Sandy Smoley, the ‘Queen of Midtown’


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Sandy Smoley wants to start a blog about a terrific way of aging. The 79-year-old served five terms on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and was the state’s secretary of health and human services under Gov. Pete Wilson. Many people in Smoley’s position might opt to quietly run out the clock, but that’s not Smoley. She moved to the grid four years ago and maintains an active social life. SN&R caught up recently with the woman who bills herself as the “Queen of Midtown.”

What brought you to Midtown?

My husband passed away, and I was out at Hazel and 50, way out of town. Most of what I did was downtown, and I was still employed. I came down here to do health-care consulting, and I was making trip after trip after trip, clear out there 10 miles to Fair Oaks. After he passed away, we were in kind of an out-of-the-way place. I have to say I was a little frightened. I lived on the canyon that goes into Lake Natoma, and it was lots of animals. Lots of deer, so wherever there are deer, there are mountain lions. We had skunks and possums and raccoons that are mean. After he died, we used to be out on our patio all the time, but I wasn’t about to go out there at night alone. And so all of a sudden, I looked at myself, and I went, “Wait a minute, what am I doing living clear out here when everything I do is downtown, and I’m out of here?” Plus, I want to go where the fun is.

When you and your husband were married, were you pretty active socially?

Very. … I’m a huge volunteer. I’m a big volunteer in the arts. I work with the philharmonic and the opera and the ballet, and I do a lot of volunteering at University of California at Davis Medical Center. My husband was very active also in different civic things. He was an architect, and he did a lot of city projects. So I’ve always had an interest in the city.

Do you have any thoughts about the new building for the ballet?

It’s a tough one. Of course, we were supposed to get a brand new building on the property of Wells Fargo Pavilion. That was going to be kind of a theater district, and I loved that idea. You go down there for the California Musical Theatre, you go down there for the Sacramento Theatre Company, you go down there for the ballet, you go down there for the philharmonic. We didn’t get the money raised because it was a downturn time, and so it kind of fizzled. This was the next best. The ballet is what really needs that facility, and I’m a huge proponent of the ballet. They needed to be able to have a ballet school in order to support the rest of their programs. So it is a necessity, but it is starting over with a very old building [the Fremont School] that doesn’t have any room that’s nice. There’s going to be a lot of work but I’m happy for them, and I wish ’em well.

Do you think things are going better for the arts in general in Sacramento?

I do, and I think people are excited about our city. I think they see all the things going on with the arena. I think most people comprehend it isn’t a world-class city unless you have the arts and also the arena. I’m a season-ticket holder for the Kings, and I’ve been since day one but I also have a huge appreciation for the arts. I think the people are now seeing the need, and we’ve really turned the symphony around. We’re having quite a fabulous year. The folks are buying back in. We’ve been (through) rocky times, but I think we did it right. We stepped back, we went dark, we had focus groups and we raised money. We did everything right, and then we came back.

Are you excited about this election year?

I’m excited about every election year, yes.

What keeps you interested?

I want to elect the people that I want to elect. I stay involved and work hard for people that I think are qualified and are good people to be in office. I stay interested because I want to affect who’s elected. So I’m usually raising money for candidates of my choice and on their finance committee.

I see, it looks like, pictures of your grandkids.

I have two grandsons.

Interesting. Where do they live?

They live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Would you ever consider relocating to Scottsdale?

No, because my daughter’s here, and I love this community. I don’t want to leave what I’ve helped develop. All my votes on the board of supervisors, I’m very proud of a lot of the things. You drive down the street, you say, “I had a hand in that” or “I put up that stop sign, put those speed bumps in.” That’s tough to leave when you helped develop the community in which you live.