Wendell Smith of Garden Valley is the newly appointed member to the Garden Valley Fire Protection District board. He was sworn in at the December meeting, and fills the spot left vacant by 2010 elected former Director Rick Nelson. Nelson, who served as chairman of the board for two years, left to pursue his own business endeavors.
Wendell Smith is the third person on the fire board whose last name is Smith. The other two are husband and wife Richard and Karen Smith.
“I’ve had a lot of friends on the fire board for a long time,” said Smith. “I think they are doing a great job.”
Smith said a few years ago he also sat in with the Golden Sierra High School ROP fire class and was impressed with what they do for young people as well.
A graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics, Smith also has a Marketing and Economic Master of Science degree from Cornell University. He said he sees the current economic situation, particularly with fire districts, as a financial challenge.
“We have to go to work on budgetary challenges,” he said. “There is less and less money coming from the (El Dorado) county. We need to create an income level (for fire districts) to make it healthy. Consolidation came to an end because funding would have been reduced. We need somebody at the county level to sit and make a commitment to fund fire departments.”
Smith was an Air Force pilot through ROTC for three years in his youth and served as a Miss America judge in 1970 as president of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
“It was a one-week experience,” said Wendell adding that it is one of three things people remember about him. “The other things they remember are that I was an Air Force pilot and that I went to Cornell.”
A “turn-around” guy in the grocery business for 45-50 years, Smith ran a billion dollar company and saved many others, “except for one,” he said.
“I’ve been chasing the economic development challenges in this county since I’ve been here,” he said. “We need rural jobs.”
A man who has been involved in local and county politics, Smith has thrown his hat in the ring for county supervisor more than once. He currently sits on the Folsom College Foundation board, is chairman of the El Dorado Community Foundation, the new president of the Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber, president of the El Dorado Farm Trails Association and past president of the El Dorado County Chamber.
Smith joins existing Garden Valley fire board members Dave Souza, Frank Clark, and Richard and Karen Smith. The Smiths were elected unchallenged in 2008, and Souza, Clark and Nelson were elected in 2010. Richard and Karen’s seat will be up for election this November, with Wendell filling out Nelson’s term until 2014.
Board meetings of Garden Valley Fire are held on the second Tuesday of the month beginning at 9:30 a.m., at Station 51 on Marshall Road in Garden Valley. All meetings are open to the public.