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Photo Essay: My Day with Mary Lilly Smith

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My day with Mary Lilly Smith was filled with meetings, presentations and constant laughter. Smith, the director of Planning and Development for the city of Springfield, has worked for the city the last 37 years. In covering her day on June 21 for Springfield Business Journal’s Day in the Life series, the work was centered around the city’s next comprehensive plan. We attended a presentation at City Utilities early that morning and spent the afternoon with the City Council and other Planning and Zoning staff at the Lake Springfield Boathouse. A consulting firm led an afternoon workshop to gather feedback on what officials should address in the city’s next long-term plan. Read the full story.

—Photos by Jessica Rosa

We only spent a few minutes in her office as we jumped to several morning meetings. Her space is clean and organized, with a few quirky mementos scattered around. A long, pink plastic alligator sat on a stack of papers and a purple aardvark rested on some files by her computer.

“I brought them to my office when my daughter was really little,” she says.

Over the years, they’re function turned from entertainment to paperweights with memories. But when you ask about the alligator, she laughs.

“It came (with) a drink a long time ago,” she says.

Smith constantly ran to meetings, so when she had a second of downtime, she hid away in the office. While she was responding to the 100 daily emails she receives, I parked myself at a small table in the corner. She’s an avid coffee drinker, and as she took a sip from her fourth cup of coffee that day, I asked her what was on her coffee mug. It was Napoleon Bonaparte.

“I just kind of liked how flamboyant it was,” she says, with a laugh.

In some spare time, Smith reflected on some of her favorite past-times, which includes traveling. Three years ago, she and her daughter visited 26 national parks over the span of six weeks. She loves national parks, but she’s not a Leslie Knope-type, she says. Smith says she’s not sure who she’d be from the TV show “Parks and Recreation.”

Smith is a city of Springfield institution, but she wouldn’t agree with you. Council members and city employees are constantly pulling her aside to ask questions about the city’s past, processes and her valued input.

Smith knows everyone. Any time we’d enter a room, she’d start to make the rounds, chatting and smiling with everyone we passed. Her laugh is contagious and fills a room.


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