Member in the Spotlight: Tim Smith
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tim Smith
NATCA Southwest Regional Vice President

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Service: Started career at Oakland Center (ZOA) in 1989. Moved to Fort Worth Center (ZFW) in 1998.

Hometown: Oklahoma City.

Family: Tim and his wife, Karen, will share their 25th Anniversary in December. Oldest son, Tim J. Smith, is a recent trainee at ZFW and younger son Jesse, 19, plans to attend the University of Colorado-Denver in a year.

Q: How and why did you become an air traffic controller?

A: I grew up in Oklahoma City where the FAA Academy was located. After the PATCO strike, there was a lot of hiring in the 80s, and they were giving the entrance exam constantly. I had changed my majors in college six or so times, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I took the test and I got in.

Q: Do you have a family history of unionism?

A: My father and my brother were both police officers at the Oklahoma Police Department, and both are retired now. Although they weren't heavily active, they were a part of the police union, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a NATCA Regional Vice President?

A: The main reason I became union rep is because I don't like bullies, and the FAA was the biggest bully I’d seen. Some in power like to prey on the vulnerable, and I had no issues with sticking up for others and myself. So, I got involved to have a say, protect the people and protect the profession. There's a lot of traveling as RVP, but under the 2009 CBA we have accomplished so much, and it has been very rewarding.

Q: What spurred you to get involved in NATCA’s leadership?

A: Interestingly enough, and I've only told few people this story, when I was at Oakland, I was the secretary for a period of time, and an Area Rep, but I didn't have aspirations to go beyond that as far as getting involved. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be an RVP, I would have probably laughed. I just didn't have that ambition. But after September 11, there was a moment when I thought about what I was doing. I saw all these heroic police officers and firefighters giving their lives during September 11. It made me question what I was doing for others. The ZFW VP at the time was transferring to Atlanta. It was then that I took the opportunity to give back and I was elected as VP. Then it escalated from there. Soon after, I was elected FacRep for two terms, and now, here I am as RVP, starting my second term in September.

Q: What is your hobby outside of work?

A: I like to hike, golf and disc golf. I play disc golf with my wife and sons. It's just like regular golf but with discs and baskets to aim them in.  I used to play disc golf with a number of other controllers at ZFW. We even had 3 baskets on the grounds and would play on breaks.

A: Of all your time at NATCA, what is your favorite memory?

A: After the struggles of the White Book, I was elated when the 2009 CBA was negotiated. After everything we had been through, it was very rewarding to get back so many things that were taken from us improperly through the imposed work rules. I am so much more appreciative of having a solid CBA.

Q: What would you say to others that want to get involved in leadership roles?

A: Everybody has his or her niche, and you’ve got to find yours; find your passion and pitch in. I wish everyone in the union would say to themselves, "I’m not doing enough; I need to do more." If we all had that attitude, we'd be even stronger than we are.