Californian named to high Mecham post

September 11, 1987

The Flagstaff Sun
Associated Press

PHOENIX — California publicist Kenneth Smith, who starts work in a few weeks as Gov. Evan Mecham’s top spokesman, says he’s convinced any problems in the governor’s relations with the media are “fixable.”

ken-flagstaffMecham’s office announced Thursday that Smith, 46, of Sacramento, has been hired as special assistant for public affairs — an upgraded status of the press secretary’s job. Smith takes over the $62,500-a-year position in about two weeks.

Smith now is director of public affairs for the County Supervisors Association of California. He will assume the press secretary’s duties from Ron Bellus, but the job’s new title of special assistant puts him alongside the four other special assistants who form Mecham’s top echelon.

Bellus has been strongly criticized by some lawmakers who termed him “incompetent,” and his relations with the media have been rocky.

But Smith, reached by telephone in Sacramento, said, “The situation is fixable. I plan to work on communicating as much as possible.”

“I am very much aware that there has been a contentious atmosphere,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about the history and some of the past relations.”

Smith aid he was introduced to the governor by telephone about a month ago by Dennis Revelle, a California public affairs consultant and husband of President Reagan’s daughter Maureen, and was later asked to consider the job.

Smith said that as special assistant he also will help promote Arizona for the federal superconducting super collider, as well as a number of other projects related to high technology and economic development.

“I just find the whole thing to be a very, very exciting, positive atmosphere,” Smith said.

Bellus, who is paid $46,000, is to continue working for the Mecham administration, although the governor has not yet said what his new duties will be.

The governor, who generally has sought to hire Arizonans as top aides and agency chiefs, had decided to search nationwide for a press secretary capable of bolstering his image.

Smith has worked for the California county group since 1984. He previously worked for eight years for the corporation that publishes three California newspapers, covering legislative affairs and banking and economic development and serving as editor and publisher of the Sacramento Daily Recorder.

He also has been a systems analyst for Search Group Inc., a criminal justice data management consulting firm, and was director of public relations for the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges.

He has a masters degree in public administration from the University of Southern California and a masters degree in journalism from the University of Nevada Reno.