Citizen of the Month

Ray McKesson being presented the Citizen of the Month AwardFebruary 2020 Citizen of the Month - Ray McKesson

Council Member Ann Harkey selected Ray McKesson as the Citizen of the Month for February.

Council Member Ann Harkey greeted Members of Council, City Staff and guests present. Ms. Harkey then stated that she was glad to see so many people gathered to honor and pay tribute to the City of Marion’s Citizen of the Month, Ray McKesson.

Ms. Harkey stated that when she returned home from college and began her teaching career, she heard mention of Mr. McKesson’s name. She stated that the word around town was that Mr. McKesson was a positive and productive leader.

Ms. Harkey stated that after meeting and working with Ray and others at the West Marion Community Forum, she knew why she had heard his name so often in the community. Ms. Harkey then shared a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that she said spoke to Mr. McKesson’s spirit. “The first question which the priest asked the Levite was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But…the good Samaritan reversed the question. “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him.”

Ms. Harkey then shared that Mr. McKesson was born and raised in Marion. She stated that he began his career by serving in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973. She stated that he was stationed in West Germany for two and a half years before returning to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She said that after Mr. McKesson returned home, he enrolled in McDowell Technical Community College and earned an Associate Degree in Accounting in 1975.

Mrs. Harkey stated that Mr. McKesson then transferred to Appalachian State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology in 1977. She stated that after finishing his degree, Mr. McKesson returned home and became an Eligibility Worker at the McDowell County Department of Social Services. She stated that he was soon promoted to Child Protection Social Worker. 

Ms. Harkey said that Mr. McKesson joined the North Carolina National Guard in 1980. She stated that shortly after that, McDowell Technical Community College gave Mr. McKesson the opportunity to return home to his alma mater, where he began a position as Purchasing Agent and Equipment Coordinator. 

Mr. Harkey shared that Mr. McKesson continued to further his education by attending Western Carolina University and earning a Master of Business Administration Degree in 1982. She stated that in 1989 Mr. McKesson’s hard work was recognized by McDowell Technical Community College and he was promoted to Chief Finance Officer. She stated that he was then promoted to Vice President of Finance and Administration, where he held that position until his retirement in 2007.

Ms. Harkey stated that McDowell Technical Community College called on Mr. McKesson in 2008 to temporarily come out of retirement so that he could assume the role of Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration. She stated that he stayed on to train and help the person they eventually hired to become the permanent President for Finance and Administration to ensure a smooth transition.

Ms. Harkey said that Mr. McKesson came out of retirement again in 2009 to serve as Hospice of McDowell County’s Interim Executive Director. She stated that all of his great works in and for the community showed that what she had heard about him over the years was true. She said that they proved Mr. McKesson was a great leader, who was positive, dedicated and productive. She stated that his community involvement, past and present, continued to be a dominant force in his life. 

Ms. Harkey then shared a list of Mr. McKesson’s community involvement over the years.

  • Past McDowell County Board of Education Member
  • Past Board Member and Treasurer - Hospice of McDowell County
  • Past Board Member - Givens Estate United Methodist Retirement Community
  • Past Board Member - First Citizens Bank - Marion, NC
  • Board Member and Past Chair - The McDowell Endowment, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.
  • Board Member - Maxwell M. Corpening, Jr. Memorial Center
  • Board Member and Current Chair - McDowell County Health Coalition
  • Assistant Treasurer and Church Lay Leader of Addie’s Chapel United Methodist Church
  • Current President - NAACP McDowell County
  • Board Member - McDowell Technical Community College Foundation
  • Member of the Board of Trustees - Mission Hospital McDowell
  • Member of Steering Committee, Board of Directors and Treasurer - West Marion Community Forum
  • Appointed by NC Governor Roy Cooper in June 2018 to the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees.

Ms. Harkey stated that Mr. McKesson had told her that he didn’t do what he did for the honor. He did it for his community. She then shared a quote from Albert Einstein, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,” because it summed up Mr. McKesson’s life and service to others very well. 

Ms. Harkey then recognized, Phyllis McKesson, Mr. McKesson’s wife and biggest supporter of nineteen years. She stated that the two had five children, eight grandchildren, and two fur babies. She said that Mr. McKesson had waited eight years for his wife to retire from nursing so that the two could travel the country together. 

Ms. Harkey stated that McKesson’s goal in retirement was to visit all fifty states. She said that the McKessons had already visited all but four of those states. She shared that now the couple planned to visit all National Parks in retirement. 

Ms. Harkey thanked Mr. McKesson for returning home and giving back to his community. She ended with a quote from Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the services of others.”

Mayor Little, Council Members, City Manager Bob Boyette, and friends and family all shared kind words about Mr. McKesson and congratulated him for being selected as Citizen of the Month.