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Smith trades political hat for arts beret

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Less than a week after turning in his city-issued cell phone and his keys to City Hall, former District 2 City Councilor Gregory Z. Smith pocketed a new set of keys to the offices of the Doña Ana Arts Council.

In the aftermath of the city’s mayoral election, in which Smith came up short in his bid, he was approached by representatives of the arts council’s board of directors, who offered him the job as executive director.

“I hadn’t even thought about it,” Smith said. “As soon as we met, I realized it’s a huge connection for me. I thought about it for a bit and spoke with my wife, and we agreed it seemed like a good fit.”

Smith, 66, said he was pleasantly surprised by the offer, he looks forward to using the connections he’s made as a city councilor and board member of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley to elevate the arts in his new position.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to focus more closely on one aspect of what I’ve been trying to do, and to see the impact on other areas,” Smith said. “With the board’s support, I hope to place Las Cruces in the crosshairs of the arts scene. I believe this area has the potential to be an active agent for the arts at the local, national and international spheres.”

Smith said he will employ his extensive list of contacts to help the arts council build membership, increase involvement, improve events and “address the perennial issue of raising funds.”

In addition to what he brings to the position from his former council position, Smith said he’s learned a lot about how nonprofits can succeed from his involvement with a number of entities, including the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership, the Paleozoic Trackways Association and the Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc.

Saying that he has “a lot of ideas to run past the board,” Smith said his overall goal is to “connect the organization to the community and create a vision going forward.”

“I think 2020 will be a big year for the arts in Las Cruces,” he said. “I appreciate all the foundational work that’s been done by all the people who have preceded me in this role. Now, we build on it.”

Smith was a strong advocate for the arts during his entire eight-year tenure on the city council. He also served four years as mayor pro tem. Smith’s mother, Jo-an Smith, has been a Las Cruces artist since the family moved to Las Cruces in 1972. 

Smith succeeds Steve Ruwoldt as DAAC executive director. Ruwoldt was appointed to the position Oct. 1, succeeding long-time DAAC executive director Kathleen Albers, who retired. Ruwoldt resigned after only a few weeks on the job.

Jess Williams may be reached at jess@lascrucesbulletin.com.