It might come as a surprise that a daring spirit lurks in the heart of soft-spoken Anita Smith, recorder for the City of Hood River.
But then it also came as somewhat of a surprise to Smith to learn that she had been issued a national security clearance and had less than one month to report for duty with the U.S. Foreign Service.
Smith, a political science major in college, had applied to utilize her organization skills with the federal agency last December, but was told it could be up to seven months before her application and background check had been thoroughly processed.
However, she was called to Washington, D.C., for an interview with agency officials earlier this year and the expected job offer came last week, a few months sooner than expected. So, Smith took a deep breath and stepped into a new adventure by tendering her resignation from five years of employment with the municipality.
“This is just something that I’ve been thinking about for ages, I have a lot of friends in government service and they’ve had a wonderful time,” said Smith, who reports for seven weeks of training near the nation’s capital on May 20.
She said her friends have shared glowing tales of meeting heads of state and foreign dignitaries — and learning about international cultures.
However, several city officials have mixed feelings about Smith’s departure; they are excited about the new experiences she will be offered but are saddened to be losing the woman who quietly tied up all of the administrative “odds and ends” and had the answer to almost any question they asked.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with her because she’s what everyone expects a professional to be,” said Steve Everroad, city finance director.
“Anita is much more than just Hood River’s city recorder, she has a very unique talent for keeping things on track and motivating people to do their best,” said Mayor Paul Cummings. “She is a special person and will be missed in the future.”
The Underwood, Wash., resident will be sent off for a two-year tour of duty immediately after her training. However, Smith is spared the task of whirlwind packing since her husband, Stan, will not be joining her until the fall of 2003 when he completes his duties as a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.
Smith does not yet know where she will be stationed but is hopeful that she will spend all or most of her entire 10-year stint overseas at an embassy or consulate.
With a sparkle in her eye, Smith said her decision to go into foreign service wasn’t made as logically as might be expected from a left-brain thinker.
“The cat died last summer and I thought ‘there’s nothing else to keep me here,’” she said.
Although Smith said she won’t have too much choice in her initial posting, she is hoping to end up in China or Eastern Europe. If not, she will be eligible to bid every two to four years on the most preferred location for the next tour of duty. Although she would prefer to avoid the “hot spots” in the Middle East at this time, Smith said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks clearly demonstrate that no place on earth is immune from violence. And, she also quickly points out that if political upheaval erupts at her new job she will receive additional hazard pay and be evacuated if necessary.
“I just hope to have a lot of fun and interesting experiences while I’m representing the United States,” said Smith.
During her tenure with the city, Smith has been responsible to oversee the busy public service office, including record-keeping, elections, committees, licensing, and handling citizen inquiries and complaints.
She said the one big accomplishment she is proud to leave behind is the organization and shelving of 200 unlabeled boxes of records that she inherited along with the job. To save time, she worked to get the boxes neatly marked for easy reference and is now listing them in a computerized database.
“I have really liked the variety and the challenge of my job. I think we have a wonderful town and I’m glad to have been a part of it,” said Smith.
For a recent sample of Anita Smith’s sense of humor, see a juggler’s letter, and her reply, below.