Same issues, new role

Former county Commissioner C.W. Smith plans to stay focused on community issues in his new morning radio talk program
Former Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith has left public office, which gives him more time to spend with his dog, Rocky, and at his Eagle Point property, but he plans to remain active, in part by co-hosting a talk radio show weekday mornings.Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

EAGLE POINT — C.W. Smith stepped down as Jackson County commissioner this month, but that doesn't mean he'll lose a voice in local issues.

In fact, liberated from politics and with a new platform — a morning radio talk show — Smith promises to be more frank.

"I want it to be a friendly but frank and civil discussion about anything," Smith says during an interview Thursday at his Eagle Point home. "It allows me to speak out on issues, I think."

Smith will join Craig Fronek as co-hosts of "Sunrise with C.W. and Craig" from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on KCMX 880 AM. The show, which will debut Monday, replaces Fronek's "Southern Oregon Live" and will be an open-dialogue format with listeners who call in.

"We're going to have a lot of fun," Fronek says. "Open dialogue. That's probably our No. 1 (goal), including our listeners in the discussion."

It's just one of many pastimes the 65-year-old Smith will now have more time for. After years of being a Medford police officer, a dozen years as the Jackson County sheriff from 1983 to 1995, and eight years on the county's Board of Commissioners, he can finally call himself a private citizen. That means more time for things like the radio show, work on his farm or his sculpture art. He does bronze and clay work, including intricate portrait busts, and statuary restoration. His website, www.cwsmithart.com, shows several examples of his pieces.

In his eyes, it was the right time to step down.

"I could run and maybe get re-elected, but I didn't want to be complacent," Smith says of his decision to step down. "I didn't want to be tired, I didn't want to be played out. I wanted to always bring a fresh idea."

It's an attitude he hopes younger generations who are interested in running for government office will have.

"Run for office for the right reasons," Smith says. "Run for the reasons (that) you want to make the community better, you want to make government responsive."

Former colleagues say Smith will be missed.

"He was always a jokester," says Commissioner John Rachor. "He was always the guy that came in in the morning and had a kind word for everybody. He kept a calm air around the commissioners office."

Board Chairman Don Skundrick agrees. He says Smith never tried to pull rank on the more-recently elected Skundrick and Rachor because of his years in the public arena. He had a more gracious tone.

"That meant a lot to me," Skundrick says. "He's a heck of a man, a heck of a person to do that. When you come on board like John and I did, to have somebody that has almost 30 years experience, it meant a lot."

Smith says he's pleased to have been a part of changes and refinements to several local ordinances and assisting organizations he says affected Jackson County citizens in a positive way. That included simplifying land development ordinances.

He says recently he was pleased with the response to an Oregon Humane Society's report on the Jackson County Animal Shelter. After seeking the review, the county revamped several policies, including those on euthanizing animals, procedures and how many animals are accepted on a daily basis.

"Long overdue," he says. "We worked hand in hand with them, and it was great. We're seeing far less animals euthanized."

Smith has long been an advocate for freeing up more lands for timber harvests and played a role in authoring the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Plan legislation. The proposal would change how O&C lands, federal lands designated for forest management, are used. Under the proposal, half of the 2.4 million acres of O&C lands would be set aside for conservation, with the other half actively managed.

"That is probably the most forward and most expansive effort for a state to take over, heretofore, federal lands in some form or fashion," Smith says.

That and other issues related to management-versus-conservation approaches in the forests are important to keep in the spotlight, he adds. Smith's parents came to the area from Oklahoma in 1938 because of the economic opportunities available, he says. Much of that was driven by timber sales.

"Because of that, my dad was able to earn a very good living, a workable family living," Smith says. "And I saw the productivity and the way the valley flourished. Now, granted, today it's very diversified, and there aren't going to be the number of mills that were here once, but it's a part of our economy that I think people underestimate."

Smith says he'll also have more time for continued work on his property, a quiet spread in rural Eagle Point. From his back porch, Smith can see farmland and fences, trees and water. Little Butte Creek flows past. Bobcats, foxes and raccoons lurk in the nearby woods, and a pair of golden eagles sometimes make an appearance.

Smith has plenty to keep him busy.

"I don't plan on going away," he says.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.



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