City prepares for attorney’s successor

Paralegal to help bridge gap when David Smith retires

City attorney David Smith has been on the job for 35 years. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

City attorney David Smith has been on the job for 35 years.

David Smith started his career with the city during a milestone year of the punk-rock era when The Clash and the Sex Pistols released their first albums: 1977.

Like the punk rockers, Smith is not afraid to speak his mind. Commenting on a former plan by La Plata County to drop out of an intergovernmental agreement with Durango, Smith said Tuesday, “It was really a stupid maneuver on their part. I didn’t get it.”

Now the city is preparing for Smith’s eventual exit from the arena of legal disputes about annexations, medical marijuana and even the responsibility for caring for trees in the public right of way.

Smith, 68, will reach his 36th anniversary with the city in March. He would be the city’s most senior employee, but, technically speaking, he is not an employee but an independent contractor.

Smith, along with City Planner Greg Hoch, who started with the city on Jan. 2, 1981, are the primary sources of the city’s institutional knowledge.

While Smith would not say when he is going to retire, the city is making plans to ease the transition so his eventual successor won’t be left without a point of reference on legal issues.

The city is budgeting for $38,876 to hire a paralegal in 2013 with Smith planning to advertise the position in January.

The paralegal would assist Smith and learn the background about ongoing legal matters so the paralegal then could educate Smith’s eventual successor.

In Councilor Sweetie Marbury’s words, the paralegal would act as a “keeper of the knowledge.”

Smith got a glowing review from the City Council on Tuesday as Mayor Doug Lyon praised him for shouldering the workload of several lawyers.

Councilor Christina Rinderle also commended Smith for his ability to juggle several projects at once, such as boundary and access disputes between the Durango Mall and Mercury Payment Systems, now known as Mercury, and the funding negotiations for a joint firefighting authority.

For his part, Smith asked the council for “areas of improvement,” but did not get any suggestions. Smith also thanked City Councilor Dick White for his diligence in proofreading his drafts for the council.

On government television, Smith is the official who reads the ordinances and resolutions before the council takes its vote.

The positive job review cleared the way for Smith to get a 4 percent raise next year based on his 2012 pay of $142,848. So he would earn an additional $5,713.92.

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