Downtown Ottumwa is Smith’s canvas
Wednesday, June 07, 2017
By WINONA WHITAKER
Courier staff writer
OTTUMWA — For 18 years, Sue Smith has been keeping downtown Ottumwa beautiful. Connie Hammersley-Wilson, executive director of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce, calls Smith an artist; downtown Ottumwa is her tapestry.
The downtown maintenance program is designed to revitalize and brighten the downtown area, said Hammersley-Wilson, and that’s exactly what it does through Smith’s talent.
Smith plants annuals on the corners of downtown streets every year. She chooses the flowers, plants the flowers, waters the flowers and protects the flowers. She pampers the tree beds in the downtown area and the hanging baskets on the light poles throughout! the business district.
On Third Street, she nurtures the bushes and the perennials she’s planted in the flower beds.
With her little Polaris Ranger 4 x 4, a tank of water and a sprayer, Smith makes sure flowers stay vibrant and their beds stay clean during the spring, summer and fall.
It’s a full-time job, Smith said. "I try to do something differentevery year. I work overtime until I get everything in the ground."
Smith also cleans up downtown parking lots. "I try to keep them garbage free," she said. Loose trash can blow around the city and bother her flower beds.
Plastic bags are especially bad, Smith said. "It gets wrapped around my flowers. It’s kind of nasty looking."
Smith was working as a cook in a nursing home 18 years ago, she said, when someone asked if she wanted to take care of the landscape downtown. "The boss drove by and [saw] my yard," Smith said. She interviewed for the position and was offered the job.
"So I decided to do a career change," Smith said. She told the city, "If you’! re willing to give me a chance, I’m willing to try."
"This is her passion," said Hammersley-Wilson. "She starts in the fall picking flowers for the upcoming year. She’s very methodical about the process, about what flowers are going to grow where.
"And the color scheme is very important to her. It’s like an art form," Hammersley- Wilson said. "She’s an artist."
Smith said people notice the results of her efforts. "I get a lot of comments from the public," said Smith as she waved at a passing car Tuesday morning.
"She’s very gifted," said Hammersley-Wilson. "We’re fortunate to have someone with that passion and capability and that drive."
Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at wwhitaker @ ottumwacourier. com and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.