Press aide may break appointee stereotype

Colleagues laud Mecham’s liaison

September 14, 1987

By Doug MacEachern
Mesa Tribune

PHOENIX — He is “not an idealogue” he makes “computers do things the manufacturer never meant them to do,” and, he’s “a really good guy.”

kvs200The latest addition to the administration of Gov. Evan Mecham, Press Secretary-Select Kenneth V. Smith, will not likely fulfill anyone’s stereotype of a Mecham appointee, according to those who know him.

Smith, currently press liaison for the County Supervisor Association of California, was named to his new position with the Mecham staff last week. He will replace press spokesman Ron Bellus, whose well-documented turmoil with the capitol press corps apparently provoked the change to Smith, a one-time news editor and publisher.

Dan Walters, whose political columns for the Sacramento Bee appear in 45 newspapers across California, said he doesn’t fully understand why Smith would “take a chance” by making the move into Arizona ’s steamiest media hot seat. But, after a chat with Smith, he’s concluded that the former newsman agreed to work, for Mecham “because he’s just an adventuresome sort of guy.”

“He’s not just another sycophantic mouthpiece,” said Walters. “I’m sure he’ll make a genuine effort to bridge the gulf (between the governor and the media).”

Before becoming chief media spokesman for the supervisors’ group, Smith worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and data processing consultant for a pair of business and legal publications — the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a related newspaper in Sacramento, according to editors of those publications.

There, according to a Journal news editor, Smith developed a reputation as a good editor but a better computer hack.

“He made machines do things they weren’t designed to do,” said Charles Bosdet, a Journal news editor who worked with Smith. “The guy is really sharp. He made data processors do things that the manufacturers never dreamed they could do. That’s pretty handy in this business.”

Smith worked at numerous positions for the Journal and the Daily Recorder of Sacramento, a legal news publication owned by the Journal.

According to Bosdet and Greg Lucas, editor of the Daily Recorder, Smith spent several years with the  chain off and on from the mid-1970s to 1983.

“He was editor (of the Daily Recorder) several years back,” said Greg Lucas, the paper’s present editor. “And he was publisher.”

“Publishers, as you know, make money,” added Lucas. “And editors get headaches.”

Smith, who is expected to move into his new position in about two weeks, views press relations as just a fraction of his assigned duties.

Much of his work, he said, will involve helping to attract high technology industries to Arizona. He expects to spend “as much time with business writers and business editors as political writers.”

The high-tech factor is one of the reasons he was drawn to the critical position, as well as to the governor, he said.

“I really, truly liked his enthusiasm about the super collider project,” Smith said. The former journalist also noted the governor’s great interest in bringing semiconductor research industries to Arizona — another plus, he said.

The superconducting super collider is a $4 billion federal research project that several states — including Arizona — are lobbying for in Washington, D.C.

Smith said that, as press spokesman at the California state capitol for the CSA, he personally would deliver press releases to the media even though he disseminated his information among 110 working journalists. “It took me about two hours,” he said.

He said he intends to be available to Arizona media too, regardless of the controversy and tension that precedes him.

“I don’t lose a lot of sleep (over the reports of controversy),” he said.

“My impression is that the governor does very well on TV and radio. I don’t know the source, but I understand the problem is with the print media.”

He promised to keep in touch.