Former mayor Brenton Vanstone has lavished praise on the smelter and defended its environmental record.
Mr Vanstone offered his support while speaking to the Rotary Club of Port Pirie at the Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club last week.
With the stack of the Nyrstar lead smelter visible through the windows of the yacht club, he spoke of the "deleterious" effect on our city caused by constant criticism of the plant's emissions.
He said the smelter paid $100 million a year in taxes, had a $275 million payroll and spent $15 to $20 million a year on electricity.
It paid $35 million-plus for local goods and services and was a $1.6 billion "economic driver" for South Australia.
"Port Pirie has poor air quality for only two days of the year," he said.
Referring to the smelter's slight breach of new environmental controls last year, he said the media went into "palpitations" over .1 of a millionth gram of lead.
"Those who produce nothing, invest in nothing and employ no-one have attacked and lampooned this city," he said.
On other topics, he said the Port Pirie Regional Council's $25 million sport hub at Memorial Oval should have had a "commercial footprint".
He said podiatrists and physiotherapists should have had clinics at the hub to boost the economics of the venture.
Looking at civic affairs, Mr Vanstone said that after his experience as a councillor with Pirie District Council and that council's amalgamation with Port Pirie City Council, he remained against local government mergers.
The Wandearah farmer was introduced to Rotarians by his agricultural neighbour Neville Ferme.
Mr Ferme said Mr Vanstone was chairman of UniHub Spencer Gulf and deputy chairman of Regional Development Australia for the Yorke Mid North.
He paid tribute to the fact that Mr Vanstone is a devout Christian who steps away from the tractor and other farm duties every Sunday.