CUYAHOGA FALLS — Fraternal Order of Police President John Sim worked with former Police Chief Donald Smith from the day he was hired as a patrolman until the day the chief retired.
The same year Smith became chief of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department, Sim became the head of the union. Sim said the two didn’t "always sit on the same side of the table," but Smith was always a fair man.
When the city was looking to take away hospitalization from retired officers in the early 1990s, Sim said that Smith, who was more of a listener than a speaker, made sure his voice was heard.
According to Sim, Smith got up at the City Council meeting where it was being discussed and said, "I want to go on record that what you’re doing to my men is wrong."
"That cost him because the city wasn’t favorable to what he said," Sim said. "But he cared about his men."
Smith, who was chief from 1986 until his retirement in 1999, passed away Sunday, the department announced. He was 75.
Smith, an Army veteran, was first hired onto the department in 1968.
Sim said Smith was reserved, but personable. He would be happy to talk to people, but generally was private and kept to himself.
Being the union head while Smith was chief, Sim said the two got along even though they were on the separate sides of issues at times.
Sim said Smith was a great chief.
"I worked for Don for 13 years when he was chief, and I think he was one of the best chiefs we had," Sim said.
Even after retirement, Smith stayed involved with the department, and regularly attended police memorials and other events. Current Police Chief Jack Davis said Smith hired him onto the department and came back to speak with him after he became chief.
"He would stop in, give me advice about things he had gone through as chief," Davis said. "Just basic chief advice, because there's really no book on it."
Davis said Smith was a good manager and made sure the officers had the equipment they needed. He also oversaw a large expansion of the department that included numerous hires
"He’s definitely part of our history in the police department," Davis said.
Federal grant money in the 1990s allowed the department to grow from about 70 officers to 96 at one point, Sim said. Much of that expansion, he said, happened under Smith.
According to previous reporting from the Beacon Journal, the department had 42 sworn officers when Smith joined it. When he announced his retirement in 1998, the department had 89.
When he announced his retirement, Smith said he was ready to retire after serving as chief for a long time, but wasn’t ready to stop caring about the department.
"I retire with mixed emotions," Smith said at the time. "This has been such a significant part of my life. It's been my career here. It will be quite a change for me."
Years later, that care continued, Sim said.
"Don cared about that department very much," Sim said.
Smith was preceded in death by his wife, Penny; mother, Alice Budd; and best friend, Jon Middleton Sr.
He is survived by significant other, Linda Middleton, and extended family.
Funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Friday at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 130 Broad Blvd., Cuyahoga Falls.
Calling hours will take place 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Clifford-Shoemaker Funeral Home, 1930 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls
Memorials may be made to the K-9 unit at the FOP Lodge 49, P.O. Box 72, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44222.