COLUMBIA — When former Columbia mayor Rodney Smith walked into his daughter’s office supply store Monday afternoon, he was surprised to find 40 or so of his friends and family gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday and to honor him with the Lt. Governor’s Senior Service Award.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder presented the award to Smith at Image Technologies on Business Loop 70 East to recognize his more than 40 years of service to Columbia.
According to a press release, Smith has served over 30 years on the Columbia Diamond Council, the ruling body of the youth baseball and softball program. He was acknowledged for his efforts in establishing recreational activities for Columbia’s youth and has volunteered countless hours at Memorial Baptist Church on Paris Road.
“Rodney has touched many lives throughout his public service career in Columbia,” Kinder said in a news release.
In addition to his family, Smith’s friends dropped by the commemoration to congratulate him. Some of them were his military friends, others included business associates and fellow church members, and many were City Council colleagues.
Mayor Darwin Hindman came to congratulate Smith on his recognition award.
“He was an outstanding mayor,” Hindman said.
Smith had the ability to work more than a full-time job as a businessman and to work even harder for the community, Hindman said.
“He was a great example of that,” he said. “He still works hard.”
Robert Wood, a friend of Smith’s for 45 years, stood in the middle of the group as Kinder gave Smith the Senior Service Award, a lapel pin. Wood said he knows Smith’s character first-hand because both were on the deacon board at Memorial Baptist.
“I wish I was as thoughtful of a citizen as he is,” Wood said.
Members of the community may remember Smith as the owner and operator of the Rodney D. Smith Tree Service, working as a tree surgeon for the mid-Missouri region. He has been a resident of the city since 1959.
Smith’s wife, Alberta, said it is clearly his dedication to being a community leader that set him apart, and he “didn’t plan anything without checking the city calendar.”
Smith’s tenure as the city’s mayor from 1985 to 1989 immediately followed a controversy within the mayoral office. Columbia voters showed their support of Smith in 1986, when, just 12 days before the election, he filed as a write-in candidate and won with 61 percent of the vote.
Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, nominated Smith for the Senior Service Award. Recipients of the award have to be at least 60 years old and are nominated by a letter of recommendation.
As the gathered group began filtering out of the store in the late afternoon, many of them returning to work, Smith was already thinking about his next engagement.
“I got to get home and get ready for another meeting tonight,” Smith said.