As part of Public Service Recognition Week, here’s a look at one of Wildlife Resources’ many exemplary employees.

Danny Smith tried retiring once. It didn’t last.

So at 71 and with 50 years of service as a state employee to his record, Smith is still on the job, helping DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section restore and manage habitats across his home state.

“If they find me lying in the woods one day, that’s okay,” Smith recently told nongame program manager Bob Sargent. “They can say that he died doing what he wanted to do.”

Smith grew up on his family’s farm west of Albany, spending much of his youth working odd jobs on an adjacent quail hunting plantation. He later served in the Army, and in 1969 as an Army Reservist helped Mississippi communities devastated by Hurricane Camille. During those weeks in Camille’s wake Smith said he witnessed the most horrible things he has ever seen.

He hired on with the state on May 2, 1966, working for the Georgia Forestry Commission first as a county chief ranger in Dougherty County and then a district mechanic. Using mechanical skills learned from his father, Smith repaired all types of heavy equipment for the Forestry Commission.

They can use you in DNR.

In 1997, he retired with visions of going fishing. But when he went into the Human Resources office one day to take care of paperwork, the office staff told him, “You can’t retire. They can use you in DNR.” The following week, Smith was a heavy equipment operator in the Wildlife Resources Division’s Region 5 Game Management office.

Regarding the brush with retirement, he said, “You can only do so much fishing anyway.”

Smith later helped the Nongame Conservation Section with planting and harvesting seed from native groundcover, and soon switched to that section of the Wildlife Resources Division.

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In this 2008 photo at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area, Smith shows wiregrass and other plants he and Alan Isler, now supervisor of Game Management Section’s Region 5, were harvesting seed from to help restore native groundcover on state lands. (Rick Lavender/DNR)

He works as an equipment operator and mechanic, and assists with groundcover harvest and plantings. Smith is also an experienced prescribed burner, having assisted with the controlled burns on thousands of acres. He has helped, as well, in efforts with multiple agencies to fight several large wildfire incidents.

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Danny Smith, a 50-year state employee, works as an equipment operator and mechanic in southwest Georgia for the Nongame Conservation Section. (Phil Spivey/DNR)

Even after a half-century of service, Smith is as dependable as ever. DNR wildlife biologist Phil Spivey, who works with Smith, says Smith is always on time. “I can’t remember arriving at a meeting place to work without him already being there. Danny is very determined and persistent and will go after a job like a bulldog until it is completed.”

Smith’s wife of some 40 years died in April 2010. The pain of that loss also influenced his decision to continue working. “I couldn’t just sit at home and stare at the walls,” he said.

He remarried in 2013. He and his wife Mary are certified barbecue judges and take part in Georgia Barbecue Association events almost every weekend. Smith has one son and two grandsons.

When he is not in the woods or at a barbecue joint, he leads forklift training classes for technical schools and various companies in southwest Georgia. He’s also taking a PowerPoint class at a tech school to become more skilled at using computers.

It’s that type of dogged approach that has kept Danny Smith on the job and effective for 50 years, and more.

Nongame Program Manager Bob Sargent, Regional Game Management Supervisor Alan Isler and wildlife biologist Phil Spivey compiled this post.

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