Stewart Smith has been the Director of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Athens (affectionately referred to as the Tech Center) for 12 years. He first came to Athens in 1997 as the Assistant Director of the technology center after serving as an Admission Counselor for the technology center in Crump, Tennessee from 1992‐1997. He received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Tennessee Technological University, and went on to receive a Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership from there in 2002. He has dedicated his life to the education profession, starting out in secondary education teaching sixth grade, then special needs students, and then moving to post‐secondary education administration. He has made Athens his home for the past 18 years.
Stewart was raised on a farm in Rickman, Tennessee, where a hard work ethic was instilled in him at an early age. He brought with him to Athens the work ethic, and his diligent and passionate desire to serve his community, and fellow man.
He understands the need for economic development, and has worked hand‐in‐hand with the McMinn County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors and staff to achieve the goals of both TCAT Athens, and the Development Authority. In addition to his desire to see every student succeed and find meaningful employment, Stewart is dedicated to listening to our existing industries and their needs for a trained and qualified workforce. It is through his listening skills, and attention to our local plant managers during the height of the Great Recession, that the concept of a regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Business Innovation (CAMBI) was born. Since this initial vision, CAMBI has gained momentum, and is getting closer to reality. Stewart oversaw the concept study prepared by J. Homes Architecture, which included meeting with regional focus groups to determine the need. The Concept Study proved the necessity for the Center. He worked diligently with architects to design the facility, and has helped to raise nearly $3 million towards the construction by working closely with our legislators, and local officials.
Knowing that CAMBI alone will not solve the skills shortage that industries are facing, Stewart organized a regional group to apply for a Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) Grant, with the assistance of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, as another way to meet employer demands. The objective of Tennessee LEAP is to eliminate skills gaps across the state in a proactive, data‐driven, and coordinated manner by encouraging collaboration across education and industry and by utilizing regional workforce data to identify and then fill skills gaps across the state. The grant request was to create a Regional Apprenticeship Partnership Program (RAPP) consisting of the schools systems in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, and Polk counties, TCAT – Athens, Cleveland State Community College, and in partnership with DENSO Manufacturing of Athens Tennessee, Mars Chocolate North America, E&E Manufacturing, Heil Trailer, Gestamp, Jackson Chair, and Cormetech. The region was successful in its application and awarded $946,280 to implement, or enhance, mechatronics programs in the seven regional high schools. Stewart and his staff have taken the lead on this project. While the goal was to have 100 students enrolled in the mechatronics program within the seven high schools this school year, to date there are 284 students enrolled, exceeding all expectations. This is a testament showing the need was there for more industrial training within our secondary education system.
Stewart has also been a very active mentor for the Tennessee Achieves Program. Tennessee Achieves is part of Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program that offers all students the opportunity to go to a community or technical college for free. In addition to being a mentor since the program started, he has also been a champion for recruiting other mentors in the McMinn County area.
Stewart’s commitment to students and industry is worthy of an award on its own merit; however, Stewart Smith’s dedication to his community does not end there. His compassion for those less fortunate, and for making McMinn County a better community for present and future generations is the ultimate characterization of Stewart Smith. Proverbs 3:27 teaches us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Stewart epitomizes this Biblical command by using his blessings to bless others. Stewart does not set on his laurels, waiting for someone else to act. He is a natural born leader, humble in his giving, and encourages everyone in his path to be better people.
The following list highlights some of Stewart’s most recent service to the McMinn County community, but it doesn’t take into account the multitude of other ways Stewart has tirelessly served his community throughout the years.
Stewart is a member of Keith Memorial United Methodist Church.
An active member of the Athens Kiwanis Club since 2003. He served as President of the Club from 2013‐2014. He volunteers and serves on the barbecue and pancake fundraising committees, and is always there to help out when there is a need.
Active in the Grace and Mercy Ministries. He serves on the Board of Directors, where he also volunteers in feeding the hungry, and has organized fellow Kiwanians, and other locals, to also serve in this worthy ministry.
Active with the United Way, where he has served on their Board of Directors since 2015. He also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee for United Way. Stephanie Linkous, Director of the Man of the Year Award Nomination – Stewart Smith
United Way of McMinn & Meigs, shared with me that “Stewart doesn’t just talk about doing something, he makes things happen.”
Serves on the McMinn County Economic Development Board of Directors as a member of the education community. He is actively involved in recruitment, existing industry, and workforce development programs of the Development Authority.
Serves on the Local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Board of Directors for region 5, where he also serves on the Operations Committee.
Serves on the Athens Park Foundation Board of Trustees. He’s also a champion for the McMinn County Rails to Trails project, now known as the Eureka Trail, and the positive impact it will have on our community. He serves on the Friends of the Trail Committee, and has volunteered his time to seeing this project become a reality.
Served on the Athens‐McMinn Family YMCA Board of Directors from 2009‐2014 where he served on both the Technology and Facilities Committee. During his tenure on the Board, the YMCA added a “green” parking lot, renovated the cardio room, gym, locker rooms and racquetball court, front desk area, upper lobbies, aerobic rooms, restrooms, the pool, child watch area, and staff offices.
Served on the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce from 2003‐2005, and then on the Executive Board until 2009. He led the Board of Directors as President in 2008. During his tenure as Chamber President, the Shop Local Campaign was born and is still a strong program of the Chamber today.
He is a strong supporter of the Athens Arts Council, and attends many of the events and notably the gala, their most important fundraiser. He has also served on the Arts Council Board of Directors in the past. Lauren Shepherd, Director of the Arts Council, stated that “Stewart has been a big supporter of me as a young community leader.”