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Like many Arizonans, David Smith came here because of the climate. After 66 years of dealing with what he calls "the incredibly awful" New York weather, Smith moved to the town of Cave Creek nearly 12 years ago.

The Weather Brought Him— The Town Keeps Him Here
Regional Profile: Councilmember David Smith

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Cave Creek LogoLike many Arizonans, David Smith came here because of the climate. After 66 years of dealing with what he calls “the incredibly awful” New York weather, Smith moved to the town of Cave Creek nearly 12 years ago. 

“My wife and I had agreed that it would be a good idea—once our children got to the point where they were able to handle a transfer—that we would move. And we moved to Arizona, and to the town of Cave Creek,” says Smith.

In Arizona, Smith found his sunshine. He also found a desire to get involved in his new community.

“Fairly quickly, I got involved in a number of things to do with the town. I was on the budget committee, and I’ve been on the budget committee for probably 11 years now. I got into a group called the Water Advisory Committee, which is concerned about water issues in the town. Then I got onto the Planning Commission, and became the chair of the Planning Commission. Then I ran for elective office, and I was elected a couple years ago to become a councilman.”

In his former career as deputy director of environmental health for the New York State Department of Health, Smith handled everything from the AIDS epidemic to toxic waste dumps to the 9/11 cancer fallout. Today, he finds joy in being able to solve the problems of everyday citizens in a close-knit community.

“I just had a nice discussion with a couple concerned about trespassing on their property. They were wondering, ‘how do we deal with that, can the town do anything to help us, do we need to go to court to correct this?’ And I said, ‘Well, let me see what I can do to help you.’ And that’s one of the nice things about it, sometimes you actually can help people with their issues,” says Smith.

Councilmember David SmithHe also finds gratification in guiding the town’s annual budget toward critical issues. 

“We’ve directed several million dollars toward our water system. A number of years ago, probably 13, 14 years ago, the town bought an existing proprietary water system. And there are a lot of issues with it,” notes Smith. “We’ve been dealing with them over the past 12 or 13 years. Since I’ve been on Council, I’ve been able to convince people to move money in the direction of correcting a number of these issues.”

In his regional role as a member of the MAG Regional Council, Smith cites homelessness, infrastructure needs, and water issues as significant issues facing the region. 

“The biggest challenge of all is inertia,” he says. “It is hard to get people moving in any particular direction. You have to do it both politically and with other support mechanisms such as the media. What I have noticed is that when something gets emphasized strongly in the media, it will all of a sudden become a big political issue.”

In his spare time, Smith enjoys reading “mostly escapist-type stuff,” although he notes his favorite magazine is The Economist. He enjoys watching television sports, “and my wife and I spend most every night soaking in our swimming pool.”

When asked what his one gift to the Valley would be, Smith considers at length. In the end, he remains mindful of community health issues.

“I think I would like to do something to deal with the opioid crisis,” decides Smith. “I think it is a crisis that never should have happened in the first place. It is one that started because of lack of oversight, and now we are having to deal with all of the problems that resulted from that. If I could do anything, I’d like to go back a few years and put on some controls over the way opioids were dispensed and in the long run, misused.”

Recently elected to his second two-year term, Smith says he likely will want to stay in public office beyond that if he sees things “going in the right direction.” No matter what, it’s a fair bet he will stay where the weather is warm.

“I much prefer Arizona to New York, I have to say that,” he says. 
 

Published November 1, 2018

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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