More than 600 people turned out in honor of Cobb’s public safety employees at the Cobb Galleria, from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to Major General Jim Butterworth, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard.
Smith said he was “completely blown away” by the award.
“I read through the nominations, and I thought, ‘well, it was great to be nominated, that’s an honor,’” he said. “I guess for me and a lot of people that you talk to in the emergency services, we’re just doing our job. We do the job the best we know how and that’s what we do, and so for this kind of recognition, it’s very humbling for me, because I don’t feel like I’m going above and beyond what’s necessary. I feel like I’m doing my job the best way I know to do it, and do right by the people I work for and do right by the people that work with me everyday.”
A native of Lakeland, Fla., Smith said he believes his passion for public service was sparked while working at a summer camp as a teen. Without warning, a special-needs child jumped in a pool without a life jacket.
“I was able to help him out and pulled him out of the water quickly, and that’s probably when it started,” he said.
Smith studied chemistry at Auburn University while working at the City of Auburn’s fire department. A notable fire he fought there occurred during the 1996 Auburn-LSU game, when the old Auburn Sports Arena known as “the barn” caught fire and was broadcast on ESPN.
“A couple of us were in the stands and we decided that we probably needed to go to work, so we left the football game and helped fight,” he said.
Smith joined the Austell Fire Department in 1999 and moved to Cobb Fire a year and a half later. Since then he has served with the hazardous materials team and as an engineer, the person in charge of driving the fire truck. In 2007, he was promoted to lieutenant at Station 19 where he continues every third day, 24 hours on call and 48 hours off.
A rewarding memory that stands out occurred two years ago when his team was able to save a father who had collapsed from smoke inhalation on the stairs in his home.
“We fell back on our training and did what we always do,” he said. “Those guys were able to pull him out. He was not breathing adequately when we got him outside, and between the men who dragged him out and another crew who had just come up, he was talking to us when the ambulance transported him to the hospital, and within a couple days he was out with no ill effects.”
He advised citizens to keep fresh batteries in smoke detectors and to close bedroom doors at night.
Smith helped create the annual Metro Atlanta Fire Fighters Conference, providing training to hundreds of firefighters in the region. He has been a featured instructor at the Fire Departments Instructors Conference, one of the most prestigious firefighter conferences in United States, and the Fire Rescue International Conference.
He also spearheaded an effort on behalf of Fire Station 19 to adopt a family through a local elementary school during the holiday season, has financed a trip for a young firefighter to attend an educational conference, and joined a local doctor on a trip to Nigeria to train firefighters in that country.
Smith, who turns 37 this month, and his wife and high school sweetheart, Amy, have two children: Noah, age 10, a student at Varner Elementary; and Callie, age 11, a student at Tapp Middle.
The Chamber presented Smith with a Glock pistol along with the award, a glass sculpture of an eagle created by Lillie Glassblowers of Smyrna.
Recipients of other awards at the breakfast included Cobb Police Detective Bob Pierce, who received the Distinguished Achievement Award, and Deputy Sheriff Todd Peisel, who received the Medal of Valor.
Two 2012 Awards of Merit were given. E911 operators Cullen Bragg and Yolanda Estes and Cobb Police Officers Chase Childers and Kyle Solon shared one award.
The second Award of Merit went the Marietta Police Department’s Evening Watch/Day Shift Detectives Matthew Parker, Christopher Lindsey, and Jonnie Moeller.
“Cobb County is blessed to have dedicated public servants that work for us each and every day,” said Chamber Chairman Tony Britton. “Many of them are here this morning, but many others are out there – working a traffic accident, transporting someone to the hospital, being the first responder on a tragic scene, performing life-saving measures. It is all of these individuals that we are here to honor. Thank you for your daily efforts.”