Champion of the Industry
For David Smarte, recipient of the William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award 2016, education and safety go hand in hand.
When he was growing up in Ocean City, Maryland, David Smarte, like many young boys, dreamed of becoming a firefighter. But, unlike the majority, he achieved that dream and then some: he built a solid career in the elevator industry, becoming a leader at both his place of employment, Delaware Elevator Co., and the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC). When the topics of education and safety come up, Smarte is often at the forefront, sharing ideas and leading discussions.
Smarte began his career in 1978 as an apprentice with Vic’s Elevator Co., then moved in 1979 to Armor Elevator. He now oversees safety, training and special projects for Delaware Elevator in Salisbury, Maryland. In addition to that, he is a volunteer firefighter with the Showell, Maryland, fire department and is an EMT-B, a paramedic designation he earned to better help his community and augment his firefighting skills.
He became a field service supervisor for Delaware in 1999 and was promoted to his current position in 2003. This role is a large one, involving ensuring OSHA compliance, conducting in-house safety programs, providing code consulting and providing training for apprentices. He also handles special projects in the U.S. and internationally, having recently traveled to far-flung corners of Asia and Africa. Smarte bids on modernization projects, and develops and performs maintenance programs and annual inspections. He is a licensed third-party inspector, a member of the NAEC Education Board and chairman of its Educational and Technical Advisory Committee. He is also on its Safety Committee.
His boss, Delaware CEO Pete Meeks, says it is no surprise that Smarte received the William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award, describing Smarte as “a professional volunteer who definitely loves what he does. He wants to help everybody and never says ‘no’ to a job that is going to better the industry.”
Smarte did not attend college, but he believes the education he received was far better, in that it was (and is) hands-on and focused. Smarte got his first taste of the industry right out of high school, when he went to work at Vic’s, a small union shop in Ocean City. He performed preventative maintenance, safety tests, troubleshooting and elevator/escalator repair. Each week, or even day, presented new challenges, and he found he was always learning. That is true today, he says, and that is why Smarte loves the industry.
“If you provide the right education to allow people to do their jobs correctly, it reduces liability, but, more importantly, the person performing the job gets home safely.”
Rather than the latest John Grisham novel, you will more likely find him kicking back with technical safety documents and OSHA publications. That makes him well prepared when complications arise. He observes he sometimes doesn’t know when that will happen. A current public-transit project in Philadelphia, for example, proved to be far more complex than almost any large overseas job, he says, due to overly complicated, confusing rules, regulations and obscure specifications.
Despite his busy schedule, Smarte is nearly always present at NAEC events and is particularly active on its education and safety committees. He has emerged as a leader in the industry who is well respected for his views, which are always backed by meticulous research and study. Smarte says his father and mother, the late Jim and Jeanne Smarte, inspired him most. The elder Smarte, a D.C./Ocean City-area mechanical contractor who started his own business, taught his son that hard work is an integral part of doing a job well.
It is a lesson that Smarte and his wife, Kathleen, imparted to their two sons. Their eldest, Michael, has worked for Delaware for 12 years now and, like his father, is receiving a thorough and focused elevator education through being involved in the construction, modernization, repair and service departments. “I like to think he takes after me,” Smarte says. His younger son, Matthew, is closing in on earning his doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Smarte says he is extremely proud of his sons.
In the industry, Smarte says he admires Meeks, Doug Witham of GAL Manufacturing Corp., Brett Abels of O’Keefe Elevator, Jim and Nancy Haines and Ricia Sturgeon-Hendrick. “They are great people who will give you the shirt off their backs,” Smarte says. “If you ask them a question, they will go out of their way to try to help you.”
Education is a particular focus of Smarte’s professional life, and there is a very good reason for that:
“If you provide the right education to allow people to do their jobs correctly, it reduces liability, but, more importantly, the person performing the job gets home safely. Personal safety is tightly interwoven with education. Always and especially here at Delaware, there is a two-and-a-half-day orientation for all new employees that covers safety procedures and liability risk, regardless of whether they are a mechanic, apprentice or salesperson.”
With Meeks, Dan Newlin and Dayne Eisele, Smarte determines which labs and hands-on training will best augment the four-year NAEC Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program all new Delaware mechanics are required to complete. He and his team also schedule and coordinate training for others for continuing education and safety, which is required for state mechanic license renewal. These trainees utilize Delaware’s two-story, 7,600-sq.-ft. facility. Hundreds of trainees go through it each year.
When he is not focused on elevators, Smarte enjoys spending time with his family, which includes a new grandson, Carter. “They don’t live very far away,” he says. “I just dropped my grandson off at daycare this morning, and that was awesome.”