By Daniel Brunty
The Choctaw Plaindealer
Being in a small town allows for its residents to form special bonds – bonds that makes a person lend a helping hand to his fellow neighbor, that show dedication for one’s hometown or county. When these bonds are there, it allows for residents to show their dedication in many forms.
For Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna McKay, these bonds have driven her passion to be involved in her community, and to make a positive difference for all residents who reside in it. McKay has shown her dedication and love for Choctaw County in numerous ways.
“I began with working with the Choctaw Plaindealer for 13 years,” McKay said. “Then I helped start the Choctaw Chronicle. We were there for 11 years before that paper dissolved. In between all that I worked with the Tax Assessor’s office here in Choctaw County for about seven months.”
McKay, who also is willing to lend her time and effort for her community, would soon come across a new opportunity that would be the beginning of something special for her. “I saw that there was an advertising for an administrative assistant at what was called at that time the Choctaw County Economic Development Foundation. So I applied, and they actually hired me in May of 2010. So I have been here since then. I worked in the administrative assistant role until October of 2014.”
As the Executive Director of the Chamber, McKay reports to the Choctaw County Economic Development District Board of Trustees. McKay serves as the board’s facilitator to achieve the goals and objectives of the District through the management of its human and physical resources.
With handling numerous responsibilities as Director at the Chamber, McKay is like any of the other 57 percent of women in the workplace who balances work with home life. McKay was faced with this challenge soon after receiving her position, when her husband, Ernie McKay, was injured in a car accident. Thankfully for McKay, she received much support from the Board of Trustees.
“With my husband’s accident, it was kind of tough at first,” McKay stated. “As far as both of these boards go, they have been very instrumental in helping me get through this trying time. With my husband having to go through his surgeries and other things, they have been good to help. Several of the board members came in and volunteered hours, answering the phone, and performing other necessary duties. I will always be grateful and indebted to them for doing that.”
Even with all the trials and tribulations, McKay has been able to accomplish numerous achievements in her short time as Chamber Director. Knowing the hard work and dedication needed for the position McKay did not shy away from the challenge, but rather embraced it. She credits her dedication to doing a job well done to the lessons taught to her by her parents.
McKay is the daughter of the late Homer and Lena Pearl Duran of Louisville and one of six children. Raised on a dairy farm, her parents set a good Christian example and taught their children to always put God first in their life with the knowledge that everything else would fall in to place.
It was instilled in McKay the importance of spending time with your family, to work hard and establish a good legacy to pass on to your children and grandchildren. “I feel like that my parents instilled in me as a small child to give your employer an honest day’s work,” McKay said. “I like that my religious background, growing up in a Christian-based home, helped me in my being fair with people.”
McKay and husband Ernie, a Louisville native, married on November 5, 1976. Soon after the couple would make Ackerman their home, and have been residents for close to 39 years. Over that time, McKay has participated in helping Choctaw County in various ways, all the while cultivating numerous relationships countywide.
“I love doing this type of work,” McKay said. “I love making others happy. So through this job, I can actually do that. I have always been the type of person to be the peacemaker, the one who gets everything settled. The best part of my job is getting to build on the relationships with the people in Choctaw County.”
With her new position, McKay will be able to put her socializing skills in the forefront. “I feel like I have been actually able to build those relationships working on this job, plus I had to basically put myself out there more because I usually like to work behind the scenes,” McKay said. “With this position I have to basically come on out, and that has been a little bit of a challenge on my part, but I love getting out there and talking to people and having that one-on-one contact with them now.”
McKay has not only been a shining example for the entire Choctaw County, she shines just as bright in her role as a mother to her two daughters, Heather and Brittany.
Heather is married to Bo Studdie of Savannah, Georgia and they have three children, Nicholas, 13, Caleb, 10 and Abby, 1. They reside in Ackerman where Bo works with North American Coal/Red Hills Mine and Heather is a beautician at New Creations.
Brittany is married to Lee Fancher of Louisville and they have a 10 month old daughter, Prasaus. They reside in California where Brittany serves in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton, where she will be promoted to Sergeant July 1st. She plans to report to drill instructor school in 2016 at Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC.
“My youngest daughter is in the Marine Corp,” McKay said. “She tells me all the time ‘Mama because of you that is why I am the woman I am today, watching you and watching your life.’ You don’t know how it makes this mother feel to hear your child say that. My oldest daughter will tell me the same thing. It not only makes me feel good about being a mother, but also being a working mother. I had to take away a lot of time from my two daughters as I was in the work force. During the time I was at the newspaper, I was gone a lot of the time. So I missed out on a lot of things during the time my girls were growing up. But I still tried to balance that, as a mother and as a working woman. You have to learn to balance, so the time that you have with your children you give it all you got. You make that time special for them.”
For her work at the Chamber, McKay was recently awarded a National Institute Scholarship from the Institute for Organization Management, the professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. This award is given to professionals across the country, and recognizes each recipient for their involvement in industry professional organizations, community service, and professional background.
McKay attends Ackerman Church of God where she is the Music Director – Adult Choir, serves on the Ladies Ministries Board and helps in planning special events for the church. She also worked in the newspaper business almost 24 years in the roll of ad designer, editor and business manager, is a member of GFWC Ackerman Twentieth Century Club where she serves as Vice President and Reporter, serves on the Choctaw County 4-H Advisory Board, Choctaw County High School Wellness Committee, as well as, serving on the ECMEC (East Central Mississippi Economic Council) Board as a Director.
McKay plans to continue to be committed to making Choctaw County a great place to live and to help local businesses succeed.
“I am humbled to be chosen as the Executive Director for the Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce,” McKay said. “I have vested in Choctaw County by planting deep roots over the years; I love serving the people of our county and hope I can make a difference in the future of our county.”