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Q&A: Kathy Smyth

Kathy Smyth is celebrating her 10th anniversary as the director of the Children’s Advocacy Center, better known as Safe Harbor, in Greenville. Smyth and her husband of 20 years, Randy, live in Luverne and have a one child, 16-year-old Ran, who attends Crenshaw Christian Academy and whom Smyth describes as “smart, athletic, adorable and all B-O-Y.”

Q: So, you’re not a native of this area. How did you end up in Crenshaw County?

A: (Laughs) I was imported here 20 years ago when I married. I actually grew up in Hilton Head Island, S.C. My dad was a hospital administrator and we moved around a lot when I was a child. In fact, as a very small child, we lived in Luverne for a while. I don’t really remember it, but there are people in Luverne who remembered me and were so warm and welcoming when I moved there.

Q: How did you and your husband meet?

A: We met at college, at Alabama. My mom actually recognized a girl when we were moving into the dorm in Tuscaloosa who was from Luverne. She’s the one who introduced me to Randy, and we started dating. Well, there came the point where he wanted to go to law school and then come back to Luverne to practice, and I said, “Hey, my life plan is in Atlanta.” My degree was in fashion merchandising, which meant I needed to live in a large city. So – we went our separate ways. And then five or six years later, the Lord brought us back together, I guess.

Q: So, you went from big Atlanta to little Luverne? Was that a bit of a culture shock?

A: Yeah – but I also knew what to expect. And people knew me, knew my family, so that was nice.

Q: You’ve got your feet firmly planted in both Butler and Crenshaw counties with your work and your family. How’s that work for you?

A: It’s been great. Our judicial circuit serves both counties, plus Lowndes. All three counties are so different, with different resources and challenges. And I have great friends in all these places.

Q: Your work involves dealing with children who are the victims and/or witnesses of violent crimes and abuse. After ten years on the job, have you ever felt like this is just too much; that you can’t take any more of the harsh realities some of these children face?

A: The challenges for me don’t come from the heartache of dealing with the children or their families; the frustration is about adults. Their egos, dealing with agencies, who gets the credit. People lose sight that the focus has to be on the child and their family. You can’t make a promise it will all be O.K. Because sometimes, it just isn’t. But you can promise to do all you can do to make it a better life for them.

Q: You’re very active with Relay For Life in Crenshaw County. How did you get involved?

A: I was invited to get involved with the American Cancer Society in Crenshaw County soon after I moved here. And then 12 years ago, we started holding Relay For Life. I had already lost family members, grandparents, to cancer. But I was highly motivated to continue after a friend, Terry Kilpatrick, and a sister-in-law, Cissy Smyth, were both diagnosed. We worked together a lot for Relays. I’ve worked with different agencies with the ACS beyond Relay. And I like to think what we do here is not only helping local cancer patients, as it did Terry and Cissy, but my relatives and friends in other places. It never ceases to amaze me what a group with a motivating force can accomplish.

Q: Girls do want to have fun. What do you do in your down time?

A: Oh, travel. I have a group of Greenville girlfriends and a group of Luverne girlfriends and we love to go to the big city occasionally. And I love my church – South Luverne Baptist – and watching Ran play ball.

Q: You obviously love what you do. But if you could wave a magic wand and have any career you wanted, what would it be?

A: Ever seen “The Closer” (a police drama) with Kyra Sedgwick? Well, I would do her job with her wardrobe and accessories. I am fascinated by the judicial system and law enforcement. If not that, then I would run Big Mama Hula Shop in Grayton Beach and paint signs and make funky jewelry all day long.

Interviewed by Angie Long

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