Community Leadership – Dave Smith, Former Newark Mayor

 

About Dave Smith

Dave Smith grew up in humble circumstances in Michigan. He attended Michigan Tech University and upon graduating college he wound up in the plastics business as an industrial engineer which brought him out to California. In California he quickly became acquainted with the Jaycee’s organization which focused on community service and leadership skills. In 1976 he began service on the Newark City council, and subsequently in was elected to the public office of Mayor in 1978 and served Newark in that position until 2011.

 

Interview Transcript:

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Dave Smith. For 25 years, Dave served as the mayor of Newark, California. And and then recently he stepped out to spend a full time service in his so called retirement days, but serves on several boards as an advisor and helping organizations get to the next level, they welcome todays show.

Dave
Thanks, Alan. Thanks for having me.

Alan
So can you can you give us your background, tell us a little bit about yourself how you got to where you are today and why you did what you did?

Dave
Oh, my life story in just a couple of minutes. Well, I come from Upper Michigan, I was actually born in in Detroit. And during those yeasty days, when they were making all the cars that were made in the world, just about and my mother being a finished descent, tuck my father into going to Upper Michigan, where my father passed away when I was six years old. My mom was confined to a wheelchair from the time that I was eight. So it was just my sister who is younger than myself and my mom. So we had to grow up pretty quickly, I would say, and had to perform a lot of the things around the house that probably most young people don’t have to do at that early age. But it was all good for me, I think and good training. And when I got into high school in particular, my mother encouraged me to become involved with extracurricular activities, because we couldn’t go anywhere. There was snow on the ground six months of the year. There was no vacations to be taken or anything else. So I think she saw that I could become acquainted with a lot of different things. If I would participate, providing Of course my grades were satisfactory and satisfactory to Herman. They’d better be A’s most of the time. But that’s okay. And that worked out just fine. So as I got into high school, I joined everything that they would let me join. I was in student government. I was student council president my senior year I, we only had three varsity sports I lettered in two of those played intramural and the other plane in the band was student conductor. The band was in competitive speaking competitions and forensics and all kinds of different clubs. Like I said, everything that they would would let me join. So I gained an appreciation for a lot of different things during those high school years and continued that type of involvement. When I got to college, mostly though, because that was a tough time to be a young man growing up in America, the Vietnam War was raging. And so I became mostly involved with ROTC curriculars and wound up as the highest ranking student officer in the in the battalion ROTC in my senior year. Again, participating in just about everything that that I could when I graduated, and I got very fortunate because I escaped the automotive business wound up in plastics, just like they said in the graduate in the movie. And a year later, as an industrial engineer, I got located out in Fremont, California, became acquainted with an organization called The JCS. And at that time, the Jaycees were a young men’s organization. It has since expanded, that taught you leadership training skills by doing community service projects. It was a wonderful organization. And so many of us that are leaders in in the different communities today, learn some of those skills through this voluntary participation in the Jaycees. Just like I say, a fabulous organization, you can learn how to fail for free actually, it was a great, great training ground.

Alan
Well, you know, the interesting thing is, is that here, your life history, nothing was ever handed to you. And you weren’t willing to sit back and talk about how life was not fair. You’re a single parent, but your mom was confined to the wheelchair. You’re you but she did remarkably well. And, and so in, in this process of, you know, coming from transitioning into the public service, being the mayor, what, what year did that start?

Dave
I actually started service on the New York City Council in 1976. I was very active in the JCS is As I mentioned, I, a lot of people don’t realize I was a Fremont guy before I was a Newark guy. I was president of the Fremont Jaycees. At the same time, coincidentally that a young man named Alan Nagy was president of the Newark Jaycees. And when my company transferred me out of town, and then transferred me back at the ripe age of 28, to be a plant manager for a fortune 200 company, which I look back on that and go, what were they thinking? But it worked out really well. But I got to come back, one of the living in Newark, and I was complaining about Newark and how it was working and L. Nagy said to me, well, big mouth, why don’t you do something about it run for the New York City Council.

Alan
There you go. Hey, Dave, we need to take a quick break. And we’ll be right back after these messages. And I want to continue on the Transition Council to the mayor.

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Dave Smith. Dave had served as a mayor of Newark for some 34 years I’ve correct myself I said 25. earlier. But But But Dave, when you when you were serving in the role as mayor, you had some very unique styles in leadership. And I want to start off with the question of how do you define leadership?

Dave
That’s really a good question. It’s an it’s a tough definition, because there’s so many components to it. But I want to take a little stab at a few of the basic tenets that actually go all the way back to my childhood. First thing I think my mother really put in to me was the fact it’s the golden rule, you treat other people like you want to be treated. Integrity to me is at the foundation of every leader. Because at the end of the day, that’s who you are. And if you treat others, like you would like to be treated, and you always make decisions and take actions with integrity, then you’re going to see some good things happen, I believe. The second thing is that everything is a people, business, everything, everything that you do. And I have seen so many times in life, a quote that Maya Angelou made comes to my mind, which is that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. And if you treat everything that you’re doing, again, as a people business, you got the golden rule and integrity is your foundation, that, again, makes whatever you’re doing, I think, very possible in terms of of reality. And another tenant, which which was, I think a quote from President Clinton, leaders are dealers in hope. A leader always has to show the organization, the group, or if it’s just even one or two people, a vision of hope, a vision of possibility. And having a vision is is always, of course a really good thing because it gives you an aiming point. And then you can talk about, you know, how you can get get to that, of course.

Alan
You know, people that know you and have worked with you there’s there’s a saying that, you know, in spite of serving in in the public for 34 years. It was kind of bipartisan politics, people just felt, I’m talking to Dave, I’m not talking to Democratic or Republican or if I’m talking to Dave, how did you manage that? Getting everyone unified, and, you know, working through all these processes.

Dave
I always believed in everybody if you’re in a room of 100 people, and if you ask everybody who’s a team player here, all 100 are going to put up their hand. But do you really mean that at the core of your being? Do you really want other people’s input? Do you really want to make the best possible decision? As I mentioned, it’s good to have a vision. It’s good to have an aiming point. That’s what leaders do, and we’ll probably want to play my dreams here in a little bit because I think leaders need to have dreams too. But you have to be open for the fact that there are a lot of ways of getting you from point A to point B wouldn’t be. And if you really embrace the the tenets of teamwork, we’re, I always wanted to have as many people in the boat as possible before we left the dock before we set sail in a new direction. And many times people would say, well, so how come you have so many unanimous votes? It’s because we let things germinate a bit. And we left room for other inputs, and we left room for additional buy in and some course changes. Prior to sailing the ship.

Alan
I visiting here today with Dave Smith, New York Mayor for some 34 years now he’s a full time in community service and helping beer your boards. So Dave, we need to take a quick break. And we’ll be right back up. After this message. I want to talk more on leadership and visions for the future.

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Dave Smith. He served as a Newark Mayor for some 34 years, and now spends time and full time service and helping boards and other people, you know, develop leadership in their respective organizations in the day. I’m going to start back you’re very busy guy you always have been right. And I would never coined the phrase a workaholic, because you don’t come across like you’re very relaxed and composed. But how do you find balance in life?

Dave
Well, I think you have to have some interests other than the job at hand, of course, and just a couple of mine, I enjoy golf a lot. I always keep saying I’m going to no matter how much I play, I want to play more. I’m a musician as well, and music is, is fabulous for you. Because when you’re in a two hour rehearsal, you’re focused just on that. And as music is the if you’re playing in a play in the Newark symphonic winds, it’s the ultimate in teamwork. And you have to be together with that. And we even had a city employees band The I was a band for a while. And the last gig for the yellow band was at my retirement party. And we had no style whatsoever, there were 10 of us, and we played with anybody wanted to play. So any kind of music, having fun, having fun is absolutely at the core of everything you should do.

Alan
So when we talk about getting involved in the communities, why should individuals get involved?

Dave
Well, there’s so much benefit to being involved Alan, and like I said earlier, it’s a people business and helping others. I can go back to the Jaycees, we had a wonderful creed in the JCS that I won’t go through the whole creed. But the gist of the Creed was that, you know, faith in God gave meaning and purpose to human life and service to humanity was the best work of life. A lot of us believe that service to humanity was the rent we paid for living on this earth with God is our landlord. And so by helping other people, you could see results in the community in so many, many ways. It’s a people business.

Alan
I love that, you know, when we talk about leadership, when and we’re defining leaders. What’s the difference between seeing and doing and how does a person move over that?

Dave
Oh, I love that question. Because I have always believed in a bias for action. We had a saying in the Jaycees, do something, do something, do something. And when I took that first step to run for elected office, I was brand new in Newark. Mr. Nagy talked me into running. I didn’t know issues. I didn’t know people. I didn’t even know enough people to sign my nomination statement. So we used do something as our campaign theme. Dave Smith will do something for Newark. So I have over the years realized how important that doing something was. A lot of people like to pontificate. They like to talk. They like to share their opinions. That’s nice. But what are you going to do about it? Is what I would always say what are you going to do? Because actions do truly speak louder than words for your target audience of entrepreneurs. orders and business people. Sometime it’s just getting things in motion. Because I have found that activity begets activity. People like to be led by good leaders, people, there’s a bandwagon effect people like to engage. There’s a verse from Le Miserables comes to mind, there’s a song called Do you hear the people sing, sing the song of angry manners. I can’t say more at the dance, I want to try that. But there’s a music of the people that will not be slaves again, when the beating of the heart Echoes the beating of the drum, there is new life about to start when tomorrow comes. If you can engage the beating of the heart, with the beating of the drum, the beating of the drum is task oriented. I was on a championship drill team in ROTC, we beat all the big colleges in competitions. Because we could march to the beat of the drum. That’s the regimented. But we had heart. We had passion, we had something additional that we brought to that competition, that is hard to describe. But if you can get the beating of the heart, marching with the beating of the drum, and engage people’s passion, and really get them engaged by doing something I have seen ordinary people, whatever that means, achieve extraordinary results.

Alan
Yeah, they when we talk about it all comes down to a purpose driven life. When everything’s said and done. How would you like that purpose driven life be defined for you? Oh, well, the message that you want to leave for people that knew you and the posterity that served with you? What is the purpose?

Dave
Oh, you know, I’ve, I’ve never never thought about that. In that way, Alan, to be honest, but I think I would have to go back and look at that service to humanity is the best work of life. I really believe that I really, truly do. So whatever your job happens to be. And we all have a lot of different jobs, there’s a lot of different things you can work at. It’s still a service to humanity, and how you can help people,

Alan
You know, and I think over the years, and you’ve done this for several years, so you come from a position of credibility. But I remember recently, I had Ken Blanchard on my show, and he handed me his business card, and it it read chief spiritual adviser. And I said that, what does that mean? Came up with the same notion, he says, living not only a purpose driven life, but he says that the true leader is a servant. To those who they work with. That’s well put so well. And I think you’ve learned that too, as you work with so many people. So when a person is looking, what advice would you have for a person that that wants to be on the road to leadership today? Where did they start?

Dave
Well, I think again, there are a lot of good materials and a lot of good books out there. Which by the way, one thing is on my bucket list is I do intend to write a book on leadership. I’ve been asked by many, many people to do that. And it’s funny that you mentioned Mr. Blanchard too, because along the lines of the One Minute Manager, you know, I would want it to be short, entertaining. And if you are not so interested in this chapter, skip to the next one, and just move forward. So there are a lot of, I think, good words of wisdom out there and some paths to follow. But the most important thing is is being true to yourself and getting started doing something because you can sit and read forever. But you got to be in the game. You got to be doing something in order to apply those.

Alan
Dave, I need to take a quick break. I want to hold you over for our last segment. That’s okay, sure. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back and visiting here today with Dave Smith. He served as a Newark, California mayor for some 34 years and now spends time working with organizations in the Bay Area discussing leadership and how to take them to the next level. Dave there’s a story that you often share about bit Oh honey, giving people a bit of honey, what is that?

Dave
Well, Alan Well, I was A young boy growing up in Upper Michigan, we were quite poor. And I would save up my money to buy a bit of honey candy bar at the corner grocery store, they cost five cents, and I’d have to save five pennies. And it was a wonderful candy bar because it was like saltwater taffy very chewy lasted a long time came in six pieces and so forth. But I use the story of a young lady named Ruth MacDonald. And it’s a true story that took place at my 25th class reunion from high school. And Ruth had not showed up to a reunion before. And she went to elementary school with me. She pulled me aside at the class reunion, and she gave me a bit of honey candy bar. And she said, I hope you don’t think I’m being corny, Dave. But I want you to have this this candy bar. And I said, Well, Ruth, why, why is that? And she said, because when we were children on the playground at Charles Briggs school, you came over and you shared your bit of honey candy bar with me. And I’ve never forgotten that. And I just wanted to let you know how much that meant to me. And how that touched my heart. And Alan, you know, since that day, I didn’t know when Ruth presented that to me, we were probably let’s just say 10. When that happened. I don’t remember the incident. But it sounds very possible. And she had right that the bit of honey was my favorite candy bar. Random Acts of Kindness have an effect on people that sometimes we don’t even know. And we may never know. I hope everybody has a Ruth McDonald in their life that will come back to them at some point and tell them, Hey, you made a difference for me in some way. And it might be something as simple and basic is this. But a random act of kindness. And again, it goes back to the service to humanity is just just so important. And when I tell this story, I always give people a bit of honey candy bar too, so that they can remember to do random acts of kindness because it’s those acts I think of a heart that truly make a difference to other people.

Alan
It’s a very strong story and a powerful message that sometimes we’re doing things by our nature that we don’t realize how they affect other people. Exactly. Well, Dave, it’s been a pleasure having you here on today’s shows we visited about leadership and your life. And you know, and you left to some great message and great insight of things that we can take to our own heart. Now, I know that you’re you’re an extremely busy person, but if I if an organization wants to contact you say hey, Dave, we’d like to get some insight for leadership in our organization. How would they go about that?

Dave
They can find me on Facebook, my numbers in the phonebook. It always has been and, you know, we’d love to work with organizations long as I’m having fun. That’s the operative word.

Alan
Visiting here today with Dave Smith. He’s been the New York Mayor for some 34 years now spends full time as a leadership consultant working with organizations around the Bay Area. Dave, thanks for being on today’s show.

Dave
Thanks for having me. Alan.

Alan
Thanks for joining us here today on America dreams. Join us next week, right here the same time on 12:20am

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Dave Smith on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Dave Smith

Dave Smith grew up in humble circumstances in Michigan. He attended Michigan Tech University and upon graduating college he wound up in the plastics business as an industrial engineer which brought him out to California. In California he quickly became acquainted with the Jaycee’s organization which focused on community service and leadership skills. In 1976 he began service on the Newark City council, and subsequently in was elected to the public office of Mayor in 1978 and served Newark in that position until 2011.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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