GLENVILLE — Sarah A. Smith, executive vice president, development and communications at SLS Land & Energy Development, has been honored as one of West Virginia Living magazine’s Wonder Women Class of 2016.
A West Virginia native, Smith was one of the 50 women honored by the magazine for doing her part to make her community and the state a better place. “I’m flattered to be included,” Smith told The West Virginia Record. “I love when women can support other women. I think that’s fantastic.”
After watching her father build his business to 60 employees, Smith felt in 2015 it was her time to join the company and confirm her roots to West Virginia. Her father started SLS, a surveying and environmental services business, in 1978 with one employee and it grew and evolved with the industry and its customer base.
While a role for Smith, an only child, was always there at SLS, it wasn’t until recently that she felt the time was right. Her father was slowing his pace with the business and needed a helping hand. Smith was ready to dig in the best way that she knew how.
“When I think about the 40 years of work that he’s put into – I just wanted to pull up my sleeves and get to work and see what I could do to be helpful,” Smith said.
Smith, who has a law degree from West Virginia University and an MBA from the University of Charleston, said she sees the importance of keeping a business in West Virginia and what it offers to the community. Before her involvement with SLS, another company took interest in it and that helped spur her decision to join the company.
“I think anytime you continue a business and you provide jobs that have a good salary and good benefits especially with younger people that are looking to stay and are looking to continue the good fight to the already good things that are happening in West Virginia and that want to stick around to see things move forward not just in our larger areas but in our smaller communities as well — that’s something that’s really important,” Smith said.
Before joining her father at SLS, Smith was an associate VP at West Virginia University. She also was deputy legislative director under Gov. Joe Manchin and a lobbyist for Alpha Natural Resources — spending just shy of 12 years in public relations and lobbying.
For the honor of Wonder Woman Class of 2016, Smith said she is humbled by the other honorees and appreciates that they are from all over West Virginia, giving a face to the smaller communities in the state.
“One of the things I really like about the Wonder Women Class is that it’s reflective of the entire state and not just the larger areas,” Smith said. “There are stories from all over and I think that’s one of the things that makes West Virginia unique. So many of our smaller communities have so much charm and I love that they’re being highlighted. That’s important to me being a small-town girl.”