform for talking about a meaningful alternative agenda.”
After the national results of the 2016 election, Smith was even more determined to run in 2018. “I knew California would need to become a leader on many important issues, including women’s health care freedoms, environmental protections, wage and labor protection and things that were core values to middle class voters,” she said. “Issues that include public safety and education.”
Smith said setting an example for her daughters, currently ages 20 and 23, was also a consideration. “It was important to me to demonstrate to my girls that even in the face of what seems to be an insurmountable challenge you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start again, you can try again,” she said.
Smith said it is important to her all voices feel represented at the state level. “I didn’t want my leadership or representation to be ‘scary’ to anyone,” she said. “Which is why I have invited all voices to the table. I want to make sure no one feels left out.”
On a lighter note, Smith said the most surprising thing she discovered about her new job in the state capital was how often she got lost in the state house building. Because of numerous additions and remodels the floors often don’t match up.
“Just finding food consistently is a challenge. I told my staff, ‘Just let me get lost,’” she said. After six months on the job, Smith said she is more comfortable finding her way around the capital.
When Smith has time to relax, she enjoys reading, hiking and spending time with family. She enjoys hiking all the trails around the SCV. “We are so lucky the city has really focused on preserving open space,” she said.
Smith also has a fondness for Yosemite National Park. “I never pass up an opportunity to visit Yosemite and hike,” she said. “It is my favorite place to hike on the entire planet.”
“It is truly an honor and privilege to be able to do this job, to work in public service which I enjoy,” she said. “My real driving passion is ensuring we improve public education in the state, so every child has the best possible opportunity,” Smith said.
The quality of the public schools in Santa Clarita is a model that Smith feels can be achieved statewide.
“Santa Clarita is known for having great schools and that is part of what drives my passion,” she said. “Because I know what can be achieved, I have seen it here at the local level with our public schools.”