One of North Augusta's most prominent civil servants from a couple generations ago is being remembered this month, in connection with a legacy of municipal management around South Carolina and Florida.
Carey Smith, a Greenville native who was North Augusta's first-ever city administrator, died July 5 in Pawleys Island, where he and his wife, Joan, lived in retirement. Their North Augusta years were 1974 to 1980.
"He actually was the first city manager here and he was also the first city manager of Hilton Head, South Carolina," said John Potter, whose early years as North Augusta's director of finance overlapped with Smith's time with the city.
Smith, who died at age 77, was "a great guy to work for," Potter added. "That was the city's first venture into having a professional guy lead the city – answering to the mayor and council, but basically handling the day-to-day affairs of the city."
Lee Wetherington, now retired from service as a director of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, said it was "very easy" to work with Smith – a fact that helped the city's emergency responders.
Wetherington, who was a captain at the time when Smith came on board, said Smith was "always professional, and he always had the interests of the city at heart."
Among Smith's successors in North Augusta was Sam Bennett, who described him as both a mentor and friend, and also as "a very thoughtful and caring gentleman who always looked for a problem to solve and a way to make the lives of the citizens he served better."
Bennett, who now holds a similar position in Hilton Head, noted, "He could see the potential in the people and in the cities he managed, and in doing so, he strived to help both reach their potential. Anywhere he worked, he left it better than he found. I was very fortunate to have crossed paths with him and the love of his life, Joan."
Smith, who spent his childhood years in Greer, was fond of tennis, fishing, reading, beach walks and shagging, according to one of his obituaries. It also noted, "He was an active member in church as a deacon and choir member throughout his life and most recently was a member of Duncan United Methodist in Georgetown."
His work in municipal management reportedly began in Spartanburg and led to Dillon, North Augusta and Myrtle Beach between the years of 1968 and 1984. Hilton Head was the next step, followed by service in Tarpon Springs, Florida; Daytona Beach, Florida; and Rock Hill. Next were roles as the interim manager of Hardeeville and Georgetown.