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A Mayor for All Seasons

March 5, 2015  |  EM1 Mark Treen, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Public Affairs
Kenneth Smith performs his duties as a weight tester at Trident Refit Facility on board Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. He also is in his third term as Kingsland’s mayor. Navy photos by EM1 Mark Treen

Kenneth Smith has been making a difference and making changes to help others for his entire life. This is true whether he is serving as the mayor of Kingsland or as a weight tester for Trident Refit Facility.
 
His history of change start His history of change started in his childhood home. Smith said he remembers growing up in Kingsland in the 1950s and 60s. Then, it was a different Kingsland that he said had a lot of areas without paved streets or running water.
 
The community took their complaints to the Kingsland City Council, and, eventually, improvements were made.
 
This process between the community and council made a big impact on a young Kenneth Smith.
 
Looking back on his life, he said, “I was taught to be helpful from my upbringing and what I saw in the community. I remember seeing love growing up.”
 
Smith took his experiences with him to Vietnam, where he served as a boiler technician on a destroyer. Upon returning home, he remembered the importance of community. He made sure to get involved wherever he could, such as with Little League and Boy Scouts.
 
In 1981, Smith got a job at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay as a rigger. Each evolution he participated in caused big changes on the boats.
 
Jerome Harris, TRF weight test coordinator, has worked with Smith for 10 years. He said he is amazed at how Smith can be the mayor of a city and still be 100 percent in the shop.
 
It’s a privilege to work with him,” he said. “He has a lot of responsibility. He keeps morale up and he keeps people motivated to do their job.”
 
Some memorable moves for Smith included screw and shaft replacements, and a fairwater planes installation. Even though each move was a unique task, one thing was constant; for every move, safety was always the focus.
 
Taught to make safety a priority, Smith noticed the train going through town posed major risks to residents, having previously caused deaths and serious injuries. Because he went to work every day underneath the streetlights installed due to the diligence of his mother and the community, he felt it was his responsibility to speak up.
 
As a result, he organized a petition and, with community support, changes were made forcing the trains to reduce their speed through town, and for the railroad company to erect safety crossing arms.
 
Smith was encouraged to see even more progress in the community and wanted to directly take part.
 
He was elected as a city council member in 1986, providing him with the opportunity to continue positively impact the community. He utilized his connection with the military to help find support for the city’s all-volunteer fire department.
 
With a majority of military volunteers, the city earned a high Insurance Service Office rating, which lowered the insurance bill for those living in the city of Kingsland.
 
He then ran and was elected to end the one-year term. He again ran uncontested for two terms, for a total of eight years.
 
Selina Bell, city of Kingsland assistant city clerk, and administrative assistant to the mayor, has worked with Smith for 12 years.
 
“It’s a pleasure working with him with him,” she said. “He’s an outstanding mayor, an outstanding person, and an outstanding Christian. He loves to help people and to assist them. He goes to the different schools, and reads to K through fifth grade students.
 
“He’s helped homeless people from his own pocket. For elderly people when they have an issue getting medications,\ he helps the [Coastal Medical Access\ Program]. He’s also directed people who need low income housing to connect to those city services. He’s certainly made a difference in Kingsland.”
 
Becoming mayor was not Smith’s initial goal. But after 16 years as a city councilman, in 2002, the acting mayor ran for a legislative position. This made Smith the mayor pro tem.
 
He then ran and was elected to end the one-year term. He again ran uncontested for two terms, for a total of eight years.
 
In this time, Kingsland saw a lot of  improvements, but it didn’t stop Smith from acting as an advocate for the community as the president of the Georgia Municipal Association. Smith worked with other city officials implementing strategies to make local government work better.
 
He also worked with other states to help set up projects and programs to have better communities. One such improvement harkened to the requests of his mother years before — a new water treatment facility for Kingsland. Similar facilities often utilize spray fields to get rid of excess water. Kingsland can meet higher Environment Protection Agency guidelines and its water is able to go back into the St. Mary’s River. This means cleaner water for the community’s environment. As mayor for the last 13 years, Smith works an eight-to-12 hour shift at Trident Refit Facility and then heads to city hall.
 
There, he works three or four hours each evening to handle whatever came up during the day. If he has to attend an event during the day, he takes an excused day of leave from TRF, which he saves just for these events.
 
His motivation is still driven by making changes for the betterment of the community. His job as mayor is mostly a volunteer position. It’s how all cities similar in size to Kingsland function in Georgia.
 
“These years spent in this community have made a difference,” he said. “I will continue to help make the community one where people help one another and love each other.” He works during the day to make America a safer place, and then into each evening helping Kingsland to continue growing in a way that makes the city a home worth coming home to.
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