Thomas “Tommy” Smigiel, Jr. is a candidate for Norfolk City Council. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.
10 On Your Side reached out to all of the candidates running in this race. If you do not see the candidate listed with a profile, we did not receive one.
See who is on your ballot by viewing the candidate lists on the Virginia Department of Elections website.
Name: Thomas “Tommy” Smigiel
Race: Norfolk City Council
Biography: Thomas “Tommy” Richard Smigiel, Jr., is a lifetime resident of Norfolk and was raised in the Ocean View and Bayview sections of Ward 5. An award-winning educator, he has dedicated his professional career to helping the children of Norfolk be successful in school and their personal lives.
Smigiel was elected to Norfolk City Council representing Ward 5 on May 4, 2010. He assumed office on July 1 of that same year. He was re-elected to a third term on May 1, 2018. He co-chairs the East Little Creek Road Task Force and Ocean View Advisory Committee. He was also a council-appointed member of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC).
He co-chaired the Mayor’s Commission on Lifelong Learning. Smigiel serves as a board member on the Old Dominion University Darden College of Education and Professional Studies Advisory Committee. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Municipal League and became the first president of the organization from Norfolk in 50 years in 2019. Smigiel previously served as a member of the YMCA for South Hampton Roads Youth Development Advisory Committee. He has been recognized multiple times for his work as an educator and public servant.
His wife, Shannon, is a Norfolk Public School’s elementary school counselor, and they have two daughters, Devin and Erin, and a son, Spencer. Their home is in East Ocean View.
- Bachelor of science: Old Dominion University
- Masters in school administration and supervision: Cambridge College
- Educational specialist degree: Walden University
- Years of dedicated service to Norfolk Public Schools and our students
- Principal at Granby High School: 2020 to present
- Academy for Discovery at Lakewood Principal: 2014 to 2020
- Assistant principal at Granby High School and Lake Taylor High School: 2008 to 2014
- Norview High School earth science and leadership teacher: 2000 to 2008
- City councilman, Ward 5: Elected in 2010
- Old Dominion University Darden College of Education and Professional Studies Advisory Board
- Virginia Municipal League past president
- Virginia Municipal League board member
- East Ocean View Civic League vice president
- West Ocean View Civic League treasurer
Awards and Honors:
- Norfolk Public Schools Distinguished Alumni Award
- St. Pius X Distinguished Alumni
- Inside Business Top 40 Under 40
- Norfolk Jaycees Honorary Member
- Old Dominion University Distinguished Alumni Award
- National Teacher of the Year finalist and runner-up
- Virginia Teacher of the Year
- Norfolk Public Schools Teacher of the Year
- Norview High School Teacher of the Year
Why should residents elect you to City Council?
I have a very strong record of fighting for Ward 5. There are many examples of proven leadership, including securing millions of dollars to complete Bay Oaks Park, updating Community Beach, investments in infrastructure projects, and commitment to bringing businesses to our neighborhoods.
I have an impeccable attendance record at council meetings — meaning Ward 5 always has a strong voice in decisions that impact us. My years of experience have allowed me to become an expert on how to navigate the bureaucratic processes of city government.
I make it a priority to keep my community updated in real-time on social media. My civic league knows me, and I’m active on social media, which helps me keep a pulse on our community and guides me when making decisions. As a dedicated educator and parent of three children, I remain focused on and care deeply about the future of our whole city.
What are the top three priorities you would tackle if elected?
Public safety, our neighborhoods, and education.
- Public Safety: I have a strong record of supporting public safety initiatives, including fighting for our police, first responders, and deputies to have the highest pay increases in Hampton Roads. When other urban cities were considering defunding police, I pushed for and voted on millions of extra dollars for our police, fire fighters, EMTS, and deputies, including salary increases, benefits, new equipment, and vehicles. This is why I am endorsed by Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron. We need to continue this investment in public safety and make sure our first responders are the highest paid in the region.
- Neighborhoods: I believe that all strong cities have to have strong neighborhoods. Ward 5 is known for its strong traditional neighborhoods that foster a sense of place and belonging. I believe in maintaining these characteristics, which is why making sure our residents feel safe has to be our number one priority. It also means strong code enforcement, easy access to parks and recreation, safe pedestrian access, connections to local business districts, and encourage improved and affordable housing stock.
- Education: If there is anyone on council who knows education, it is me. I only have the best interest in moving public education forward in the city of Norfolk. I proposed that the city have a Lifelong Learning Commission that focused on bringing all of our learning resources together to support a city of learning for all ages. I also championed a revenue sharing formula agreement with the school system, which took the guessing out of how much money the school system would receive each year and has now added over $10 million annually in extra funding to provide teacher pay raises and other necessary resources for improving learning opportunities for our children. I also lead the effort to invest over $750 million over the next 20 years to rebuild and renovate our schools.
What is the most pressing economic issue facing your community, and how would you address it?
Because 37% of Norfolk’s property is not taxable, I understand that we have to have a plan to continue to find revenue through other sources. Economic development, whether adding a new small business or courting a major corporation, is an important part of bringing in revenue.
In addition, Norfolk has continued to make smart investments in economic development to maintain our strong bond ratings, which ultimately save the city money in debt service. Because of Norfolk’s smart approach to budgeting, including focusing on pay-as-you-go projects instead of bonding debt, S&P raised Norfolk to a AAA bond rating.
While big projects such as Military Circle and the Casino tend to get most of the attention, I also realize the value of growing retail and commercial in and around our neighborhoods. It is part of what makes strong neighborhoods. I will continue to work to find new retail opportunities in Ocean View and along Little Creek Road.
I will advocate for a funding source for small businesses to apply for grants to support cyber security and other safety measures to protect their businesses. I will work on a program for the city to regularly fund a source for small businesses to apply for grants to pay for equipment or other materials to get established quicker. I will push for additional façade improvement grants for businesses along Little Creek Road to improve their exterior look.
What are your community’s biggest infrastructure needs, and how do you plan to fulfill them?
In the city of Norfolk, the former Princess Anne County lack of infrastructure still exists in neighborhoods along Little Creek Road and Ocean View. I have pushed to get additional funding to install ADA ramps, clean-up some curbing, add sidewalks on the northside of Little Creek Road, and successfully secured $13.8 million over the next five years to upgrade the storm water system and streetscape in East Ocean View.
We need to do more, and I plan to continue to push for our share of tax dollars to be reinvested back in our infrastructure. I will continue to also push for additional funding to handle both tidal and precipitation flooding. I am proud of the work we have done as a city over the last decade on flooding, which secured us a spot on the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer’s project list, which includes funding of the first phase of the flood wall in downtown Norfolk. The second phase includes a flood gate and berm project on Pretty Lake in Ocean View to help mitigate tidal flooding.
How is gun violence impacting your community, and how do you plan to address gun violence?
Unfortunately, we continue to see headlines highlighting violent crimes in our communities and country. The post-pandemic surge of violence is something each city is trying to control, while finding innovative solutions to enhance public safety in our neighborhoods.
Having been a victim of a crime, I am sensitive to understanding the impact on our citizens. Norfolk has continued to increase funding for our first responders. I championed retention bonuses for our police and increased funding for public safety, including pay increases of over 10% for police, fire, and sheriff deputies.
Police cannot do it alone. We need our Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to also enforce Virginia’s laws for first-time gun charges and hold criminals accountable for their actions. In this last budget, we have also increased code enforcement staffing. Sometimes working on the smallest code issues can help towards better public safety.
I support investing in more technology, including advanced video surveillance with placement at our public spaces. Right now, we have a portable video surveillance system at Ocean View’s Community Beach Park, and we should increase these around the city as they have been proven to be an effective tool with crime prevention.
We have recently purchased FLOCK cameras which will be able to read license plates. We also need to continue to enhance our resources for more mental health counseling and support for victims of violent crime, including in communities that have had a traumatic experience. Revamping our community policing needs to be a priority when our new police chief is hired, which helps build a foundation for a stronger public safety network.