Matt Smith (2011)

Connecting numbers and people

Position: State Actuary, Washington Office of the State Actuary

Best known for: His communication skills and ability to break down complex information into laymen’s terms.

Public service career: Smith started his career as an actuarial assistant with the Washington Office of the State Actuary (OSA). He eventually went to work as a consultant in the private sector, where he stayed for five-and-a-half years. He was appointed state actuary in November 2002.

Biggest challenge: Effectively communicating actuarial information, especially in the area of pensions. Legislative and elected officials have many competing priorities and don’t have the ability or time to develop expertise in complicated areas such as pensions, so they rely on outside experts. It puts the responsibility to provide accurate, objective, and understandable information squarely on the shoulders of the OSA.

Greatest reward: Professionally: Seeing his office and employees succeed. Personally: Contributing to the health and soundness of pension systems that help provide financial security for hundreds of thousands of people in the state of Washington.

Why public service? “I didn’t realize it when I started in public service but serving people is one of my highest motivations. Recently, we had an assessment done of our entire office, including of our motivations. One of the things I found out is that my strongest occupational motivation is to serve people. It’s been my calling throughout my life but I don’t think I realized it when I started. I really like to work with complex information in the mathematical arena, but being able to share that knowledge and information with people is what I enjoy the most.”