Janet Smith discusses goals as new City Manager

by Jordan Green

Janet Smith says she has “always enjoyed” working in Kay County.

Now, she'll have another shot at doing so.

On Thursday January 10, the Blackwell City Council voted unanimously to hire Smith as Blackwell's city manager. She'll be filling the job left vacant in November of last year after then-city manager Thomas “Chip” Outhier unexpectedly retired.

Smith's first day on the job was Tuesday.

Smith first got acquainted with the Kay County area while working as the city manager's assistant in Ponca City from March of 2015 to August of the same year. While serving as the manager's assistant, she negotiated agreements between the City of Ponca City and the Ponca City Fraternal Order of Police, and also coordinated agreements between local ambulance providers that would help create “more effective services.”

“I enjoyed working in the area,” Smith said of her time in Ponca City. “I made connections at the Kay County Mayors Roundtable, and I got to know all of the mayors and city managers in Kay County. I enjoyed the relationships I made, and my connections remained strong.”

Those connections, she said, helped her find out that the city manager's job in Blackwell was open.

“I was called by some very important people who told me to look at the job here,” she said. “It's always good to know you have connections that want you there.”

As manager, Smith said she will work on Blackwell's “comprehensive plan,” a list of objectives and projects the city government hopes to tackle. She said the plan “needs some attention.”

“In the plan, I want to include appropriate zoning requirements for new industries. Also, I want to improve Blackwell's connectivity. We need to have better sidewalks and the ability for people to ride bikes” because people are using cars less and less, she said. “I also want to look over our budget. We need to know our funding sources and funding restraints.”

Her first project, though, will be to evaluate the efficiency of individual city departments.

“Initially, I want to look at a comprehensive review of each department. I want to look at their effectiveness and responsiveness because these are very important.”

So far, Smith said she and the members of the Council have the same “vision” for Blackwell.

“I enjoyed my interviews and time with the Council. We had good discussions, and we are on the same page on everything we talked about, including the hospital, the hospital trust, the water infrastructure, the [smelter settlement], and how to address issues that arise,” she said.

Smith holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Central Oklahoma. She also holds a bachelor's degree in religion from the University of Mobile (Alabama).

Born and raised in Alabama, Smith moved to Oklahoma 15 years ago to take a job with The Aeon Group, an alternative energy company that, according to her resume, worked to provide electrical power to third-world countries.

Aside from her work in the energy industry, Smith has served as the city manager of the towns of Crescent and Bethany. After leaving her job in Ponca City in 2015, she was hired as the city manager of Crescent, where she worked for nearly three years. She was hired by the city of Bethany in May of 2018, but only remained there until October.

Shortly after being hired Thursday, Smith attended a Town Hall meeting at the Blackwell Event Center to discuss a proposed remodeling plan at the Blackwell Regional Hospital. At the meeting, she said she would “love to meet” members of the community, and invited them to stop by her office at City Hall.

“You probably know where my office is better than I do,” she quipped.