0
Votes

'Smitty' Retires

Captain Darryl Smith made history in Herndon.

Captain Darryl Smith has been called many things over his last 31-years at the Herndon Police Department.

Those who know him well call him "Smitty."

Those who work with him labeled him an institution, a good friend, someone who puts himself in other people's shoes, a policeman's policeman.

On Oct. 1, "Smitty" will say goodbye to the police department, retiring after 31-years of service.

"I remember when I walked in to apply for the job," said Smith at his retirement reception, Sept. 24. "I had this big afro, I was wearing a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off ... [the chief] told me I better have my hair cut when I returned."

AT A RETIREMENT reception last week at the municipal center, the Herndon Police Department as well as other community groups, recounted their favorite "Smitty" memories, thanking him for his years of service and dedication to the town.

"It's like seeing an institution move," said Toussaint Summers, Jr., Herndon Chief of Police. "Some things you take for granted until they're gone."

Smith said when he was told to cut his hair before he returned his application to the department he questioned whether or not to do it, in case he didn't get the job, but fortunately for him — and for the town, he did and six months later he had a job.

"I had just turned 22, I don't think I was really mature for my age," said Smith of his start with the force. "I was so fortunate to have good people help me, I followed their lead."

At the reception Smith thanked his family for their support, not only while in the department, but also his aunts, uncles, siblings, his mother and late father for the discipline they gave him when he was younger and the support they offered along the way.

"You can't do anything without good people helping you," said Smith on the verge of tears.

Smith's philosophy, that the support of good people can help you succeed, was repeated at his ceremony by every person who took to the podium to speak about his involvement in the community.

"What he's done as a community leader is unbelievable," said Guy Masters of the Herndon Police Citizen Support Team and good friend. "I don't think the police station really knows what they are going to miss."

Summers said they do know that they will be losing an important player not only in the department, but in the department's community relations.

"He has gone a long way in helping the police department build the kind of relationship we now have with the town," said Summers. "He's done very positive things for the police department ... he's really humanized policing in the town."

AS A PART of the ceremony, Mayor Michael O'Reilly, Masters, Summers, members from Vecinos Unidos/Neighbors United, Inc. and other officials spoke about their interactions with Smith.

Two police officers read letters written to Smith by Gov. Mark R. Warner and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf complimenting him on the work he has done in the department and with the town.

Smith not only gained respect and friendship with those he encountered, but he also made Herndon history as the first black officer for the department, making many more firsts on his way to captain and more recently as a Town Council member and vice mayor.

"He was the perfect person to be the first black Herndon Police Officer," said O'Reilly. "I am embarrassed to say we didn't have a black member on Town Council until this year, but I am glad he's the one to be here now."

Maria Smith, Smith's wife, said his recent appointment to Town Council and as vice mayor is like "history repeating itself," mirroring his promotions with the police department, and that he deserves the rewards for his hard work.

"It's a wonderful feeling that so many people in the town care for him," said Maria, who has been married to Smith for 34 years. "I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about him."

Summers said it isn't because of race that Smith was the first in his successes with the town, it was his attitude.

"Just because you are black, doesn't mean you're going to be the first at anything," said Summers. "I think it means for the town he was rewarded for his merits, he carried himself in such a way that he achieved these things."

Smith took a different approach to his mark on Herndon history.

"Being the first to do those things, I don't know how to respond," said Smith. "I'm just happy to have the opportunity to do that in Herndon and to be in the right place at the right time."

Smith was in the right place at the right time in many instances.

He was instrumental in the development of a number of organizations including the Herndon Police Citizen Support Team, which at the ceremony named him an honorary member so he could "always patrol the streets of Herndon," he helped create Vecinos Unidos/Neighbors United, Inc., a non-profit organization geared toward the integration of the area's diverse cultures through community outreach, as well as set up Boy Scout Troop 1580 for interested Hispanic youth and recreational soccer teams for children to get involved and compete against each other in an organized fashion.

Summers said that the loss of Smith will be seen in many areas, but especially his knowledge of the town, including things that are not written down.

"You don't replace a Captain Smith," said Summers, "hopefully you can add the right number of people who equal what he brought to the table."

SMITH'S WIFE, who has known him since he was 16 years old, said his caring nature and ability to put himself in other people's shoes is something he did even before he joined the department.

"He's always thinking about other people and their needs," she said, adding she knows he'll stay active with his volunteer efforts. "Whatever he wants to do, we're behind him."

She added Smith plans to spend time with their children and nine-year-old grandson Kane, but she joked she also has a long list of things around the house for him to do while she's at work.

"I said as long as I get home from work and dinner's ready, I'll be happy," she joked. "He said, 'if you like corn flakes, a banana and milk, then it'll be ready for you.'"