By Ed Brock
After nearly 10 years as head of the Morrow Police Department, Chief Kenny Smith is moving on to a very different position.
Smith has been tapped to be the next city manager in the city of Griffin.
"It'll be something new for me," Smith said. "I'll really be stepping up to the next level."
The Griffin City Council announced their decision to hire Smith Tuesday evening. He was picked from a field of 42 applicants.
"There was just something about him," Griffin Mayor Cynthia Reid Ward said. "He had all the qualities and qualifications that we were looking for."
Smith, 48, came to the city in 1995 after serving as the second in command with the Henry County Police Department and prior to that serving with that county's sheriff's office. While he has yet to finalize the contracts for his new job, Smith said he plans to begin in Griffin on March 15.
"I have mixed emotions, not about going to Griffin but about leaving Morrow," Smith said. "It's going to be tough to walk away from these relationships."
The city is just beginning to decide who will serve as interim chief after Smith leaves, Morrow City Manager John Lampl said. Lampl said the city would miss Smith.
"He's done a wonderful job. He has a lot of friends here," Lampl said. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime and we wish him well."
Smith said he has every confidence that the transition will go smoothly.
"The department won't miss a beat because there are good people here," Smith said. "I was fortunate to come into a good situation and I like to think we improved a little bit since then."
When Smith first arrived at the department, Morrow Police Maj. Charlie Sewell said, he helped devise a new motto for the department, "Setting the pace for today's law enforcement."
"Chief Kenny Smith has been the epitome of that motto," Sewell said. "He's leaving quite a legacy for us. I think for many years to come people will walk in here and see Kenny Smith in every aspect of this department."
During Smith's time he also helped start the city's award winning PROUD neighborhood organization program, encouraged more community involvement in programs like the citizens' police academy and oversaw an overall reduction in crime.
Smith said he does plan to move to Griffin with his wife, Stefini.
"I think it's right for a city manager to be in the midst of things," Smith said.
Among the challenges he will face includes managing the city of Griffin's 487 employees and maintaining the city's $83 million operating budget.
"We have some ongoing airport issues," said Lisa Hutcheson, the city's planning and development director who has been acting as city manager since the previous City Manager Ron Rabun resigned in September. "I'm looking forward to having Mr. Smith in that position." Along with preparing the budget for the next fiscal year, Ward said she hopes Smith will help see the city through a current investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into a computer-related problem with its finances. She also knows he has national connections in law enforcement that might be beneficial and she believes he has good managerial skills.
"That's something we've been lacking here in Griffin," Ward said.
Ward and Smith both said they would not release the amount of Smith's new salary until after the contracts have been signed some time next week.
Smith is also on the board of directors for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police and he said he hasn't determined yet if he will be able to remain in those organizations.
He will still be a certified law enforcement officer and continue his training even in his new job, Smith said.