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Dottie Smith, the zoning assistant, is honored Nov. 5 for her 40 years of service to the Harford County Council.
Dottie Smith, the zoning assistant, is honored Nov. 5 for her 40 years of service to the Harford County Council. (Courtesy Dottie Smith)

On the 40th anniversary of the day she started working for Harford County Government, Dottie Smith was honored by the County Council for her service.

Smith walked into the council office Nov. 5, 1979, as a general secretary. In June 1983, when her “dear friend” Debbie Button went on maternity leave, Smith was promoted to zoning assistant, the role she still holds.

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“She was first face I saw when I walked into council office 40 years ago today, and she’s still a face there to share my happy days and my not-so-happy days,” Smith said.

Button returned to the office in 2012, first as an aide to former Councilman Jim McMahan and then to Councilman Robert Wagner.

When Smith took the zoning assistant job, she didn’t intend to stay in the role.

“It was a transition until I found something I really liked to do,” Smith said.

Smith had no experience with the legislative branch of the government, but found she “absolutely loved” it.

“So a career was born by accident,” she said.

Prior to joining county government, Smith worked in the purchasing department for Harford County Public Schools and was engaged to marry the supervisor of reading for the school system.

“I was 27, 28 years old, career-oriented," she said. "I didn’t want people to say any of my promotions were because I married the supervisor of reading. So I left and started my own career.”

Zoning hearing examiner Robert Kahoe Jr. said it’s hard to believe anyone works for the county for 40 years.

“She’s the hearing examiner assistant, but really probably more of an adviser,” Kahoe, who’s been the hearing examiner since October 2003, said. “She established boundaries for me over the years, for the good of all of us. Dottie knows what’s going on in the county, no doubt about it and she’s been a great asset to me.”

Before he was hearing examiner, Kahoe worked with Smith as the people’s counsel for 25 years.

“As long as Mr. Kahoe is the hearing examiner, I’m not going anywhere," Smith said.

In her 40 years with the county, she has worked for 47 different council members, including four terms for Shrodes and five for Wagner. The office has issued more than 3,000 zoning decisions during that time.

“I am really fortunate that I have tremendous passion for this job that I got,” Smith said.

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Wagner has known Smith for almost 30 years.

“You’re certainly a friend, a colleague. Your professionalism and what you portray in the office and what you do every day is certainly something not too many people possess,” Wagner said. “And we’re all very happy you’re our friend, our colleague and I’m looking forward to you getting a 41 or 50 years coin in the future.”

Smith received a challenge coin from her council with a “40” stamped on it for her years of service.

Councilman Chad Shrodes said he and Smith go way back, to his days when his mother worked in the Harford County Courthouse.

“The institutional knowledge you have is just incredible,” Shrodes said.

Council President Patrick Vincenti thanked Smith for her dedication.

“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate the service you provide to our citizens of Harford County and the assistance you provide us on a daily basis in your office,” Vincenti said.

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