By Julie Obermiller
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It was only fitting that Wednesday’s open house to honor Kathie Smith on her retirement be held in the Barker Free Library’s children’s room. As a longtime Friend of the Barker Library, Smith worked tirelessly to raise the money to build that addition and to garner community support to keep the library and its programs running. Even though Kathie is retiring from her position as the Barker Village Clerk-Treasurer, she will never give up her position as one of Barker’s biggest boosters. Former Mayor Cheryl Parr said it best when she said, “If you want to know all about the best of Barker, Kathie embodies that.”
Smith has been the village clerk-treasurer for 16 years and had previously spent nine years as the deputy clerk-treasurer. Her official resume is impressive. Overseeing village affairs means keeping updated on new laws and procedures, and in May, 1998 Smith received her Registered Municipal Clerk Certification from the NYS Association of City and Village Clerks. From 1998 to 2001, she held the positions of treasurer, secretary, vice-president and president within the Niagara County Municipal Clerks Association. Earning her spot as a Credentialed Municipal Finance Officer on behalf of NYS Society of Municipal Finance Officers closely followed the Certified Municipal Clerk accreditation from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks in 2006. She went on to complete 100 credit hours to graduate from Cornell Municipal Clerks Institute and attended 10 New York Conference of Mayors Fall Training Schools for City and Village Officials.
For the last eight years, Smith has served on the Ad Hoc Mutual Self Insurance Advisory Committee and was appointed by the Niagara County Legislature. All those certificates do not tell the whole story of what Smith has contributed to her community.
No certificate tells you that Smith’s effervescent smile always lights up the office, and that she is the calming, optimistic and encouraging force in any crisis. Officially, Smith extended her knowledge of her job by attending seminars and sharing information with other clerks, even fostering a mentorship with those just entering their careers. Middleport Village Clerk Rebecca Schweigert came to the tribute and shared her experience of being a bewildered new clerk. “Kathie came right over and introduced herself and offered me help and support. Her vast knowledge and experience helped me so much over the years and we could commiserate over the sometimes thankless jobs we had and the changing standards we had to meet. She is a wonderful mentor and a great friend.”
Amanda Detschner, who takes over as village clerk-treasuret on Monday, has much to say about the job Smith has done.
“She is extremely knowledgeable of the duties required of her. She always makes sure the mayor and board members are well prepared for the monthly and annual organizational meeting, taking notes and publishing the minutes of the same. Kathie kept a close watch on all receipts and expenditures making sure they are within budget. She has a great relationship with the residents and public who frequent the village office, and she is great at always treating people in a friendly and professional manner,” Detschner said.
Smith moved to the village in 1981 after purchasing her grandmother’s house, and for the last 32 years has been Barker’s biggest cheerleader. Married to husband Bill for 40 years, the couple has four children, Erin, Mary, Peter and Emily. Throughout their years in Barker schools and sports, Smith was involved in every way possible, always boosting Barker and fostering opportunities for Barker youngsters. She was organizing tailgate parties and urging the community to come out to support their collective kids. Add grandchildren Michael, Alex, Ian, Chloe and William Goodlander, Jack Petrus and Charlotte and Eleanor Gow and you’ll find plenty to keep Smith busy as she retires. This year she has two weddings to plan for and is looking forward to having more time for those hands-on touches.
At Wednesday’s open house, five mayors were in attendance to pay tribute to Smith for being the grounding force in village affairs while they transitioned in and out. Current Mayor Aaron Nellist was joined by former mayors Cheryl Parr, Don Martineck, Jo Ann Greenwald and Herb Meyer, all praising their former clerk’s guidance and support. While all lauded her professionalism and ethics, they also stressed her enormous capacity to connect to others and to celebrate their achievements and occasions.
Nellist, in reading an official proclamation from the Village of Barker, said, “At the forefront of her accomplishments is the special personal attention and concern she shows for co-workers, friends and family.” Village board member Pat Fuller cited the professionalism that Smith brings to every job, and the helpful, caring way that she delivers it. Retiring Somerset Town Clerk Becky Connolly shared a poem written by Smith many years ago about the exercise routine they shared, and the room erupted in shared laughter.
If Wednesday’s tribute was full of boisterous laughter and humorous anecdotes, it’s largely because of the honoree’s ability to always make people feel good. From her little office in Main Street’s old train station, Smith has provided support for all of Barker’s volunteer organizations and local events, from the Centennial Celebration to the summer’s farmer’s market. She never gave up trying to bring the community together, with her own ideas like a Welcome Wagon or shared community calendar, or by supporting anyone who wanted to try something new.
It is the brilliant smile and genuine laughter and humility that will be missed most in the village office. All the accolades she earned never seemed as important to Smith as just having everyone feel important and an integral part of the Barker community. Her legacy is one of unfailing optimism and community pride, an old-fashioned personal interest in the quality of life for all who lived or visited here.
It’s a certainty — weddings preparations aside — that Kathie Smith will continue to be Barker’s unofficial cheerleader and we are all the better for it.