New city manager talks vision, focus on balanced growth in Denison

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Greg Smith

Denison's new city manager will bring 20 years of experience in balancing new growth with existing developments to the table when he takes the helm later this summer.

After a months-long search, Denison announced last month that Greg Smith would become its new city manager following the departure of Jud Rex in late 2020. Currently, Smith serves as the city manager for Jacksonville, Texas.

Smith said many of the cities he has worked with have faced similar issues as Denison with regard to rapid growth and the need for infrastructure updates. He hopes that many years of experience have prepared him to answer the challenges that Denison currently faces.

"From what I can tell already, they have a good path moving forward," Smith said. "From attending the budget workshops, a lot of the problems are identified. It is just coming up with solutions and funding mechanisms to handle that."

While Smith has not spent all of his career in municipal government, he said it has been a recurring interest of his. Instead, however, he started work in working in athletic training and sports medicine while working toward a master's degree in business administration. 

"While working as an athletic trainer I went back and my MBA and I've always had an interest in city government," he said. "My grandfather was a city controller back on the east coast. So basically, he was the finance director — that would be the equivalent of that. That was his career."

The first ten years of his career was spent in education and athletic training. Smith started work with Lufkin ISD, but eventually moved onto work with the East Texas Medical Center with a focus on sports medicine. From there, Smith returned to the education field with work as a district health coordinator.

"I wouldn't say it (public administration) was always a part of my plan, but it always intrigued me," he said. "In addition to the athletic training background, I did have an EMS background. Between the EMS background and athletic training background, they work very well together so I was given the opportunity to work within many communities." 

Smith took his first municipal leadership job when he became from city manager for Overton, Texas. Smith moved onto the city of Henderson and later Angleton. Nearly half of Smith's career in public administration was spent in Shenandoah, where he worked for nine years. Most recently, he has worked with Jacksonville for about three years.

Several of these cities have been in high growth areas, including the greater Houston metro area. Through these experiences, Smith said he feels he is able to impart some expertise in how to manage growth in a sustainable way while not losing focus on existing residents and businesses.

"In Shenandoah I think we were in the second fastest growing part of Texas at the time," he said.

One of the major projects that Smith helped lead during his tenure with Shenandoah was a complete rebuild of the city's residential infrastructure systems. This resulted in the city's asphalt streets being upgraded to concrete roads complete with curb and gutter and storm drains.

Smith noted that Denison is also experiencing its own challenges with infrastructure, particularly with water and sewer services. Through his experiences, Smith hopes to assist the city in bringing its system up to modern standards.

"I will say in my case all of the cities I worked with had aging infrastructure issues," Smith said. "I will go a little further and say that the majority of Texas cities have that same issue. One of my strong suits has been the ability to identify those issues and put in a place to address to get those issues corrected."

Smith is currently scheduled to begin work with the city on Aug. 16.