County custodian with diverse background running for commission

Posted 7/30/20

Ted Smith has held a wide variety of jobs throughout his life, in construction, farming, agricultural research, teaching, journalism and as an elected official in Ohio.

“I can relate to a …

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County custodian with diverse background running for commission


Ted Smith has held a wide variety of jobs throughout his life, in construction, farming, agricultural research, teaching, journalism and as an elected official in Ohio.

“I can relate to a lot of people,” Smith said, “because I’ve been there and done that.”

The 63-year-old Cody resident is now hoping to put his experience to work for the public as a Park County commissioner, running for one of the two available spots on the board.

Smith, a Republican, has a unique perspective on the county government. He currently works as a custodian in the buildings and grounds department, helping clean the Park County Complex.

Being on the low end of the county’s pay scale, “I know how to be frugal,” he said, and after some five years of working for the county, you “see a whole different view from the ground what’s going on, versus from the commissioners on down.”

Smith, who came to Wyoming seven years ago, said he’s not afraid to look at how other states handle problems instead of doing things as they’ve always been done.

Smith already has some ideas for improving the county government. For instance, commissioners recently began livestreaming their meetings, but Smith says they should also record and archive the videos for convenient viewing.

He also wants to eventually condense the board to three commissioners instead of five, something that would take voter approval. Smith ticked off examples of larger counties in Wyoming and his native state of Ohio that have smaller boards. For instance, Franklin County, Ohio, has a population of 1.3 million people and a more than $1.78 billion budget, “and three people get that job done,” Smith said. He considers five commissioners to be a waste, calculating that going back to three board members would save more than $122,000 a year.

“Less talk, more bridges,” Smith said.

He filed for the commission on the final day of the filing period, when only the two incumbents — Lee Livingston and Jake Fulkerson — had announced their candidacies.

“I’m an idealist and people for political office should not run unopposed,” he said.

(Ultimately, Smith was not the only one to throw his name into the running, as Powell City Councilman Scott Mangold filed later in the final day.)

Smith previously was elected as a township trustee in Huron County, Ohio, in the 1980s, where he also served as a member of the local airport and fair board. Other past work included serving as a high school vocational agriculture teacher, an airport maintenance and security worker, an assistant manager at a crop research effort at Ohio State University and more than 15 years in the tractor tire business, where he was self-employed and had as many as four employees. Smith is now a part-time student at Northwest College, where he’s studying agricultural education.

As for his job, it’s been an odd year to be a county custodian. At the urging of Commissioner Lloyd Thiel, commissioners seriously discussed the possibility of turning the county’s custodial services over to a private contractor before deciding against it.

Smith noted that when Thiel brought the idea to the board, a couple of commissioners indicated the discussion about privatization should have been held behind closed doors.

“It doesn’t give good transparency,” Smith said.

He added that his run for commission is not tied to the custodial debate, though “it brought to the forefront some of the things they [the commissioners] do that doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. For instance, raising the county’s liquor license fees upset some license holders, “but it really didn’t add any money to cut a deficit,” Smith said of the estimated $6,000 in added annual revenue.

Around Park County, Smith has volunteered with the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and is a lifetime auxiliary member at the Cody VFW and a member of the Sons of the American Legion in Powell. His father and his four older brothers all served the U.S. military.

Smith dons military garb and stands at the State of Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park in Cody on many holidays as a way to honor veterans like his family members.

“It’s just to give back to the community,” Smith said. “And if more people would be involved, we would do better.”

If elected as a commissioner, Smith will give up his job as a custodian. He sees commissioner as a full-time job and said he plans to spend 30 hours a week at the courthouse if elected, believing it’s important for a commissioner to be there.

Election 2020