Locust is mourning the loss of one of its own.
Steven R. Smith, who became police chief when Frank Hartsell retired last December, died Tuesday evening. He was 44.
Locust Councilman Mike Haigler confirmed Smith was out chopping wood with his son when he had a heart attack.
“Couldn’t find anyone who didn’t like Smitty,” Haigler said. “He had that way about him. No hatred in his body at all. What you see is what you got. He was perfect for what we needed right now.”
Haigler, who was police chief until 2009, said he and Hartsell had worked with Smith throughout his career. Smith was an Explorer Scout for Haigler and in the fire department with him. He worked part-time with Locust before heading for stints with Kannapolis twice and Monroe before heading back to Locust in 2007.
Haigler said Smith was not overweight and worked out.
He said it is so similar to another death in Locust. Police Chief Ray Kennedy died of a heart attack on March 13, 1991 while responding to a call.
Before becoming chief, Smith had been responsible for the patrol division, the Field Training Officer program and overseeing Locust police department training.
Haigler said Smith was a “hometown boy” who “knew people.”
“That’s what we really need,” Locust Mayor Steve Huber said at the time of Smith’s appointment as chief. “Someone who knows this city, this community, this department … if for no other reason, you deserve this job because of your love for Locust.”
This is a developing story.