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A conversation with Jeff "Holly's Dad" Smith

In February, pittpunk.com signed up Jeff Smith, 49, to write "Ask Holly's Dad," a monthly advice column. Smith is president of Harmony Borough council, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, and director of process improvement for PPG AutoGlass Downtown.

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How'd you get this gig?

Holly's my daughter and she's a 20-year-old who lives up in Shadyside. Probably a year ago when Holly was on the Internet on a message board, I was sitting there working. She had started a thread where everyone could ask me questions. It was a running joke. That was the genesis of it.

 

 

You're a suburbanite -- the antithesis of punk.

And I think that is part of the attraction that Adam [Rahuba, pittpunk founder] saw. Here's pittpunk.com that has a certain demographic and I'm the traditional big-business suit.

 

Sometimes the questions seem to doubt your authority or the wisdom of seeking advice from anyone your age.

Holly and a lot of her friends, they're the skateboarders of life. Everybody looks down their nose at them and they start getting defensive at people who look like me. Because there probably are a lot of people who look like me who wouldn't give them the time of day.

 

What are you hoping to accomplish with this?

In the first [column] they asked me, "What qualifies you to answer these questions?" I wrote, "In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to talk to a stranger on the Internet. But if somehow a couple of the kids get reassured by the answers -- just hang in there, people like me do care about you."

 

Were you ever a punk?

I was more of a geek.

 

Did you want to be?

When I was that age, I'm not even sure what the equivalent of punks might have been. Then it was more the disco world. Probably if there had been punks I would have wanted to be one, because I sure didn't fit in with the disco crowd.

 

What's your favorite band?

Probably Ace Troubleshooter, followed closely by Dogwood [both on Christian punk label Tooth and Nail].

 

What kinds of music do they play?

I wish I had one of my kids to tell me which category it fit in. Because I'll be ridiculed if I tell you the wrong thing. Dogwood would probably be characterized as one of the punk genres. Ace Troubleshooter would probably be more in the pop side of the spectrum.

 

No, really -- what's your favorite band?

No, really. I've always liked music. For [my] kids, I listen to their music. It doesn't mean I like The Beatles any less. But I kind of moved on to new kinds.

 

What's Holly like?

Holly's really special. She's always been a very independent kid. In high school she was a person of hair color. When she was a senior, she won the Most Unique Dresser for the senior class. She and her friend Derek, who won Unique Boy Dresser, had their picture taken together for the yearbook. My claim to fame is that Derek taped a picture of me on his outfit. One of the things I've told Holly is: It would probably be easier if she dressed and looked a little more normal. But when I looked at kids who look normal and see what they are into, I would way rather have a daughter like Holly, who dresses the way she does and has the values she has, than somebody who just looks the part. And at the end of the day, I'm pretty proud of her. She's a student at CCAC and hopes to go to Pitt next year.

 

Your readers don't always want to discuss issues or advice. One seems to be treating you like a Magic 8 Ball, asking "Will I be getting a new car any time soon?"

That actually was from my daughter. I've already answered that one. c

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