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African-American Icons: Audrey Smith makes history at both TPD, LCSO

The often unsung heroes in our community, making a difference and leaving a lasting impact
Posted at 8:30 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 20:30:17-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — For the past four weeks, WTXL has shared stories of African American icons. The often unsung heroes in our community, making a difference and leaving a lasting impact.

In this final story, our Malcolm Hornsby introduces us to Chief Audrey Smith of the Leon County Sheriff's Office. But it's at the Tallahassee Police Department where her legacy truly began.

It's a story with humble origin, beginning in the small town of Cordele, Georgia.

"But if you're traveling north on I-75, people know it as 'oh that's the place that has the rocket ship by the Crystal's," said Chief Smith.

There, Audrey Smith was born the youngest of seven children.

"It was always fun for me because I was the baby of the family and everybody babied me and gave me what I wanted," said Chief Smith.

She still gets the special treatment, but be very clear, that's not due to lack of ability. And as Audrey's story will soon show, her path toward success hadn't been traveled before, at least not by anyone who looked like her.

"I decided that when I graduated in '83, that I would go to Florida A&M University. Florida A&M was not my first choice," said Chief Smith.

But that quickly changed due in part to the highest of 7 hills and to the sisterhood she quickly gained with the ladies of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

With a major in criminal justice, Audrey graduated from FAMU and set out to make her mark on the world. Her first stop: the Tallahassee Police Department.

"Worked my way through every department, except VICE, at TPD. Either as an officer or investigator or as a supervisor. And that's where my legacy lies," said Chief Smith.

Legacy, a word Audrey is somewhat bashful about using, but it's fitting in every way. After all, she is the first black woman to become a major at the Tallahassee Police Department.

"I'm proud of myself. It means a lot simply because when I had people along my path to tell me I couldn't or thought I couldn't do something, it was proof that, oh yes I can," said Chief Smith.

An unexpected first for her, but all a part of a greater vision. Her faith taught her that.

"Its in God's plan. We don't know, of course, the path that he has for us but he knows and he leads and guides my direction and my footsteps," said Chief Smith.

After 29 years at TPD, in 2017 Audrey relied on that faith to embark on a new journey. This time at the Leon County Sheriff's Office and it should come as no surprise that she's making history there, too.

"I am the first African American female to ever serve on the command staff here at the Leon County Sheriff's Office." "So another milestone?' Another milestone," said Chief Smith.

Leading a team of more than 50 people, her focus at LCSO is on youth services, training and guiding the next generation of leaders in Leon County.

On the wall in Audrey's office you'll find these words, "once you choose hope, anything is possible," an appropriate motto for the life of a woman, who doesn't let others dictate her future or her legacy.

Chief Smith says while her life of "career firsts" is amazing, the true honor was when her granddaughter said she wanted to be a police officer, just like her grandmother.