Dealing with nagging journalists and their pesky questions — often about whose money is being spent where — is no task for the faint-hearted.
Jay Smith, a partner at public affairs firm Capital Results, which specializes in political makeovers for Fortune 500 clients, can handle the pressure. He's stood before 200 angry residents of a nearby county to defend an incoming landfill and assuage their health concerns.
He says he seeks an open and direct relationship with his clients, asking them for the straight scoop with the motto, “Don't spin the spinners.” He's worked on projects with such clients as Wal-Mart, Verizon and United Airlines. Smith also helped tell the story of Richmond CenterStage, a project that had its share of P.R. challenges, serving as its principal spokesman and working on its recent grand opening.
Smith has been interested in politics since he was growing up in another capital city, Annapolis, Md., where he once testified as a high-school student regarding funding cuts for after-school programs. “My current Republican view would probably laugh at the things I was advocating for,” says Smith, who earned his political stripes working for former Gov. George Allen in the '90s.
His strongest conviction is that anyone can succeed through education. Smith serves on the board of Good Shepherd Episcopal School, an alternative private school, and is incoming chairman of the Virginia Public Access Project, which discloses donations to political candidates. For more than three years, through his church, he's become a mentor to a 13-year-old boy from Yemen named Mohammed, whom he occasionally brings with him to work.
“I wanted him to see you can dream bigger,” Smith says.
Editors' note: This online profile reflects a correction to the print edition, in which we portrayed the Good Shepherd Episcopal School as serving only lower-income families. More than 90 percent of students have tuition paid by their families.