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City of Springfield News Releases (General)

Posted on: March 17, 2021

Mary Lilly Smith to retire from City of Springfield

Mary Lilly Smith Portrait


Mary Lilly Smith, an institution at the City of Springfield, formally announces her retirement after 38 years of public service with the municipality. Her last day in the office will be April 30. Smith’s name is synonymous with that of growth and progress, having a hand in nearly 100 key economic development projects and business attraction, retention and expansion initiatives; and two long-range comprehensive planning efforts: Vision 2020 and Forward SGF. Most recently, she championed the concept of placemaking through the hiring of staff focused on reimagining and reinventing public spaces and community development, with the ultimate goal of enhancing pride of place. 

Throughout the course of her career, she helped facilitate millions of dollars of private investment, resulting in thousands of new and retained jobs. Smith served as a key leader in the economic development partnership with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Business Development Corporation, City Utilities and Greene County.   She also assisted in the facilitation of development and buildout of the Partnership Industrial Center and PIC West, which employ over 3,500 people at 35 businesses.  

Smith started her career as a planner where she established the City’s initial Neighborhood Conservation Office.   In this role,  she developed neighborhood plans that stabilized the Phelps Grove and Rountree neighborhoods through the establishment of urban conservation and permit parking districts. 

As lead planner on the Walnut Street Urban Conservation District Plan and ordinance, she navigated tricky waters following the prior demolition of 45 historic properties for the building of University Plaza by developing unique approaches to preserving the remaining historic fabric of the area, while modifying the permitted uses to best facilitate revitalization. 

She developed the format and process for the City’s first Capital Improvement Program prepared in over 20 years and drafted the Landmarks Ordinance which combined Historical Sites / Historic District Review Boards and refined the process for protecting architecturally significant properties.

Smith is known widely for her 17 years as Economic Development Director, where she developed the comprehensive Economic Development Incentives Policy Manual that guides the City’s use of development incentives. The manual has been used as a template for policies in multiple communities across the state.

She pioneered the use of local and state economic development incentives in Springfield. Local incentive programs include: tax increment financing (TIF), Chapter 100 bond financing, community improvement and transportation development districts, accelerated use of enhanced enterprise zone program and real property tax abatement through Chapters 99 and 353. State incentive programs include: supplemental state TIF, downtown revitalization preservation program and Missouri Development Finance Board tax credits. The use of these  incentives helped pave the way for the feasibility of projects such as Jordan Valley Park, the Expo Center, downtown parking and manufacturing equipment for Kraft and 3M.

Smith assisted in the redevelopment of dozens of structures in center city. She may be best known for her relentless pursuit of redeveloping the vacant Heer’s building on Park Central Square, which paid off in 2015 when Heer’s Luxury Living became a reality. 

“Most would agree that Downtown Springfield would not be what it is today without the influence of Mary Lilly Smith,” said Mayor Ken McClure. “Her leadership and results-oriented thinking helped make Springfield better and her big picture perspective has left an indelible mark on our community that will benefit generations to come.  I cannot thank her enough for her significant contributions to our community.”

City Manager Jason Gage said, “Mary is a terrific person and has contributed so much to the betterment of this community.  For over 23 of her 38 years at the City, she has been focused on addressing Springfield’s business needs.  As a department head, she has also worked hard to improve neighborhoods and ensure the healthy growth and development of our community.  Her knowledge and caring for Springfield cannot be replaced.  Without question, she will leave a void.  We appreciate everything Mary has done and wish her the very best in her retirement.”

Smith has done considerable work with the U.S. Congressional Delegation. She led staff on coordinating requests and interactions with the delegation on Congressionally-directed appropriations – over $81 million spanning a nine-year period. These efforts resulted in funding for multiple major street improvements, including the Hwy 65/60 and I-44/ Hwy 65 interchanges; wastewater plant improvements; police equipment and funding for Jordan Valley Park.  

In 2005, Smith was invited to testify at the U.S. House of Representatives Saving America’s Cities Working Group regarding economic development issues facing Springfield and other mid-sized communities. In 2006, she facilitated the Congressional Field Hearing conducted in Springfield by the U.S. House Government Reform Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census.

“I’m most proud of the team I’ve built in the Planning & Development department and the relationships we’ve built with other departments and with the business and development community,” Smith said. “Through those relationships we’ve been able to collaborate on projects that have resulted in new jobs and investments, retail activity, and both downtown and neighborhood revitalization. None of my career achievements would have happened without those partnerships and the trust and support of the current and past City Managers, Mayors and City Councils.”

Smith has received numerous honors, both locally and statewide, including being named by SBJ as one of Springfield’s 20 Most Influential Women in 2006 and Business Advocate of the Year in 2014.

Assistant Director of Planning & Development Brendan Griesemer will serve as acting director while the City conducts a search for Smith’s replacement. 

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For more information, contact Cora Scott at 417-380-3352 or [email protected].

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