CITIZEN OF THE YEAR: Johnny Smith

Mayor Johnny Smith at his office in City Hall.

Sherry Kughn

Jacksonville’s mayor Johnny Smith was honored at the City Council meeting Monday night when John Alred of The Jacksonville News presented him the Citizen of the Year Award.

Smith is in his 13th year as mayor and said he enjoys doing the things that makes the town better for others.

“I hang my hat on that,” Smith said in a recent interview.

He added that most residents don’t think much about a city’s government unless they have a problem. However, some people realize the effort that goes into the job and express their appreciation.

Smith, a native of Collinsville, is an alumnus of Jacksonville State University. He later returned and taught in the math department until his retirement.. After he retired, during the 1990s, many residents implored him to run for city councilman, which he eventually did and won. As city councilman, he feels his greatest accomplishment is his work on the committee charged with improving the fire and police departments. He worked to create a tier of titles for fireman, and now the employees have incentives to rise through the ranks.

“For a small town, we have top-notch equipment and a new building.” Smith said, referring to the police and fire departments’ public safety complex.

As mayor, Smith feels his greatest accomplishment is the $11 million upgrade on Jacksonville’s water treatment plant. The project should be completed by summer.

“Now the plant will be more efficient,” Smith said. “We had to upgrade because many things there were wearing out.”

He also mentioned the success the city government has had in eliminating dilapidated houses and maintaining cooperation with Jacksonville State University, which he credited for providing residents with athletic and cultural opportunities.

He said the members of the city’s Community Development Authority and its Industrial Development Authority Board work hard to keep the retail and manufacturing businesses active.

“As mayor, I’d like to increase the number of retail outlets here and give people opportunities to shop at home,” Smith said. “Our biggest tax base is sales tax.”

Smith chuckled when he described how hard he has worked at this “part-time job.”

“My wife and I love Jacksonville,” he said. “We have spent most of our lives here, and the kids grew up here.”

Smith is married to Sarah Smith, and they raised three children and have five grandchildren.

Email Sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com.