Anchorage community activist dies

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Randy Smith, a longtime Anchorage community activist, has died at age 56.

Smith, founder and head of the Mountain View Community Patrol and president of the community council, died early Friday morning of an apparent heart attack.

''He was just this huge person that did huge, wonderful things,'' Niki Burrows, a friend who worked alongside Smith, told the Anchorage Daily News.

Smith, a bulky, 6-foot-2-inch man with a whitish beard, was a large part of Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood for years. He organized cleanup days, turned in junk cars, cleared out woods to get rid of transients and showed up at crime scenes.

He was born in Iola, Kan., on July 30, 1946. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1969 and was in Vietnam for two years. Smith had been in Alaska more than 30 years and showed up in Mountain View in the mid-1980s.

In 1989, Mountain View won an award as the Neighborhood of the Year from a national nonprofit group that supports community organizations, Neighborhoods USA, because of the improvement efforts Smith spurred.

When a slasher attacked children at Mountain View Elementary School in 2001, Smith and another activist arrived at the scene before police. Smith stood in the doorway of a classroom where a teacher was trying to protect a bleeding child from slasher Jason Pritchard. Smith tried to distract Pritchard until the police showed up.

Smith was a Republican and an active member of the National Rifle Association but worked with all political camps.

''Sometimes he was controversial, but he had the right heart,'' said Anchorage Mayor-elect Mark Begich, a Democrat, who named Smith to his transition committee.

Smith ran for city and state offices several times but was never elected.

''Randy was wonderful to run against,'' said state Sen. Gretchen Guess, a Democrat who was opposed by Smith in 2000. ''He ran on his issues. It wasn't personal.''

When Guess won, Smith started working with her. Guess said he was the impetus behind a bill she sponsored to ensure that residences used as methamphetamine labs are cleaned up before a new family moves in. It was passed this year.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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