Smiles, laughs and lots of good wishes filled the room as more than 200 people stopped by City Hall on Thursday afternoon to say farewell to Ray Beck, retiring longtime city manager.
The first of two reception ceremonies for Beck was open to the public, and the Columbia City Council chambers was filled with citizens, city employees, family and friends.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Liz Schmidt, member of the League of Women Voters, as she waited for the reception to begin.
Schmidt’s ties to the council run deep. She remembered serving as a City Council observer broadcasting council meetings over KOPN/89.5 FM radio waves before the meetings were broadcast on television.
Schmidt saved a news clipping and a photo of Beck addressing the League of Women Voters.
“He was a lot skinnier and had dark hair,” Schmidt said. “He looked like a real kid. We watched him and the city grow together.”
Beck received numerous awards and recognitions during the reception, including being named city manager emeritus. The council voted unanimously to bestow this honor upon Beck.
“They do that a lot to university professors, when they retire, they make them professors emeritus,” said Darwin Hindman, Columbia mayor. “We decided that Ray is essentially a professor.”
“I hadn’t heard that title before,” Beck said with a smile.
County commissioners waxed poetic with Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre’s recitation of “Ode to Ray Beck.” The departing city manager also received recognition for his work from the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.
Beck’s career spanned six city managers, 14 mayors, and, as close as he can figure, 1,086 council meetings.
Beck officially retires Feb. 1, a full 46 years from his hiring in 1960 as a staff engineer in the city Public Works Department. He served as director of Public Works for 25 years. In 1985, he became city manager, a position he held for more than 20 years.
“It’s been a great journey working in the public arena,” Beck said. “It will be hard to back away from, but I’m going to do it. The time is right.”
Beck’s last day as city manager will be today, which the council has proclaimed to be “Raymond A. Beck Day.”
He will remain on staff to assist the new city manager during a transition period.
A second retirement reception is planned for 5:30 to 9 p.m. today at the Holiday Inn Select. Tickets cost $20.