Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Duane Smith is in no hurry to get into Gordon House but, by his own pronouncement, he is working with a timetable.
When The Gleaner asked him to respond to the 'tough question', are you eyeing your father's seat? Duane responded with much verve, "There is absolutely nothing tough about that question."
But the young political debutante, who boasts bachelor and master of science degrees in related disciplines in business from universities in the United States, vowed that he would not miss the opportunity to take over the mantle of representational politics when the time is right.
"There is no indication when the member of parliament for North West St Andrew will be departing. However, whenever a vacancy arises, I will make myself available and that is why I couldn't give up on this opportunity (to contest the Chancery Hall division in the constituency).
"When the Electoral Commission decided to change the boundaries and give North Western St Andrew a third division, I did not think twice, as this would be the best way to get my feet wet in representational politics," he asserted.
By his own admission, Duane Smith, the youngest of his father's three sons, was a brat in his teens, but with the passage of time, his penchant for impishness evaporated.
As the mischievous lad approached manhood, Duane, took on the mantle of maturity, the mannerisms of his dad and a firm resolve to walk in his father's footsteps.
While he has a political vision with his own stamp, Duane harbours no illusions that treading the path his father has carved will be a walk in the park.
"I hope to (emulate him), because I try to take a lot from him; he is a very organised member of parliament," declared Duane. "The executive of his constituency meets every month whether election is next year or next week ... ."
Derrick Smith does not know how to lose elections since setting foot inside the arena of representational politics in 1983. The elder Smith's foray into Gordon House came when he was appointed a government senator by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.
In the uncontested general election of 1983, Seaga sent his protégé to contest what was then the West Central St Andrew seat. Derrick Smith prevailed and was, in 1989, transferred to the more challenging North Western St Andrew constituency at a time when the JLP's popularity was on the decline. He prevailed and continues to outmanoeuvre the range of People's National Party candidates whom he has faced.
Duane acknowledges that perhaps even more than his two elder brothers, he was groomed for politics, with ambitions of looming large in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in another 10 years.
"My father has been a member of Parliament for 29 years, I am 30 years old, so all my life I have seen my father do one thing, which is being a member of parliament," Duane said. "From as far as I can remember, he has been taking me to citizens' association meetings, JLP conferences, and Area Council meetings, so it's like I grew up in it."
The younger Smith recalls that as he watched his father in action, he fell in love with politics.
"Being a politician, you are on call 24 hours a day. He would get a call late at night, and he had to leave the house ... . I used to wonder why he chose to take up this kind of life."
Duane said his father's interaction with his constituents was nothing short of illuminating.
"When I went in the constituency with him, I saw first-hand how he was received by the people and how many lives he has changed, people he has helped to start their businesses, sent abroad - I fell in love with it."
He said unlike him, his two elder brothers, Dino (Derrick Jr) and Jay were not politically inclined.
Duane characterised as ironic Derrick Smith's feverish efforts to dissuade his last son from venturing on the steep and rocky political landscape.
"He did try to warn me to stay away from politics, as he highlighted how challenging and demanding it can be," chuckled Duane.
But even his father's word could not get him to turn away from his first love. "After a while, he stopped trying as he resigned himself to the fact that it was something that I fell in love with."
But his mother (Karleen), who encourages her husband from the political periphery, had no such inhibitions when her 'wash belly' announced his plans to carve a path on the political landscape.
"I think my mother is the biggest politician in the family," he laughed. "She is very supportive; even in my last campaign, she made a commitment from very early to help financially."
Duane recalled how he was particularly smitten by the level of respect and love shown to his dad by the constituents of North West St Andrew.
"My father tells me that everybody you see on the street, from the head of a conglomerate to a man begging on the street, has a tattoo on their forehead which states I am important. That's how he lives his life - by treating everybody with respect, and I am trying to do the same."
Duane says he craves to be as accessible, likeable and visible as his father.
"As far back as I can remember, he has had a constituency office opened five days a week, nine to five." He described his father's illness in 2008 as a minor setback from which he has rebounded "tremendously".
He describes his father as an unstinting loyalist who is with his party whether the JLP loses or wins by a landslide.
"In the next 10 years, I see myself as a successful businessman, as I already have my own business in partnership with one of my brothers - a food distribution company, and I intend to be a senior officer in the JLP," he stressed.
As for his vision of Jamaica, Duane Smith said he will be working for economic advancement. "I want to see the country better than what it is now, that is where my focus lies as we are not doing enough to facilitate and ensure economic stability and growth," he said.