By Kayla Anderson
City of Sparks Mayor Ron Smith passed away on Friday, August 21, following his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 71.
As a Sparks resident for more than 35 years, Smith had a visible passion for his community, eventually running for (and winning) a Sparks City Council seat in the 2006 election representing constituents in Ward 3. Smith served three more consecutive four-year terms as city councilman as well as became Mayor Pro Tempore during the years 2012-2018.
During his tenure with the City of Sparks, Smith was involved in dozens of projects and sat on a number of local and regional boards, but is most known for: his role with the Regional Transportation Commission in strongly advocating for improving transportation and infrastructure needs to accommodate the City’s growth; serving as chairman of the Truckee River Flood Mitigation Authority; and he was instrumental in directing the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza Project at the Sparks Marina.
“As a veteran himself, Ron was extremely passionate about this project,” says Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, adding that it was extremely important to Smith to ensure that the 900-plus Nevada veterans who died fighting for the country were properly honored and that future generations knew of the sacrifices which allowed us our freedoms.
“His friendship meant a lot to me. In the beginning of my career with City Council he was my mentor. He was in it for so long, he gave back so much to the community. He was a man of integrity and honest about what he believed. He always said, ‘the best thing about me is you’ll always know what I think and the worst thing about me is you’ll always know what I think,” Dahir fondly recalls.
“I really loved working with him on projects like the Sparks Marina Veterans Memorial and traveling with him to Washington D.C. (as part of the Nevada League of Cities to represent Sparks on a federal and legislative level). Those trips were really fun,” Dahir adds.
He admits that they didn’t always agree with Smith on everything, but he appreciated his honesty and firm beliefs. Dahir was fortunate to have been able to have dinner with Smith and his wife Karen at Red Hawk Golf and Resort just a few weeks ago, laughing and listening to music as they talked about the city that Smith loved.
“He worked hard on the Veterans Memorial, and citywide making sure our river is clean and ready for our citizens to enjoy. He was also very involved with the RTC and worked hard on a few dreams that I hope I can help come to fruition,” Dahir says.
“His biggest hope was that we have a safe city. Ron was a big supporter of the police, fire department, and security of our community. In the last two years he had chemotherapy every week and would have to recover, and then he’d get right back out there to work on projects that improved the city. He fought until the end with his family around him- they were the most important thing to him. He said his family was his biggest treasure, including his nine grandchildren,” he says.
Along with being involved with progressing the future of Sparks, Smith is also remembered as having a sense of humor.
“He definitely enjoyed his Chik-fil-A coffees,” Dahir smiles.
Sparks City Councilmember Donald Abbott says that he met Smith a bit later in his career when he was a city councilman even though for many of his friends Smith was their first boss at Scolari’s.
“It’s been nice seeing all the lives he impacted, from being the manager of Scolari’s to his work with the Sparks City Council. One of my fondest memories of him is- and he did this all the time- is that when someone would ask him to do something crazy, he’d nod his head up and down and say ‘Absolutely no’. That always got a good laugh out of me. I also heard a story that when he was the manager of Scolari’s he pranked his receptionist by having her call a tow truck to get out of the parking lot that was her own car,” laughs Abbott.
“He was silly, but he also knew when to be serious. He just had fun. He was a normal human being who was the same person in the office as he was off-hours,” Abbott adds.
Abbott also credits Smith to being his mentor as well in the beginning of his own political career.
“He was the first person I ever went door knocking with, it was nice to campaign with him and have someone believe in me who wasn’t my mother,” he chuckles. “Ron loved his community, loved his family, loved the Giants, and he was always helping others. He definitely will be missed,” Abbott says.
Personally, when I think about my interactions with Ron Smith over the last four years, the first two words that come to mind are that he’s passionate and transparent. He always had a respectful demeanor towards me and answered my calls (even during that year when I continuously grilled him about the state of D ’Andrea). He never failed to tell me exactly how he felt and went out of his way to greet me at city council meetings and give me the information I needed. He lifted those around him up and gave them the strength to reach their potential, and for that he will never forgotten.
Details of Ron Smith’s memorial service have yet to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza Project through: www.nvmp.info; P.O. Box 50967 Sparks, Nevada 89435.
Comments from nevada public officials on Ron Smith’s passing:
– “Ron was a good friend and mentor, and a man who deeply loved his City and community. His mark will be left on this community for decades to come,” says current Sparks Mayor Pro Tempore Ed Lawson.
– “I was deeply honored to be appointed by Mayor Smith to fill his Ward 3 council seat when he was elected Mayor in 2018,” says Sparks City Councilman Paul Anderson. “I will truly miss my friend and mentor who did such great things regionally and for our Sparks community,” he adds.
– “Ron provided knowledge and experience which helped me grow as a councilmember for this great city that he so loved. He was a great inspiration to me. Thank you, Mayor, may you rest in peace,” says Councilwoman Charlene Bybee.
– “We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our Mayor,” says Sparks City Manager Neil Krutz. “His battle with cancer was incredibly courageous. All of us at the City will greatly miss him, and our most sincere condolences go out to his family.”
– “On behalf of the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sparks Mayor Ron Smith. Mayor Smith was a long-standing member on the RTC Board of Commissioners, serving in various roles, including Board Chair, since 2009. As a Veteran and longtime Sparks resident, he truly believed in making our community a better and safer place for future generations. A champion for transportation and infrastructure, Mayor Smith was a proponent to build major regional projects, including the Pyramid/McCarran Intersection Improvements, the SouthEast Connector, and the 4th Street/Prater Way BRT, among others. Mayor Smith also led the community effort to build a Veterans memorial, which is now under construction at the Sparks Marina, in tribute to all Nevada Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. We will remember him for his kindness and how deeply he cared for all of us. To honor his memory and his contributions, it is up to the rest of us to carry on his legacy of caring and visionary leadership, stewardship, and public service.” – Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Executive Director Bill Thomas.
– “Mayor Smith was a tireless advocate of families and children and a strong supporter of our schools. He loved his community deeply and was a true champion for the people of Sparks. Even during his final illness, he continued to work hard for the people he represented. We will miss his leadership and commitment.”- Washoe County School District