Monalita Smiley

The Reimagining Public Safety Collaborative is announcing the hiring of Monalita Smiley as the Project Director of the Community Justice Center. The Center is responsible for implementing the joint Reimagining Public Safety Plans passed by the City of Ithaca Common Council and Tompkins County Legislature in early 2021, Smiley’s appointment is shared by the City and County.

Smiley has more than 20 years of leadership experience serving the Tompkins County/Ithaca community. She most recently served as the Director of Youth Outreach at The Learning Web and serves as a volunteer board member at local nonprofits including the Southside Community Center. Throughout her career, Smiley has served the community with distinction and brings experience navigating the criminal justice system on behalf of vulnerable communities. As a result, she has developed significant connections within minoritized communities that will aid the City and County throughout the Collaborative process. Smiley will be the Center’s first director.

The search committee, which included representatives from the community, the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and the Center for Policing Equity remarked on Smiley’s commitment to equity and history working to serve the most vulnerable and minoritized members of the community. 

The Community Justice Center has been established jointly by the City and County to lead implementation of several joint Reimagining Public Safety plans. The Center will also be staffed by a data analyst and administrative assistant. As Project Director, Smiley will give regular updates on the implementation of plans to the Tompkins County Legislature and City of Ithaca Common Council (updates are archived on the Reimagining website). 

Smiley, who will begin in the role of Project Director in January stated, “I’m very excited to start in this role and help guide the implementation of our Reimagining Public Safety Plans. I have a long history of working with people from different backgrounds in our community, including people who are marginalized and those with power in the criminal justice system - I will bring those connections to this work to inform the implementation process and help make it inclusive of all perspectives.” She continued, “The Community Justice Center is a unique approach to collaborating on public safety improvements and transparency, and I look forward to helping lead this collaborative process.”

Interim Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes stated, “Monalita’s history, connections, and dedication in this community are consistent with the vision of the Community Justice Center and the Reimagining plans. I’m so excited to welcome her on board to lead this work moving forward.” 

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick stated, “The establishment of the Community Justice Center is transformational, and Monalita brings exactly the qualities that we need to lead a truly inclusive process of putting our plans into action. We’ve seen what can happen when we marshal resources to address acute community needs, and the CJC is poised to do exactly that across the dozen plus joint Reimagining Public Safety plans.”

Dr. Tracie Keesee, Co-Founder and SVP of Social Justice Initiatives for the Center for Policing Equity stated, “Establishing the Center shows that energy and resources are being dedicated to making sustainable changes to the local public safety system, and that community is being centered in this work. Monalita is an excellent leader who will be a thoughtful and effective convener in this role and strengthen the process of implementing these plans.”

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