Larry Smith honored as 2017 First Citizen

Former Vancouver councilor, Army officer’s volunteerism focus of award

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Larry Smith’s Top 10 list

The First Citizen award winner’s favorite things about the community:

1. Medical facilities.

2. Nonprofit organizations.

3. Rich history.

4. Philanthropic citizens.

5. Educational systems.

6. Honoring first responders.

7. Honoring veterans.

8. Sense of welcoming others.

9. Community events.

10. Volunteers.

After Larry Smith accepted his First Citizen award, he shared a list of the top 10 things he appreciates about the community.

The 10th item on his list: volunteers.

Actually, Smith’s own long list of volunteer contributions is why he was named First Citizen for 2017.

While Smith built an impressive résumé as an Army officer, public administrator and then elected official, “This award isn’t about doing great things in your day job,” noted Jennifer Rhoads, president of the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

“It is a recognition of what you do in your spare time, after work, in the evenings and on the weekends,” she said during Thursday’s event at WareHouse ’23. “Larry has done a ton.”

Those community contributions were illustrated by a parade during the award ceremony. Marching down the middle of the room, participants waved placards representing some of the organizations and causes that have benefited from Smith’s involvement: The Parks Foundation of Clark County; Meals on Wheels People; Riverview Elementary Lunch Buddies; The Historic Trust; Community Military Appreciation Committee; Clark County Veterans Assistance Center; Council for the Homeless; and the American Red Cross of Southwest Washington.

John Deeder, former Evergreen school superintendent, was one of several people who cited that community participation in supporting Smith’s nomination.

“The thing about Larry, he is engaged in so many things,” Deeder said before the formal activities kicked off. “He is always about helping other people. He cares about this community.

“He didn’t grow up here, but he made it his home,” Deeder added.

The Army colonel and his family came here in 1989 when Smith served as the 104th Division’s senior Army adviser at Vancouver Barracks. When his 26-year Army hitch ended in 1991, Smith, wife Patti and their daughter Kirsten decided to stay.

“On Friday, I was wearing a green uniform. The following Monday, I was in civilian clothes” as assistant to Vancouver’s city manager, Smith said. He became director of parks and recreation in 1996. He was elected to the city council in 2004. He served as mayor pro tem, representing the city at community events, until he stepped down at the end of 2016.

“He made every event a celebration,” said Anne McEnerny-Ogle, who was elected on Tuesday to be the next mayor of Vancouver.

During his acceptance speech, Smith pointed out that the benefits in volunteering go both ways. We tend to go through life among different groups in schools, sports, clubs and workplaces, he said.

“Retirement can put an abrupt end to that,” said Smith, who pointed out that he has retired twice — from the Army and from his city position.

Volunteering “can sustain your health.”

“Stay involved,” he said. “It’s good for your health and it’s good for your family.”

The First Citizen program is a partnership of the Community Foundation and The Columbian; the event’s presenting sponsor is Regents Bank.