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After 28 years, Southwest Greensburg councilman Jim Smith retires

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Jim Smith, who has served on Southwest Greensburg council for 28 years, stands for a portrait at the Southwest Greensburg Municipal Building on Monday, December 30, 2013.

Jim Smith of Southwest Greensburg has worked for his community ever since he moved to Westmoreland County in 1964.

On Jan. 6, he will conclude 28 years of service on borough council. He is succinct when explaining why he chose not to pursue another term.

“I am 83,” he said.

His list of community service is long. Smith is a past president of the borough fire department and served for eight years as council president.

He served on the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library board and the Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority, and was a charter member of the Greater Greensburg Marine Corps League, Detachment 834.

“I like to serve, and I just thought it was my duty,” Smith said. “I'm an old Marine, and I always keep involved.”

He has been a Mason for 61 years and a Syria Shriner for 59.

In 2012, he received the Community Service Award from Hutchinson Elementary School.

Smith collected antique cars and is a former president of the Laurel Highlands Antique Car Club. At one point, he owned nine vintage vehicles, including a 1923 Reo fire truck and a 1943 Army Jeep.

“I just loved them,” he said. “I've always loved old cars.”

He restored a 1936 Packard coupe that was extensively damaged in an accident.

“It was just like it came out of the showroom, but it cost me $42,000,” Smith said.

He sold all his antique vehicles, partly because he lacked room to store them. He sold the fire truck to a man in California.

A 1932 Mack fire truck he owned with another person is in the Greensburg Fire Museum behind Greensburg City Hall.

Smith became interested in fire fighting as a boy living in Illinois. Newspapers for his paper route were dropped off at the fire station, and he watched the comings and goings of all the firefighters.

“That always excited me, when they got a fire,” Smith said. “I've always had a fascination with them, and the fascination turned into love.”

Smith moved to Pennsylvania in 1949, coming to Westmoreland County 15 years later.

He retired in 1991 as a plant operator for the sewage authority, after formerly working on the road as a pharmaceutical salesman.

Smith and his wife, Julia, are the parents of two children. They have six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Sometimes as an elected official, he has met people who just want to complain, Smith said. “But you meet a lot of nice people, too.”

As an elected leader, he added, “You can do an awful lot of good.”

He offered advice to anyone who wants to serve the community.

“You have to like to help people, for one thing,” Smith said. “And you can't be afraid of hard work. If you're going to take the job, do it to the fullest.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or