Tomorrow is a big day for a member of East Grand Rapids Public Safety. After decades of protecting and serving, it's Sgt. David Smith's last day on the job.
It's a career path that's taken him places he never expected.
This week, for the first time in three generations, there won't be a member of the Smith family on duty in East Grand Rapids, a family that shared 100 years of service between three men.
Sgt. David Smith's grandfather started in 1932, heading up the Public Service Department and working as a volunteer firefighter.
In 1951, David’s dad followed in those same footsteps.
David joined EGR Fire Department in 1980, the last fire fighter the city ever hired. East Grand Rapids went the public safety route in 1986, training David to be a police officer and EMS worker as well.
"I have no complaints, I live every little boys dream,” says David.
“Get to dress up and ride a fire truck then go play cops and robbers, what more could you ask for."
That extended training opened a new chapter in Sgt. Smith's life, introducing him to the big leagues of fire fighting.
“In 1985 I got the chance to go to New York City and observe how they do things and ride with several units. Basically to observe, but it turned into something that continued on for the rest of my life."
Instead of going on vacation, Smith would travel to New York, spending four separate weeks a year living at the firehouse. Most of his time was spent at Rescue 2 in Brooklyn and Bed-Sty, with the rest spent at Bushwick, among some of the roughest and busiest neighborhoods in the city.
"I went to more fires my first night tour with Rescue 2 in new York City than id been to the first 5 years of my career here."
Then on September 11th, 2001, everything changed.
"I lost 19 close friends, and countless other guys that I knew. Family to you."
Families like his own, that turned public service into a tradition.
"John Vigiano, retired after 38-years in the NYFD, most decorated firemen in the city's history […] is sons, Joe and John. Joey was an emergency services cop, Johnny was assigned to ladder 132. Both were working on September 11th, and were unfortunately lost at the trade center."
For his service to New York City, David was eventually made an honorary Battalion Chief, awarded to him by none other than his mentor, John Vigiano himself.
These days, as a cop in a town that's notorious for pulling people over for speeding, you might find it ironic that David also has a close relationship to some of the fastest drivers on the planet.
You see Sgt. Smith, or "Phoenix” as he's known in NASCAR, is also one of the most sought-after custom helmet artists in the business.
"Any time you see a close-up of a drivers helmet with the Phoenix logo on the side, that's something that I painted."
"In 1996 I did one helmet, and by 2000 I was painting helmets for 25-30 guys between the Busch and Winston Cup garages."
"Half of these are race worn, a lot of these the drivers have given them back to me for my collection.”
It’s a collection that he could pretty much retire on.
And for his favorite: "Nobody has done more for NASCAR than Richard petty. He's taken care of his fans since day one. He's very well liked because he's a genuine person."
Being a genuine person is something Sgt. Smith obviously knows a little something about.
Smith's friends and coworkers are throwing a party for him Wednesday on his last day of work.
As for retirement, Dave says he's collected a few motorcycles that he plans to spend a lot of time on over the next few years.