A legacy paved by example
"The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion."
That quote by Paulo Coelho is most relevant in today's crazy world, but in a more local sense, it certainly sums up the years of service to the city of Prineville by Scott Smith. After 34 years with the city — 20 of those as a supervisor — the City of Prineville Street Supervisor recently put in his last official day in his position.
Smith was recognized in October by the Pavement Management Association as Pavement Manager of the Year. City Engineer Eric Klann nominated Smith for the award. Klann noted that Smith was responsible for implementing a pavement asset management program in 2008 and has managed the program ever since that time.
"I've had a blast working with Scott for the last 14 years," expressed Klann in a recent interview. "I have never met someone as dedicated to his profession as Scott." Â
Klann noted that Smith would get up at 3 a.m. during inclement weather and drive around as needed, to see what needed to be plowed or sanded.
"He never wrote any of this time on his timecard," added Klann. "Prior to Scott taking over the street department, the actual needs of the streets were unknown. Scott implemented a pavement management program where we have our streets inspected every other year, and a needs assessment report generated. This tells us where we should put our funds. It's much more economic to implement preventative maintenance activities than to wait and have to reconstruct the facility."Â
"Scott will be missed, and I wish him well," concluded Klann.
In a recent interview in early December, Smith shared the emotions and dynamics of working his last few weeks before retirement.
"I have handed over the reins, and we have moved some people around." he said. "So, the street crew is as whole as it has been through my career. Those guys are doing their deal, and I am just taking care of little things that you have a tendency to put off — and not wanting to step on any toes. It's a little bit different, and there are quite a few things I am still very involved in."
Smith noted that he is trying to stay in touch with the bigger projects.
"It's the smaller day-to-day routines that I want Justin (his replacement) to make that decision and not rely on me, because I am not going to be there much longer. That is so much different than it has been in this position in the past 20 years."
Smith has been a supervisory position for 20 years, with a total of 34 years at the City of Prineville. He recalled that he began his career in 1987. His best friend, Rob Katzenberger, had recently started a new job at the City of Prineville. Dennis Evans was the street supervisor, and he had gained much of his experience working for Smith's father.
A part-time position opened up, and Smith soon began his career in the street department. He remained part-time for approximately one year and was soon hired to work full-time. The 1990s were tough times financially for the Street Department of Public Works, and Smith indicated that he and Katzenberger spent a couple of summers on the City of Prineville Railroad crew.
"Just because there wasn't a lot of funding to do a lot of projects with the street department," he went on to say. "Those were tough times."
They would also be assigned to the street sweeper for a month straight, due to funding. He noted that throughout his career, the street budget has been based primarily on federal and state gas tax funding. In his 34 years of service, there has only been three times the federal and state gas tax has been increased, with the last time in 2017.
Once Smith took the position of the City of Prineville Street Supervisor, he began advocating for $110,000 yearly to budget for the electricity for streetlights throughout town. He said he also advocated to take it out of the general fund rather than the transportation fund. He attributes the change to City Manager Steve Forrester and City Engineer Eric Klann, as they recognized it as a legitimate request.
"That is safety element, by lighting up our streets, it makes pedestrian traffic much safer, and it helps minimize car break-ins and all that stuff," said Smith. "That opened up another $100,000, and with the new management and our neighbors up on the hill, city budget is very secure," he continued. "A lot of it came from the city council and the budget committee, and a lot of it came once I initiated the program where we inspect and develop Pavement Condition Index (PCI) in 2004. It became very apparent to management, the city council, and the budget committee, that we needed to start putting more money toward our transportation network and in the last 10 years, there has been a pretty significant transfer from the general fund into the transportation department that has allowed us to, on average, for capital improvement projects, about $700,000 per year."
He added that this has made a significant difference in the street network, condition, and the PCI index. He noted that he spent numerous meetings with Eric Klann and the budget committee to present what the outcome would be if the correct funding towards those assets was not accomplished, and what happens as a result of deferred maintenance.
"It's kind of like kicking a can down the road. Pavement is a lot like your house, and the longer you go without painting it, you go from a fairly inexpensive treatment of just paint to having to redo the siding. It's been a challenge, but it was fun to work through those situations with the budget committee and the finance committee," Smith said.
He concluded that two projects that he is immensely proud to have designed include the Combs Flat/Peters Road extension and the North Main and Peters Road reconstruction. He added that these are multi-million-dollar projects, and he continues to be involved in those projects. He noted that they were not done before his last day.
"My intent is to run for City Council and to be able to stay involved at that 30,000-foot level to hopefully see those kinds of projects through."
Evidence of the high level of respect from his peers was evident when the City of Prineville administration, Lori Ontko, and Eric Klann, put on a luncheon to recognize Smith and his accomplishments and to celebrate his retirement. Smith has fostered relationships with not only his City of Prineville peers, but county employees, local contractors, private residents and business owners. There was an incredible representation of these partners at the Tuesday luncheon, and many shared their good memories and why Smith has been such a valuable asset to the City of Prineville.
Steve Uffelman, who has served on the City Council and been a mayor a number of times while Smith worked for the street maintenance department, indicated that he appreciated what an asset that Smith was to the city.
"Scott helped us a lot with paving, with laying out plans for how best to move the process of the paving that needs to be done. He had a great method of prioritizing, of which streets need to be paved, and when and how," noted Uffelman.
He emphasized that Smith used alternative methods of extending the lives of paving projects, and that, in essence, saved the City of Prineville a great deal of money. He was always looking for grant funding to improve the city's road infrastructures.
"He was right there, and he was hands-on, and he wasn't just laying out the projects and telling people how to do it," Uffelman went on to say. "If snow plowing needed to be done in the middle of the night, he was on one of the machines. He was a great asset to the city for a lot of years."
Chad Swindle, Senior Vice President of Taylor Northwest, grew up in Prineville and has known Smith his entire life.
"Since my time at Taylor Northwest, he has basically been our primary point of contact for anything operational with the City of Prineville," commented Swindle. "Over the last 15 years, we have built ten to twelve projects with the City of Prineville. Scott has been great, and his relationship with business owners, private residents, and his communication with all the different municipalities has been second to none. He is just a good person in general, so it is nice to work with somebody that has the genuine interest of the community at heart."
Dan McLean, co-owner of Tri County Paving, collaborated with Smith for 15 to 20 years.
"For the public works department, he has been great to work with and he was always focused on what is best for the city — but also works with the contractor to where everybody is a success," said McLean. "We have had lots of successful projects with him, and just enjoyed our time and hate to see guys like him leave, but we also respect, enjoy, and wish him the best retirement we could possibly hope for him. I know he is going to be greatly missed in Prineville."
Crook County Judge Seth Crawford also noted, "Scott has been a great asset to our community, making sure our streets are in great condition and making sure the city runs really well."
Justin Severance, who will be stepping into Smith's shoes, emphasized that there is an incredible amount to learn. He has worked for the city for nine years, with six-and-a-half years under Smith's tutelage.
"He has done a lot over the years — it's unreal. People can't even imagine, and it makes me a little nervous," said Severance. "Hopefully, I can do at least part of what he has done. He has done a lot, but nobody will ever know. He is very good, he likes the city council and he is always there for a phone call no matter what. He is the first one out in the mornings and the last one to go home — he is just hard-working, nice person."
Smith emphasized, "The city has provided me a very good career. Have there been challenges? Yes. Have there been major difficulties? Yes. The city has a very strong leadership team now with Steve, Eric and a very good city council. Those things can change suddenly. That is the scary part for us older guys who have been there when a new city manager comes in, and same with the city council. Those are some scary things for us who have went through several of those transitions through the years. For the younger generation, if they will commit to a career with a city or a county, and whether those difficult situations will arise, they will be very, very, satisfied."
He stated that one his biggest struggles in the past 10 to 15 years is that he lived and breathed his job. He takes his job very seriously, and he feels his responsibility is to ensure that the streets are safe, and in the past, he would be available at 3 a.m. in the event of a weather event. If it looked like it would be icy, he would jump in the city pickup and do a quick tour to decide whether to sand.
"Ronda has laughed and told people that my orders to her in the past during the winter, were, when you get up to go to the restroom, look outside and look at the temperature," Smith said with a smile.
He said somberly, "I have put this job in front of my marriage, and in front of my family."
Recently, he took a week off before Christmas, and he said they did not do anything except stay around the house.
"It was the best weeks' worth of vacation that I can remember in twenty years, just because I was able to sleep all night."
Smith concluded, "One of the biggest things I want this community to know is I gave my heart and soul. I didn't always make the right decision, but I never ran from anything, and I always accepted that if I did make a bad decision or whatever, I would admit to that. I have given everything I can, but the city has also given back in a lot of recognition and provided me the opportunity to retire at a fairly young age, so I appreciate that."
Smith plans to enjoy life for the near future, including spending time at the coast. They have a fifth-wheel RV and other outdoor toys, which he said he only gets to enjoy a couple times per year. He looks forward to spending more time with his grandkids and family.
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