Meet Judy Smith
Position at HOJ: President & CEO, plus occasional toilet plunger
What could you not live without?
Besides my husband, kids, grand kids, 4 cats and dog, I could not live without access to the most beautiful places in the world–the red rock canyons, the snow-capped mountains, the ascetic deserts, the primeval forests, the sparkling lakes and the rolling oceans. And, of course, the edge of our world here in Jacksonville, our magnificent saltmarsh creek on the beautiful Timucuan Preserve. These beautiful places are my sanctuary, where I go to recharge, contemplate, meditate, and draw my strength.
What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done was auto-rotating in a Navy helicopter (I spent my first career as a Naval officer) when I did not understand the principles behind autorotation (it’s a way of landing a helicopter when the engine stalls–you just drop out of the sky until you are fairly close to the ground and the pilot finally performs the rocking motion of the autorotation to bring you safely to rest on the ground). I thought I was going to die, pure and simple. Marine Corps pilots have a strange sense of humor.
In my capacity as a director on the Points of Light Board of Directors, it has been my privilege to attend numerous events and receptions in honor of George H. W. Bush, the founding inspiration behind the Points of Light. This has included private White House receptions with both both Presidents Bush, last year’s tribute with all the living Presidents (Obama on video), and a tribute at G. H. W. Bush’s library in Texas that included President Obama. But the most meaningful of these opportunities has been to spend time on two occasions at the Bush’s home at Walker Point in Kennebunkport in a very small and intimate group with President and Mrs. Bush. Regardless of your politics, these are very special people who have given their lives in service. It’s really quite exciting to spend such intimate time with them. That said, I must add that it was also pretty doggone exciting to zip-line 4000 feet down Camelback Mountain in the Poconos this spring and zip Foxfire Mountain in Tennessee. Can’t wait to zip one of the big mountains in the Rockies!
Who is your hero, and why?
My most significant hero is truly my husband, Captain Chester B. Smith (Retired, U. S. Navy) who earned the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart for his heroic actions in Vietnam Nam as he patrolled the very dangerous waters of the Mekong River in a 31-foot patrol river boat (PBR) while I was a young college student (dare I say dilettante) busily protesting the war at the University of Wisconsin in 1967 (no, we weren’t married then, that would come 20 years later!). If I were to choose a “famous” hero, that would have to be Robert Kennedy, whose very short life made a deep impression on me–his life exemplified the combined qualities of courage, commitment, and compassion, and I deeply resonate with that combination.
What is your philosophy on life?
My philosophy on life is that we are here to leave the world better than we found it, to love others as much as we love ourselves, and to treat others the way we want to be treated. We are to do justice and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (as each of us defines Him or Her!). Two of the principles that I live by come from my father’s simple daily words of wisdom: (1) “It’s a GREAT day to be alive!” and (2) “What’s more fun than people?”. And from my mother I received my profound love of Nature and an attitude of deep appreciation for all that I have been given. So I guess one could say that my philosophy of life is that of a highly pragmatic idealist! Or a highly idealistic pragmatist.
What is your all time favorite joke?
I laugh entirely too easily at just about any joke I hear, so I have not the slightest clue here what my favorite one would be! I suppose I could say just about any lawyer joke tickles me. Why is that, anyway? Some of my very best friends are lawyers!!
What song would be included on the soundtrack to your life?
The soundtrack of my life would have to include “Annie’s Song,” by John Denver from back sometime in the 1970s. It was the song that I sang every night to baby son Zachary and baby daughter Jessica as I rocked them to sleep. It evoked profound emotions in me as a young mother and still does now that I’m an OLD mother!
What did you want to be growing up?
Well, in the seventh grade I had determined that I wanted to be the first woman President of the US just because it was about time for one, and by ninth grade I’d decided to be either a neurosurgeon or a nuclear physicist (I’m not sure I really understood what either of them were, but what the heck…).
What inspires you to work at HOJ?
I continue to be inspired to work at HOJ (how on earth have 17 years flown by?) because I have a team of amazing people to kill and die for (and I hope I don’t have to do either any time soon…). It is the primary responsibility of leadership to create, maintain, tweak, or transform an organization’s culture, and that is a responsibility that I not only take very seriously, but that I enjoy. I love who we are, what we do, what we stand for, and how we deliver value to this community. I love the difference we make in people’s lives every day as we inspire them to act on their best impulses, get involved, and do something that makes a difference. This is not a job; it is a calling and a privilege to serve.