Ricky McCoy spent 45 years working on roads. He’s going to spend his retirement traveling them.
McCoy, who initially signed on in 2000 to work for Pembroke for one year after 31 years in the Georgia Department of Transportation and wound up staying 14 years with the city, announced his retirement in October so he and his wife Gail can travel.
“There are a lot of places still out there that I still want to see,” McCoy said.
But first things first. Thursday afternoon, the city threw a retirement party for McCoy, who was raised in Bulloch County, graduated from the “school of hard knocks,” and rose to be DOT’s area engineer responsible for 24 area counties and more than 60 cities.
Around 100 well wishers – perhaps more – turned out at various times for the 3-hour, “stop by any time you want” event at the J. Dixie Harn Community Center, where they ate and swapped stories.
Among those who attended was Ann Purcell, the former state representative from Rincon who is now a member of the state transportation board. She knows McCoy from his days with the DOT and later as Pembroke’s go-to man on road projects, and more.
McCoy was involved in a number of major projects as the DOT’s top area engineer – from four-laning Highway 21 in Purcell’s Effingham County to four-laning Highway 67 in Bulloch County. He’s also had a hand in improvements to countless county roads around Coastal Georgia.
What’s more, he cared about his work, Purcell said.
“I’ve always found Ricky to be a very compassionate individual in regards to the needs of the city here, as well as for Bryan County,” Purcell said. “And his long involvement with the DOT meant he also worked throughout the entire congressional district, and his passion and love for people and trying to produce the best he could for them was as obvious then as it is now.”
Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell, who helped select gifts for McCoy such as a map with pins to mark his travels and a road atlas with trip suggestions and itineraries for trips to various national parks, said McCoy’s knowledge of transportation and his DOT background made him invaluable.
“He had a very good working relationship with the DOT, and he was an excellent resource for the city of Pembroke. He helped make sure we did the right things with our streets and our roadways,” Warnell said.
In that regard, McCoy had a hand in every transportation project in Pembroke in the 21stCentury, including a three-part downtown streetscape project that combined cost more than $800,000 and took 14 years to wrap up.
Improvements to the railroad crossing on Highway 119, the Anderson Lane drainage project also bear McCoy’s stamp, as did work fixing up Northside Cemetery.
“That cemetery project was a very special project,” McCoy said, and wanted it made clear he enjoyed his time with Pembroke.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every day of my work with the city,” he said. “It’s been good to work for the place I consider home and be able to do a lot of the same work I did for DOT.”
Eddie Williams, an engineer whose firm Keck & Wood did the design work for the streetscape project, drove down from metro Atlanta to honor McCoy. Williams recalled his firm was already in the planning stage on the project when McCoy came on board for Pembroke.
“We’re thinking, oh my goodness, what’s he going to be like to work with,” Williams said. “It turned out he was very knowledgeable. He’s got a good connection with DOT, good people skills, and that helps out a lot. He kind of just fostered an atmosphere of cooperation. The contractors loved him, the engineers loved him, the DOT loved him and the city loved him, and it turned out a good product.”
Others, including former tax commissioner Debbie Newman and her husband Derrell Newman, the former head of public works in Bryan County, and Bryan County Commissioner Noah Covington also came by to wish McCoy well.
“Ricky is going to be sorely missed city of Pembroke,” Covington said. “He’s the go-to guy when you have a problem with road maintenance and outside projects, he is the problem solver. I don’t know where they’re going to go to replace him.”
City officials haven’t said how McCoy will be replaced, but both Warnell and Purcell said Thursday it wouldn’t surprise them if McCoy didn’t offer help from time to time.
“He’s volunteered his assistance,” Warnell said.
“The gentleman we’re honoring today, I know he’s retired before,” Purcell said. “And then he continued with his assistance and guidance. So, he may step down like many of us, to catch his breath. But I believe, knowing Ricky, we will see him continue to be very involved, and helpful to citizens.”
Perhaps. But McCoy is looking forward to seeing the sights. He said he’ll start his voyages with a long cruise in Alaska, in May, with his wife. Then they’ll start making road trips around the U.S.
Warnell, an inveterate traveler herself, said she isn’t sure McCoy will use the ready-made itineraries in the Atlas. He may just go where the roads take him.
“I love to travel,” she said. “Ricky loves highways.”