Working for the common good
Scott Smith has been a long-term leader of tree fruit industry groups.
Scott Smith has gone out of his way to serve the tree fruit industry over the past 25 years. A long way out of his way.
Smith, who lives in Tonasket, Washington, and whose orchards are a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, was a trustee of the U.S. Apple Association for 20 years and chair of the organization in 2005-2006. It was a commitment that involved countless trips across the continent to Washington, D.C.
During those two decades, Smith gained a sound understanding of politics and their influence on the industry, but he valued most of all the opportunity to get to know apple growers across the nation.
“All of these things we do—in the end, it’s about the people,” he said. “It’s about the relationships with the people who work with you and in the industry. In the case of USApple, I was very fortunate to get to know our fellow growers in other parts of the country. They have exactly the same feelings that we do. Then you get an affection for them, and you want them to be successful also, so you want to work on things that will help people.”
Nancy Foster, USApple president, said Smith was on the board when she joined the organization in 2002. “He was great to work with,” she said. “He was an amazing teacher. He would take the time, if I asked questions, to step back and explain in that very reassuring voice.”
Smith is very articulate and committed to doing the right thing and taking a well-thought-out position, Foster said. He paid serious attention not just to the issues the board had to consider, but to the human side of the board. He was skilled in bringing out people’s strengths.
“On our board, we have various regions represented, and he was really good at listening carefully and helping to find a solution or an outcome that was positive for the national industry, yet recognized the regional interests,” she said. “He would want policy to be good for the whole industry and good for the different regions.”
“So much of communication is listening, and he’s a very good listener. He would listen before he would give his opinion or judgement,” she added. “He’s a man of his word. If he says he’s going to do something, even if it’s not the easiest thing to do, he’ll do it. He’s a natural born leader.”
Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said he has worked with Smith for many years on industry matters. “He was always a diligent representative of the industry and did a tremendous job at the national level,” he said. “He’s the kind of guy who would build bridges with other states and leaders of other industries. He’s a good chair and a good committee member, and he’s got a very good demeanor in terms of getting people to come to a conclusion that’s good for the industry.”
Closer to home, Scott has been a member of the Washington State Horticultural Association’s Grade and Pack Committee since 1984, when he succeeded his father, Monte, in that role. He has cochaired the committee with Mark Tudor since 1998. One of the committee’s roles was to develop grades for Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and later, Granny Smith, that were higher than federal standards in order to distinguish Washington apples in the marketplace.
The Grade and Pack Committee was active during some tumultuous times during the 1990s and early 2000s when Washington grade standards were tightened in an effort to improve the quality of apples going to market and stimulate more consumer demand.
Bruce Grim, Hort Association executive director, was a USApple board member while Smith was chair. “He’s one of those quiet sort of people,” he said. “I don’t think most of the industry realize the great service he has rendered to the industry just because of that.”
Smith has been a member of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, which represents shippers and marketers in the district, since 1986 and served as president in 2009–2011.
“Scott’s always been a really great guy and someone I’ve been able to call for guidance,” Traffic Association manager Charlie Pomianek said.
In addition, he’s been a member of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission’s Apple Advisory Committee since 2000 and is current chair of the Whitestone Reclamation District.
Blair Losvar, a neighbor and partner, said for a person living in the northern part of the state—120 miles from Wenatchee and 230 miles from Yakima—serving on industry organizations involves many hours of driving as well as meetings.
“People in Wenatchee or Yakima say, ‘We’ll meet in Ellensburg, which is half way,’ but when you’re coming from Tonasket, it’s a real time commitment to be involved in any of those things.”
He described Smith as “a real gentleman.”
“He’s very kind and very sincere, and if Scott says something, you don’t need to run out and get a contract or anything. Scott and his family have always been true to their word. I have a lot of respect for him.”