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Charles Smith, Communications Exec, Retiring From Kodak After 26 Years

Jerry Lansky

Charles S. Smith, a veteran communications executive, is retiring on June 1 after serving with Eastman Kodak for 26 years during which time he was involved in some of the major events of that firm's recent history.

Known to all as 'Charlie', Smith is leaving the firm to deal with health issues and to spend more time with his family in Rochester.

Smith most recently served as director of communications for the Film Products Group. According to a Kodak announcement, his responsibilities will be taken over by Chris Veronda, Communications and Public Affairs, who will handle group level issues and Lisa Wells of Film Capture Marketing who will take over public relations for that area.

During his tenure with Kodak, Smith held such titles as director, Corporate Media Relations; director, Public Relations for Consumer Imaging; and director of communications for the Kodak Health Group.

He was an important source for this writer and his name was frequently mentioned as the official company spokesman in these pages as well as the business sections for numerous consumer newspapers and magazines both here and overseas.

Smith was a key player in the planning and launch of the APS platform in the mid-'90's as Kodak was the prime mover in involving the entire photo industry in what was considered to be a radical departure for camera makers, film makers, and photofinishers, alike. Some trade resistance to the concept and the onset of digital photography relegated APS to an early demise.

Smith said he generated his greatest personal satisfaction from two important Kodak events. For the past 18 months he has been focused on sending the message to the trade, the public and Wall Street that, while digital photography was certainly important to Kodak's future, conventional film was still a vital part of Kodak's business and that the firm was committed to the segment for the long haul.

In the other event, in the late '90's when Kodak was under considerable financial pressure, Smith worked closely with then CEO, George Fisher, in the divestiture of the Sterling Drug operation.

In addition to serving as the public spokesman for Kodak, Smith dealt with Kodak customers, as well. Mitch Goldstone, 30 Minute Photos, Etc., Irvine, CA., said "Charlie was the chief spokesperson because he knew everything about the company, its employees, strategies and customers. He worked 24/7, was always plugged in andů an admired hero to many, especially me."

Smith was hired by Kodak from the public relations firm of Carl Byoir & Associates where he worked on the Kodak account. Prior to that he was a PR representative for General Electric.