40th Spotlight: Ann Kirk

For many longtime Smyrna residents, Keep Smyrna Beautiful (KSB) and Ann Kirk are synonymous. What many may not know is that environmental advocacy and education were a second career for this beloved former KSB Executive Director.

A New Beginning

Ann Kirk actually began her career as a registered nurse. It wasn’t until she subbed in for her husband one day at her daughter’s school that her involvement in environmental education began.

Her husband Dan Kirk is in the paper recycling business and had done a paper recycling activity with students previously for Career Day. When the school requested that he return and he was unavailable, Ann stepped in, and the rest is history!

Joining Keep Smyrna Beautiful

Ann joined the board of KSB in 1987, shortly after it was founded forty years ago in 1984. Ann became executive director a few years later in 1994 at a time that was pivotal both for the organization and for the city of Smyrna.

“The population of Smyrna was much smaller then. Max Bacon and the Council at the time were visionary and progressive,” says Ann. “This was the time when the new library and community center had just opened, and City Hall and the new police station were being built. It was a very exciting time for Smyrna.”

In fact, Ann’s leadership at KSB was instrumental in many of significant developments during this time period, including growth of the Smyrna Recycling Center, creation of the Smyrna Arboretum (now overseen by Parks & Recreation), widespread attention to corner landscaping and other beautification projects, and increased attention to environmental education for all ages.

Emphasizing Education and Awareness

“Ann did the field trips with the little kids,” says Kathy Chapman, who ran the Smyrna Recycling center from 2009 through 2021. She says they shared the belief that education was key to their work.

Today, Smyrna Recycling Center tours are still a popular component of KSB’s environmental education offerings. In the first four months of 2024 alone, almost 250 people have toured the center to learn more about recycling in our community and what happens after they drop off their materials.

The Legacy Continues

“Ann Kirk’s legacy is still very much present in Smyrna today,” says Julie Barwig, who currently serves as Keep Smyrna Beautiful’s Executive Director and Director of Environmental Services for the City of Smyrna. “It’s hard to imagine what the city would look like without having benefited from her influence.”

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see Smyrna grow into the vibrant and beautiful city that it is today,” says Ann. “Evidence of the impact of Keep Smyrna Beautiful is everywhere and it has continued to thrive and grow.”

© 2024 by Keep Smyrna Beautiful.