GREAT BEND – Randy and Sandy Smith were recognized as the 2020 Citizens of the Year by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce for their lifetime of joy, caring, and good deeds brought to Great Bend. Sandy was posthumously recognized while Randy tearfully accepted the award surrounded by his friends, colleagues and late son, David Smith’s wife, Heather Davis, and their children. Smith accepted the award during a surprise presentation in mid-February, with the public announcement being made during the Chamber’s virtual Awards Night on Saturday.
If you don’t immediately recognize the names, it may be because many have known them as simply Santa and Mrs. Claus. Quite literally, Randy has been the Santa to Sandy’s Mrs. Claus over the years. As husband and wife for more than 50 years, the Smiths portrayed the jolly ole’ elf and his splendid, better half, for 35 of those years. Randy and Sandy Smith visited homes, businesses, and community events each holiday season until the wee hours of Christmas Eve.
The Smiths brought smiles to hundreds of people, young and old alike, with a tireless energy knowing people counted on them year after year. As a Christmas City, the Great Bend couple responded happily, never asking for money. Any appearance donations the Smiths received was given to local organizations or to families in need.
Appearances included many years of attending the Home for the Holidays Festival and Parade while riding downtown in a horse-drawn carriage, helping the Mayor light the official Christmas Tree in Jack Kilby Square. In 2017, the couple was recognized as Grand Marshals during Great Bend’s annual holiday parade for their commitment in serving as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Sandy spent a lifetime helping those with developmental disabilities, serving as guardian to her sister, Kandis. Sandy was an original employee of Rosewood Services, starting with the agency when it opened in May 1998. She became the first manager of Rosewood Furniture Gallery when it opened in November 2001, helping workers with disabilities for a dozen years before she retired in February 2013.
Sandy was named an “Outstanding Service Individual” in 2010 for her work in helping people with developmental disabilities. She attended the Governor’s Excellence Awards Ceremony in Topeka to receive her award from Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson.
Even in retirement, she continued to help those with disabilities, serving as board chairman for the Rosewood Roots & Wings Foundation. Sandy also found time to serve on boards for League of Women Voters and the Great Bend Recreation Commission.
Rosewood Services founder, Tammy Hammond shares, “They viewed their service as a contribution to their community, a contribution of the most valuable kind, the contribution of their time.”
“I had the pleasure of working closely with this couple for many, many years. Sandy became one of my first employees when I opened Rosewood,” Hammond continued. “Unfortunately, Sandy passed away this summer (2020), but her smile and cheer will continue to echo in our hearts long into the future.”
Randy has served the community in law enforcement for the past 52 years with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Even in retirement, he currently serves part-time for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office. His influence in local law enforcement is ever present today, having taught and mentored the next generation of law enforcement professionals while he served as coordinator and instructor of Barton Community College’s Criminal Justice program for nearly a decade.
In addition to his service with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office and playing Santa Claus, Randy can also be found playing the rodeo clown during the annual Rosewood Rodeo. Just this last December, with Sandy, his Mrs. Claus, close in his heart, Randy donned his red robe and white beard to make a surprise holiday visit for those onboard Great Bend’s new Dolly Trolley Company during her inaugural Holiday Light Tour.
Normally a man of many words, according to friends, Randy Smith was at a loss with the honored recognition and award in hand, “Thank you all. It has been a pleasure doing it all [serving the community]. I’ve got an outstanding family that’s helped put this together and has held us together.”
Citizen of the Year
The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce annually recognizes outstanding service by an individual who contributes to the quality of life within the community of Great Bend. This award recognizes an individual who has given their time, talent, energy, and shown outstanding service to the community and members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, or persons who have excelled in their chosen profession giving of their time and talent to enhance the culture and work environment around them.