Community Heroes: EMA director dedicated 40 years of service to Carter County community


CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) Carter County native, Gary Smith has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to his country and his community.

His expertise is mitigating plans to keep people away from danger. Meet this week’s community hero, Carter County emergency management agency, director Gary Smith.

“He’s a very honest person. He’s very good to work with,” deputy director, Billy Harrell said.

He has dealt with various emergency situations since 1980, which is when he enlisted in the United States Air Force, in the hopes of learning service before himself.

Smith said, “The military is very big on leadership and making sure people understand the responsibility that comes with leadership.”

Smith trained across the country, and served tours overseas.

“Anybody that’s been in the military, I consider them a hero. He spent 24 years in the military. He’s been to Germany, Japan. He has served his country. He’s also serving his community right now,”Harrell said.

He ultimately achieved the rank of chief master sergeant.

Smith said, “Only 1% of the entire Western Force can service in the top grade. Whenever I was selected for that, it was a true policy.”

Transitioning into civilian life, smith continued to serve, first volunteering with the carter county sheriff’s office for three years, before becoming the emergency management director for the county.

“We had both worked in several incidents that’s been where we’ve had presidential declarations declared for Carter County, which means FEMA is going to award the county some money,” Harrell said.

Emergency operations are his specialty, however now, Smith is looking forward to a different path.

Smith said, “We do the hazard mitigation plan.”

“Gary is going to be retiring at the end of February, and I’m really going to miss him. He’s been a great guy to work with,” Harrell said.

And that is why he’s our community hero.

If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.

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