Oct. 29, 2020

Conscious Steward of the Sea and History | Dr. Clifford E. Smith

Conscious Steward of the Sea and History | Dr. Clifford E. Smith

Career Pivots and Choosing to Study towards Professional Passions
From State-side to Global to State-side career path

From being a fisherman in New England, to my wife fishing in Florida. 
[Dr. Clifford Smith  7:31]

Career Pivots and Choosing to Study towards Professional Passions

From State-side to Global to State-side career path

I was invited to come to Bermuda and bring my wife.  “I did. That started an eight year Odyssey of being underwater archaeologist at the Bermuda Maritime Museum (now known as the National Museum of Bermuda 2004), and conservator. Having students from all over the world come to learn about underwater archaeology and field schools and conservationist internship. It was a hugely successful program, and I loved the work, and it was just great.”  [Dr. Clifford Smith  3:55]

“In order to know where you're going, you have to know where you're coming from and where you are.” [ Dr. Clifford Smith  8:00]  

“We're all stewards of this history. History gives us a foundation on which to build our lives and our children's lives.” [Dr. Clifford Smith  9:46]  

About the Guest

Dr. Clifford E. Smith, City of Sarasota planner, archaeologist, anthropologist, historian and Conscious Steward of Sea and History


The City of Sarasota Historic Preservation 

National Museum of Bermuda Fieldschools 

Carter House (1612) now a Museum, St Davids, St Georges Parish Bermuda 

Devonshire Redoubt , Castle Island, Castle Harbour Bermuda

One of the earliest British Fortifications (1621) 

American Revolution was a part of the Atlantic Age Enlightenment Revolutions and Atlantic Maritime World.

Perhaps Planning a Trip our your curiosity?


Atlantic World History, by Dr. Clarence Maxwell, Research March 2020 

In The Eye of ALL Trade, Bermuda, Bermudians and the Maritime Atlantic World. Michael J. Jarvis (2012)  

Bermuda's Great Gunpowder Plot 1775: The American Connection and other selected Highlights including the Attack on Washington (1814)

The Defining Story of Bermuda’s GREAT GUNPOWDER PLOT 1775 by Michael G. Marsh (2016)

Knights Templar Bermuda Governor (1699-1744) Alured Popple  


Michelle St Jane  0:01  

I believe in creating community, taking action, and creating space to be curious. This podcast aims to take you on a conscious journey to quality, diverse, innovative content in conversation. My hope is that we create a circle of influence, a transcendent sea of compassionate leadership in the world.


Welcome to Life and Leadership with me, Michelle, St. Jane, your host. 

Today I'm talking with a man who loves history and the ocean. We have this in common. 

Dr. Clifford Smith is a planner at the city of Sarasota and has a wonderful journey to share with you about how his career unfolded. From sea to sea. Cliff. I would love for you to share with my listeners how your journey rolled out.

Dr. Clifford Smith  0:56  

Absolutely. Thank you, Michelle. It's a pleasure to see you and be invited on to your show. I really appreciate it. And I'm going to attack at her. You know, I'm from New England. I my father was a dragger captain, and his father was a Master Mariner and traveled the seas. And following in footsteps, you know, naturally, I started as a hand on the dragger. And so fishing was my start on the ocean. 


And then, you get older. You get married. You have children. So I became a newspaper man, and became a distribution manager for Cape Cod Times.  Then made a career change. And I also was in business and did heavy equipment and did mowing and sweeping and from one part of the Cape to the other. But I got tired of laying in snow and crawling under heavy equipment in the ice. 


I went on vacation to Florida one time, and oh, my, it was sunshine and flowers.

And I said we're moving here. 

We abandon our Cape Cod home, sold up and move to Florida. 


I went back to the newspaper business when I got to Florida. But I wasn't really satisfied because I had learned everything there was to learn about the business. I was bored. I decided to go back to school. I figured if I was going to go back to school, I was going to do what I wanted to do. Which was underwater archaeology because I wanted to get back to the sea.  


I went to community college, then I went on to Texas A&M. After that I went to the University of South Florida, and I ended up at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, for my PhD.


As part of my travels, I was at a conference in Texas. It was at this conference for historic archaeology I saw on a bookshelf table a “Help Wanted” on a little index card laying on the table, looking for underwater archaeologist and conservator with a hotel room number as the contact. I called it and I met Dr. Edward Harris.  We had a nice chat and told him I was interested. Then he asked me about myself and he said, okay, and I said, okay


I didn't think anything more about it. And six months later, I get this call and I'm in the middle of doing something. I'm writing a paper and my wife yells down the stairs There's a phone call for you. I said I'm busy. She says it's a Dr. Harris from Bermuda. I said, I'll take that call


Dr. Harris invited me to come over to Bermuda and bring my wife.  I did.

That started an eight-year Odyssey of being underwater archaeologist in Bermuda, and conservator and having students from all over the world come to learn about underwater archaeology and field schools and conservationist internship. It was a hugely successful program, and I loved the work, and it was just great. But I was an expat. And so it was time to go home. 


I came home to Florida. I like Florida. It's nice. My son was working for the city of Sarasota. 

He said, there is a job opening here at the city.  They’re looking for someone who does historical preservation. Maybe you want to apply.  I said, why not? So I did. By God, they hired me. And that was 14 years ago. 


Now, I do Historic Preservation for the city of Sarasota. 

The first thing I did, because I had never worked for a city before, you know, is:

  • read the comprehensive plan;
  • read The Zoning Code; and
  • read their goals and aspirations.


That took two weeks to really read it. Then it was my turn. Then I: 

  • rewrote The Zoning Code for historic preservation;
  • updated the comprehensive plan for historic preservation. 


That set the ground floor, for historic preservation in the city of Sarasota. And we kept going at it. After 10 years of being there, I said, you know, it's not good enough


I rewrote the code again. And I wrote it entirely over: 

  • input a ton of incentives in for historic preservation; 
  • the way you do historic preservation;
  • got permission and a budget, which is amazing $200,000 to re-survey the city, as their survey was far out of date. 


We went from 3000 historic sites to over 11,000 historic sites. Now, we're doing a tremendous amount of work in historic preservation, our zoning code, our comprehensive plan, and survey are models are for the entire state of Florida. 


I get to be known in Florida. So I was appointed by the governor of Florida to Florida historic commission, in 2014 and to be on the National Review Board for the State of Florida. Then I was like the chairman of the National Review Board about a year later. So I keep busy. 


As another aside, you never know where life's gonna take you. I became a member of the City Credit Union because I was at the city. Well, we expanded the Credit Union, and now I'm chairman of the board for the Credit Union as well. 


Life is fun, it gets to be more and more, you never know where you're going to go. And I'm still within a stone's throw of the sea. Venice is on the Gulf of Mexico. My wife this morning, and girlfriends, they're going fishing. So I’m expecting she's going to have fish for one meal today at least. 


So that's a quick snapshot. How I got from being a fisherman in New England, to my wife fishing in Florida. 

Michelle St Jane  7:436  

What a wonderful story, Cliff absolutely wonderful. Of course, I've known you over a fair amount of that journey. We definitely both have a passion for history and the sea. 


So for listeners who think why history, you know, what's so important about history? Why should people be passionate about history interested in invested in historical sites?

Dr. Clifford Smith  8:00  

Well, the real answer is in order to know where you're going, you have to know where you're coming from and where you are. And you know, it was interesting. I'll give you a little question that I got asked when I interviewed for the city of Sarasota. I'm from the Nantucket first house, there is 1659, you know, predates America as a country by over a century.

Then I got to Florida.  Florida was actually settled. The landing of the Scots was in, you know, 1886. And the city was started and basically 1886 as a town and became a city in 1914. And county 1921. Which will mark the hundred year next year. Oh, timed up as compared to New England and where I'm from is very short.  When you go to like Bermuda, it is like Nantucket, it goes back to the 1600s. And we’re originally from England. 


So history that depth of time is important. When they asked me they said, Why would you Why would you be interested in doing historic preservation and in Sarasota?  Our history is you know, 50-75 years. I said, if you don't do the work today, it won't be there tomorrow


The people in Nantucket, they saved that original house from 1659. So we can enjoy it today. If we don't save the built environment, the historically significant things today. It won't be there tomorrow. We're all caretakers. We're all stewards of this history. So history gives us a foundation on which to build our lives and our children's lives.

Michelle St Jane  9:56  

It's beautiful. New Zealand, like America is a very new country in terms of historical depth. And Bermuda is goes back to 1609. And before that with the Spanish, so I love the fact that there is so much preservation here. What's the first house in Bermuda, Carter house? I'm not sure. Do you recall Carter house down by the airport?

Dr. Clifford Smith  10:20  

I'm sorry, I go down to Devonshire Redoubt and some of the fortifications around St. George's Harbor, you know, so when I think of Bermuda, my connection is basically with the military, and then the Navy and the British, you know, coming in and creating what would become, you know, Bermuda, and it's fortification, that ring of fire, so to speak. I can't remember what the first house is. But, you know, some of the houses that were very significant to me was like the Admirals house (St Davids Bermuda, American Naval Base 1941-1995), that, and behind the admirals house, when we found the tunnels and hidden caverns, and when we're looking at the smuggling slavery in Bermuda, so, you know, Bermuda’s history has many different layers. 

Michelle St Jane  11:14  

Absolutely. There is such a close connection to America as well.  The American Revolution as an example, and I know you're quite well versed in that. Do you want to speak to the American Revolution?

Dr. Clifford Smith  11:28  

I just remember, Bermuda was involved in all of this.  Bermuda has an interesting history, because you have what was gone on in Eastern End versus what was going on in the Western end of Bermuda. It was like two different camps, you know.  I remember we were digging our fortification out of St. George's and we found a coin in what we think was a pocket of a British soldier. It dated from that American Revolutionary period . It's just very interesting that Bermuda was right in the center of things. Because of the American Revolution, British really came into Bermuda, to create this fortress in the Atlantic to control the trade.  Because all of a sudden, they lost the middle. They have Canada, and they have the West Indies, and everything in between, they lost so they had to have this stronghold. They created Bermuda and this is why we have Dockyard today. This was a reaction to the American Revolution and the war of 1812. Just amazing connections.

Michelle St Jane  13:00  

Absolutely, absolutely. And of course, there's the Gunpowder Plot, and then so much of the leadership moved into leadership in Bermuda. And as you may recall, I did a Master's paper on secret societies and voluntary associations, identifying the Knights Templar were here. The first separatory was about 1744. And it was headed up by the governor, Governor Alured Popple,. And the Knights Templar are credited with starting the banking system. So there's very interesting career networks and crossovers, and I really appreciated your research around family, kinship systems, and networks. Can you speak to a little bit of that?

Dr. Clifford Smith  13:46  

Yeah, you know, we looked at kinship. This is because I'm an anthropologist, and as part of archaeology comes under the umbrella of anthropology. Kinship networks and everything else, and marriages because it helps you to understand why people did what they did. Because of their kinship networks, they had this way of connecting with people all over the world through their kinship networks and through trade. 


Part of my dissertation effort was to look at all these kinship networks in the West End of Bermuda. We were looking at smuggling. We were also trying to understand how they were circumventing, you know, what was then the governor and his efforts to control, this illicit trade. So kinship networks, because of the control of the land they had as well and so, were going into Eli's Harbor, and then the smuggling across the bay. That's why I mentioned the admirals house, and the tunnels and the underground caverns. That was because it was controlled in these kinship networks.


It's critical to understand people's connections. Just like today, we have kinship networks. And, you know, Michelle is very aware of this, as her son volunteered at the museum and worked with me on the boats and the underwater archaeology.  All because of kinship networks with Michelle and her connection with the museum, that son got to be an intern.  This is just one little example of how people work through their families.

Michelle St Jane  15:35  

Absolutely, absolutely. Yes, in my research, showing the evolution of voluntary associations, like the Freemasons, the Knights Templar, the Friendly Societies and the OddFellows.  They were actually creating the civic structure.  In terms of the Knights Templar – headed up by the Governor, the Freemasons were in the civil service, in the Anglican Church. The Friendly Societies were around community. There were also burial societies because of epidemics like yellow fever. Just amazing networks of community associations. 


I know that you are very committed community person, clearly through the work that you're doing and in the position’s you hold as a chair. 

In terms of your career, does that add to your career? 

Or add to your satisfaction in your career?

In terms of your community work, as the chairman of the board? 

Does it add to your career to take these positions? 

Or add to your satisfaction in your career?

Dr. Clifford Smith  16:37  

Well, having chairman of the board for the National Review and being selected by the Governor was kind of recognition for my career. I appreciated that recognition. Yes, it helped my career. Because I got to be known throughout the entire state of Florida, because every single National Review goes to the National Review Board, from the entire state of Florida. My name is on every one of them now, when they go to Washington, so that's kind of neat, career-wise.


As chairman of the board for the Sarasota Municipal Credit Union which I did, because I really liked credit unions.  They were there for their members. They were there to help everybody that became members of the small credit union. The credit union was good to me. So I wanted to give back. It's a voluntary thing, you know, you don't get paid for this. You do it because you love it. You want to be part of the community. You want to give back to the community. Since then, we went from a small little credit union that just did municipal, sort of an initial credit union to First Street credit union.  Now we have shared branches all around the world. We have open membership if you live work, worship anything in any of the counties around us, you can become a member, made it much more accessible. I's part of this growth and part of this pattern, and I just want to be part of it. I don't know if it helps my career or not, but I don't care. 

Michelle St Jane  18:26  

Thanks, Cliff. The last thing I'll ask you is:

You've gone from sea to sea;

You've gone from one state to another state then international.

What made you successful? How were you able to pivot? 

Clearly sunshine had a big impact.

Any strategies that you would share?

Dr. Clifford Smith  18:44  

I think the main thing I had was really huge family support. My family, like myself, were driven to succeed. If I could get my education, then I could succeed. 


I remember deciding to take that position in Bermuda. We were in Kentucky at the time. Our house is in Florida.  But we're moving to Bermuda. It was a great opportunity. I wouldn’t. have missed it for world. It was absolutely brilliant. The family was there and said, Oh, absolutely. You know what I mean, it wasn't a problem. Because that's maybe the most difficult thing for some people, if they lack that family support, that they don't have that unconditionally, you know, we're behind you. Let's do it attitude.  That holds you back. 


As far as pivoting from one thing to another, I guess I get bored I think once I’ve learned all I can learn about something. I remember when I worked for the newspaper. I was sitting beside a guy, his nickname was Bear. I liked this great guy. He had been there 38 years in that job. And I knew more about the job he was doing than he knew I had been there two years.

By the time I was there for years, I left. Because there was nothing more I could do or learn in that job. I remember thinking, there's got to be something more. So we left and went to Florida, you know, started a new life. I'm always looking for a new opportunity to do something new and have a new adventure. You know, you only go this way once you might as well enjoy it.

Michelle St Jane  20:57  

Absolutely. Having had four careers, numerous geographical transfers, and opportunities to both to serve on nonprofit organizations and in major corporate positions. I’m with you.  Be agile pivot and enjoy the ride. It's part of making creating a conscious journey, I believe. 

Thank you, Cliff. I really appreciate you taking the time today. As always, you make a major contribution wherever you go.

Dr. Clifford Smith  21:25  

Well, thank you for your kind words. It's been fun to talk with you. 

Reach out.  I am interested, do you have a topic you'd like to explore? It would be great to have your feedback.

Dr. Michelle St Jane

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey 

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Dr. Clifford SmithProfile Photo

Dr. Clifford Smith

SR-Planner at City of Sarasota

Dr. Clifford E. Smith, City of Sarasota planner, archaeologist, anthropologist, historian and Conscious Steward of Sea and History