‘He moved things forward’: Hundreds gather to remember the life of Mayor Jerry Smith

Several hundred people gathered Friday afternoon to honor the life of Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith.

The memorial service for the 77-year-old Smith, who died suddenly in his sleep Dec. 14, was officiated by Seattle Police Department Chaplain Charlie Scoma. It included a  presentation of colors by both SPD and Mountlake Terrace police officers, plus an SPD bagpipe performance of Amazing Grace — all in recognition of Smith’s service as a Seattle police officer from 1968 to 1986. “He served SPD with honor and distinction,” Scoma said. “He was very well loved and respected and did his job well.”

City of Mountlake Terrace Clerk and Community Relations Director Virginia Olsen thanked Edmonds’ Westgate Chapel for agreeing to host the service, pointing out “there wasn’t a facility big enough for all those who wanted to pay their respects” to the late mayor.

Olsen, who worked with Smith from the time he was elected to the council in 2001 until his death, described him as “a man with a very ordinary name who was easy to approach and always had a smart aleck remark, a grin and a wink.

“But he was not ordinary,” she continued. “Jerry Smith was an extraordinary man who squeezed every ounce that he could out of life, and his circle of influence reached far and wide as evidenced by the number of people here today.”

Olsen then asked those in the room to stand based on their relationship to Smith, from elected officials, to military, to first responders, to Mountlake Terrace employees and residents, to those who served with him in various organizations, boards and commissioners, to family and friends.

Judging from the number of people standing, Olsen said, the mayor “made a huge impact upon the Mountlake Terrace community and beyond.”

Smith — who served in the military before joining SPD — was already 60 years old when he was first elected to the city council, a time of life when most people are slowing down and thinking about retirement, Olsen said. Because of his work in the community as a small business owner — he and his wife Judi owned two auto parts businesses over the years — and many volunteer activities, “Jerry’s reputation preceded him,” Olsen said.

In addition to serving 25 years as president of the Mountlake Terrace Youth Athletic Association (MTYAA), Smith was active in the Neutral Zone for at-risk youth, National Night Out, Lynnwood Eagles, Brier Lions Club, Shoreline Masonic Lodge No. 248, Nile Shriner, Evergreen State Fair Board of Directors, Tour de Terrace, Mountlake Terrace Senior Group, Community Transit Board Member, SnoCom 911 Dispatch, Snohomish County Emergency Radio System, LEOFF 1 Disability Board, Regional Fire Authority, and Lake Ballinger Watershed Forum.

Smith, who later owned an excavation business, often would show up with construction equipment to help whenever it was needed. Olsen shared a story from retired City of Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Director Don Sarcletti who recalled when he first move to the city in 1978 to serve as athletic supervisor. A Canadian exchange student soccer tournament was supposed to be happening that night, but it was “snowing like crazy,” Olsen said. Sarcletti went downstairs to tell those in the concessions stand to shut everything down due to the weather.

However, the women handling concessions smiled and pointed to Smith, who was running a tractor with a front loader on it across the field. After scraping the snow off the field, Smith lined the frozen ground with black chalk, and the soccer tournament went on as planned.

“And just like this story, Jerry made so many things happen,” Olsen said. “He moved snow. He moved people. He moved up project deadlines. He made things happen and moved things forward.”

Olsen also pointed to Jerry and Judi Smith’s efforts to bring Seattle-based Seafair activities to Mountlake Terrace via the Tour de Terrace event, with the goal of celebrating the city’s upcoming 40th birthday in 1994. The Tour de Terrace parade launched in 1993 — complete with Seafair pirates and clowns. Today, it’s a three-day festival with live music, a classic car show, a carnival and fireworks show, Olsen added.

Olsen and Smith worked together for 17 years, and for 15 of those years Smith served as mayor. In the City of Mountlake Terrace, voters elect the council and then the mayor is chosen by his or her fellow councilmembers to serve a two-year term. Smith was elected mayor seven times, by seven different city councils, Olsen said.

“Jerry was proud of the fact that he was Mountlake Terrace’s longest-tenured mayor,” she said.

While presiding over city council meetings, Smith had a catch phrase — “Moving right along” — that he used as he went from one agenda item to the next. “That phrase is so fitting because under Jerry’s leadership, Mountlake Terrace moved forward,” Olsen said. “He kept his foot on the gas and the city really made progress as evidenced by the huge projects and transformation happening today.”

In his remarks to attendees, former City Manager John Caulfield recalled that the late mayor often volunteered to help people in need, “from rolling out his heavy equipment for excavation projects, building a deck, a sewer line, helping someone replace a roof, landscaping and beautification, home improvement projects, soccer fields for the kids, community projects — you name it, Jerry did it.”

Caulfield noted that while Smith accomplished much for the city, from gaining city council support for the then-controversial Town Center project to ensuring light rail came to Mountlake Terrace, “it was never important to him who got the credit. He always put the needs of others above himself.

“Jerry was all about how to get to yes,” Caulfield said. “He was the right leader at the right time for Mountlake Terrace.”

After the Edmonds service, attendees gathered at the Nile Country Club in Mountlake Terrace to share stories about the late mayor’s life and also enjoy displays of family photos and mementos.

— By Teresa Wippel

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