A familiar name hit the news again this week when the Kansas City, Mo.-based American Public Works Association sent out a press release proudly announcing A&S Engineering’s Teresa Smith was recently designated a national Public Works Leadership Fellow.
“As a PWLF Fellow, Smith will mentor public works professionals enrolled in the APWA Donald C. Stone Center for Leadership Excellence (DCS Center),” the press release stated. “She is among over 256 public works professionals from across North America who have been inducted as Leadership Fellows.”
For those Augustans who remember former Public Works Director Teresa Smith, the news of her mentoring other public works professionals might be a bit hard to swallow.
“The APWA Public Works Leadership Fellows have pledged to assist those who aspire to become public works directors, executives, managers, and supervisors through a focused mentoring program,” APWA Executive Director Peter King is quoted as saying.
The press release goes on to rave about Smith’s work history.
(Get ready. It’s about to get deep in here.)
“Smith’s public works career includes over 25 years of progressively responsible experience, including Director of Public Works positions in both the city of Augusta, Ga. and Richland County, S.C.,” the release stated. “In both, she provided management and operational oversight for roadway, drainage, traffic signal operations, traffic management centers, street lights, signs and markings, facility maintenance, trees and landscaping, solid waste collection, landfill operations and fleet maintenance.
“These also included associated strategic planning, budget preparation and execution and supervision of over 350 employees.”
Whew… that all sounds really impressive.
Now, here’s how many Augustans remember her history in the Garden City:
When Smith was first hired as public works director, most people in the city thought that she wasn’t qualified to be the new public works director.
Some of the public works employees, specifically many of the engineers, were so upset about her hiring that they immediately left the public works department to work for Augusta’s utilities department.
As the years went by, the engineering department was flooded with complaints from developers and builders working with the city. Smith began to make enemies very quickly. And some of these enemies were sitting on the commission.
Specifically, former Augusta commissioners Jimmy Smith and Don Grantham never hid the fact that they did not think Teresa Smith was doing a good job.
Before Teresa Smith was fired in 2005, she openly accused Grantham of micromanaging her department by directly calling then-engineer Errick Thompson if he had a problem he needed addressed.
“I believe, Commissioner Grantham, that I had a conversation with you in the hall early in the year of 2004, where I conveyed that I had some concerns about the level of calls that Errick was getting directly and the impact that it was having on his day-to-day duties,” Teresa Smith said during a 2005 subcommittee hearing on the future of her department. “I shared with you my cell phone number and asked that those questions, concerns or issues should be brought to the attention of the director.”
By Dec. 19, 2005, it was all over for Teresa Smith in Augusta.
“We’ve had, on several occasions, many of the contractors and engineers in Augusta come down and indicate to us what an unprofessional and unmanageable department that we had as far as our engineering department goes,” Grantham said in 2005.
He told his colleagues that it was time to fire Teresa Smith.
With a 6-3 vote, Teresa Smith, the city’s first black (and first female) public works director was gone in 2005. Only then-commissioners Betty Beard, Richard Colclough and Marion Williams voted against the motion.
Five years later, the Teresa Smith saga finally came to and end when the then-Augusta commissioners voted to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by Smith for $125,000.
So, as many Augustans might be wondering, what is Smith up to these days?
“In her current position as A&S Engineering Owner/Principal, Smith is responsible for identifying and establishing new clients, maintaining client contacts, and development of sales strategies,” the American Public Works Association press release stated. “She also strengthens business ties, coordinates meetings with clients/potential clients and technical or key individuals, and conducts client and customer surveys to determine areas of development, as well as develops lead proposals for services and provides guidance to proposal teams from inception to completion.”
Well, it sounds like Mrs. Smith is as busy as she always was.
Good luck to all the future public works professionals she is “mentoring.”