There was a changing of the guard so to speak, as longtime City of Gretna District 1 Councilman Milton Crosby retired and Rudy Smith was sworn in on September 14 to serve for the rest of Crosby’s term that ends June 30, 2021.
Crosby’s 87th birthday was celebrated with “king cake and candles” http://gretnaglance.com/king-cake-candles/ at the February 2020 council meeting.
In 2009, Milton Crosby was unanimously appointed to fill a vacant seat on the council and then decisively elected to that council seat in 2010. Since then he has served continuously in that position. District 1 includes historic McDonoghville that, because of its architectural significance is presently nominated to be on the National Register of Historic Places. (Link: All About Gretna on TheGretnaGlance.com)
Crosby’s principal areas of interest as a councilman were recreation, infrastructure improvements, preservation of the City’s historic architecture and paying close attention to the requests and needs of his constituents.
Mr. Milton, as he is fondly called, over the years has passed on valuable Gretna history to interested locals. He remembered “1940 when the Gretna Colored Elementary School opened. The school went from kindergarten to seventh grade, with no school for Blacks above seventh grade in Gretna.” His father was a stickler for good education. Crosby and his brothers went to a school in Marrero and later to McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans.
In a speech at the Gretna Historical Society in 2013, he said, “Gretna No. 1, the White school on Huey P. Long Avenue, which I could not attend, was the first school in Gretna to be integrated. “My daughter, Renee Julienne Crosby was the first Black child to attend the racially integrated school.”
With pride and optimism for the future, he said, “Time does bring on great changes. I am looking forward for my hometown to be one of the greatest cities in the United States of America.”
The three Crosby brothers persisted in their education, received scholarships to attend Grambling College in North Louisiana. All became educators.
Councilman Crosby has been dedicated to his family, his church, youth mentoring, education and bringing people of Gretna’s diverse community together. Deeply spiritual, he is a lifelong member and leader of historic New Hope Baptist Church, today an Elder.
He worked as both an employee and a volunteer coach for decades in Gretna’s Recreation Department, headed up the program in the 1970s. During his tenure, he led the integration of the formerly racially segregated system of city parks and programs, facilitating the inclusive and harmonious sharing of Gretna’s recreational resources for the enjoyment of all of its people.
In 2013, he was inducted into the Gretna Legacy Hall of Fame at the Mel Ott Recreational Center. In 2018, he was instrumental in the erection of a historical marker at the Gretna Mississippi River ferry landing. The marker memorialized a city proclamation that apologized for the unprovoked 1948 killing of a Black union worker named Royal Cyril Brooks by a White police officer. In 2019, he co-chaired the “Love Thy Neighbor” program and also received the Outstanding Service Award by the Gretna Community Association.
Mr. Milton is well-known to counsel and support Gretna citizens of all walks of life who seek out his help. His lifetime of inspirational teaching and service to others is greatly admired. Respectfully, the community wishes Mr. Milton good wishes for a much deserved, long retirement of peace and tranquility.
“Councilman Milton Crosby has made a tremendous difference in District 1 resulting in the McDonoghville area being one of the most sought after residential options on the Westbank and Councilman Smith has already expressed his continued commitment to the master plan in place for District 1,” Mayor Belinda C. Constant said.
“Councilman Smith is a welcomed addition to our team of elected officials. While it is with some sadness that Councilman Crosby has decided to retire from his seat, I am confident in the future wellbeing of District 1 now under the leadership of Councilman Smith and all of us in the City are looking forward to helping him achieve his goals.”
New Councilman Rudy Smith is a retired Westwego postmaster, traveler and avid senior athlete. He was raised in McDonoghville until his family moved to California when he was a youngster. After graduating high school from Thomas A. Edison High in Fresno, he served in the U.S. Air force for four years. He returned home and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Commerce from Loyola University.
“The appointment to the council has to be the pinnacle of my life’s experience. I do not view the appointment as a political duty, but a personal commitment to improving the quality of life in District 1,” Councilman Smith said. “I have also rejoined the Rotary Club of the West Bank and looking forward to working in the community and other volunteer pledges.”
He was elected president of the Gretna Civic Association in 2014 and remains in that position today and is a member of the American Legion. He previously served on the Gretna Planning and Zoning Commission and HDIC, now the Historical District Commission.
The 78 year-old is a marathon runner who didn’t take up serious running until he was almost 40. He has competed in marathons on all seven continents and completed an Ironman Triathlon when he was 68. He was one of only 75 runners selected to participate, and took 1st place in his age group in the 2016 Empire State Building Run-Up, a challenge of running up 86 floors and 1,576 steps. https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/entertainment_life/health_fitness/article_9d9a47d8-1d37-52ff-afe8-401d343cdc41.html
Theprestigious People Health Champions award program recognized Smith as “those over age 65 who continue to serve their communities and the nation.” The award highlighted his endurance accomplishments and civic contributions. Smith said that to receive this award was amazing and that it be awarded at a Saint’s game was the pinnacle of his contributions. https://www.flickr.com/photos/peopleshealth/16240146966/in/album-72157649845663837/
Deanna Smith, his wife of 53 years often runs in marathons with him. They have a daughter, Suzette Smith, a retired U.S. Army Captain and Iraq veteran, and two grandsons, Jordan and Javier Smith.
“Last year was highly active with races and travel. I am currently pursuing a medal for completing the six world major marathons which include New York City Marathon, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, London Marathon, Tokyo Marathon and Berlin Marathon. I ran the Tokyo and Chicago Marathons last year, coupled with prior finishes of New York, Boston and London. The Berlin Marathon was to be the last of the six,” he said.
“Since Berlin was cancelled due to the virus, I have deferred my entry to next year, looking forward to the achievement. I am currently training for my 28th consecutive Disneyworld Marathon in January.
“Life is great, I have been continuing to enjoy traveling with the wife over the years since retirement. Thankfully, somehow I seem to be speeding up instead of slowing down. But, with this new and exciting position as Councilman of District 1, I am looking forward to giving back to a community that has been my foundation in life.”
Councilman Rudy Smith can be reached, if needed for District 1 matters by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.363.1505.