by Becky GINOS
FARMINGTON—Come January 2019 a familiar face will no longer be sitting on the Davis County Commission. Commissioner Jim Smith, who is currently serving as chair, has decided not to seek re-election and will be stepping down at the end of his term.
“When I ran I let people know it would depend health wise how long I stayed,” said Smith. “I’m 68 and there are things I’d like to do. This job carries more stress than people realize. I’m ready to do something less stressful.”
Smith has been in for four years and said he and is wife would like to volunteer in their church and community. “People don’t realize I had a long career before this,” he said. “I’m not very political. I look at this as more of a public service. It’s been a great experience. We’ve got some wonderful people in the county which makes it the most rewarding and most challenging.”
During his tenure, Smith has been involved with several departments that are close to his heart. “We’ve organized and implemented the Human Services Directors group,” he said. “That’s any agency that offers help for things like homelessness, substance abuse, suicide prevention, domestic violence, etc. Monthly we get together in the same room and talk about how we can support one another.”
He said the first thing he learned was that nobody has just one problem. “Homelessness may have been caused by substance abuse, mental illness or they might be a victim of domestic violence. Getting everyone together with common goals and common awareness is helpful. It’s something I feel good about.”
The county has a more robust local homelessness coordinating council, he said. “Homelessness here is unique. It doesn’t look like homelessness in Salt Lake City,” said Smith. “We’re happy with that. Many people don’t realize we have a whole series of workforce housing scattered throughout the county. We have a lot already housed but we are out of workforce housing inventory and need to build more affordable housing throughout the county.”
These issues are interrelated said Smith. “People want their kids to live close but they can’t afford it. We don’t support education like we could to get higher paying jobs here so they’re driving to Salt Lake causing more pollution, etc. You can’t just touch one area without impacting others.”
Smith also serves on the Davis Behavioral Health board. “Davis County is looked at as a model for how to treat behavioral health issues,” he said. “I also love being on the board of health. It’s something we take for granted. When you go to a restaurant you expect it to be clean. We also want clean water and swimming pools. That’s all because of the health department.”
He’s also been involved with the Children’s Justice Center. “It is close to my heart,” Smith said. “They are protecting children who have been abused in some way. In the old days the process of police interviews and exams was itself somewhat abusive and added to the trauma of an already traumatized child. Our group at CJC is renowned for the compassion they show these injured children.”
It’s a combination of law enforcement with nurses, child protective services and guardian ad litem who work as a team to protect these children and get the perpetrators off the street, he said.
The county has also been working to join the push against opioid abuse. “We’ve heard about other counties across the country filing suit against ‘big pharma’ or pharmaceutical companies,” said Smith. “We are interested in doing that for ourselves but we want to take a measured approach and explore all options. We’ve determined it’s in the best interest of our citizens to not join in on the Attorney General’s suit that will go to federal court. We will contract with a firm that will keep the litigation in state court.”
Smith said they have three finalists and should be making a decision in the next few weeks. “It’s very clear that some pharmaceutical practices were misleading and minimized the risk that people take in using pharmaceutical products long term,” he said. “That impacts the county residents because we have to take care of the response to substance abuse and that is very expensive.”
The goal is two fold, he said. “Stop the ongoing expansion of opioid abuse and treat those who are already addicted.”
There is no cost to the public for the litigation, stressed Smith. “We hope to get moving sooner than later but it’s a long discovery process to find what the costs really are to the citizens and the county.”
As his term winds down, Smith still has goals he wants to meet. “I’d like to see improvements in law enforcement,” he said. “I want to address why the county has four dispatch centers. That is a big deal. I also want to cement the direction for the Human Services Directors group. I want to make sure it survives me. We’ve put in a lot of effort and I don’t want it to die. I’ll be working to the tape – I still have a lot of things to do.”