ENID, Okla. — Mike Ruby was humbled when he was named the 2019 Citizen of the Year by the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce.
“I was absolutely totally surprised,’’ Ruby said. “I’m honored to be a part of a very distinguished group of people ... people that I always looked up to. It was very gratifying and very humbling.’’
Ruby retired in October as the OG&E Electric Services community affairs manager. He has been on the boards of Loaves & Fishes Northwest Oklahoma, Enid Rotary Club, the Chamber, Visit Enid, Salvation Army, First United Methodist Church, Enid Leadership Council, Northwest Oklahoma Blood Institute and Shuman Services Alliance Board. He is the second vice president of the United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.
“(Ruby) serves Enid in many capacities,’’ said Chamber chairwoman Krista Roberts in announcing Ruby’s award. “To quote one of the people he works with, ‘Enid is blessed to have an advocate, ally and friend’ like tonight’s recipient. His leadership, dedication and citizenship are a force to be reckoned with here in Enid.’’
Ruby’s passion for community service came from his parents and grandfather, the latter of whom was a community leader in Clinton.
“They were community minded volunteers,” Ruby said. “I’ve tried to show a really good community-type of attitude of living. That’s why I’ve really liked Enid. I could pursue that passion. OG&E recognized its employees doing extra things. That was one of the reasons that I was named community manager. It was one of the skills required for the job. I was lucky enough to have a job where I could pursue that passion.”
Ruby, at OG&E, encouraged his fellow employees to volunteer — as OG&E gives its employees 16 hours a year to do so — and expand community outreach in other areas.
For their efforts, OG&E awarded the Enid office the highest award the company gives — the Positive Energy Award.
“That was very gratifying,’’ he said. “I was really fortunate that I worked for a company that supported involvement. Even when I had other positions with the company, they recognized me for doing extra things that weren’t a requirement for the job. My boss told me, ‘Ruby you do so much extra’ ... once I moved into the community manager’s area it was a big part of what I did. It was a job that matched my passion for participating.’’
Discovering his home
Ruby first came to Enid in 1975 after graduating with a degree in business administration from Oklahoma State University.
His first job was with Sears & Roebuck. His original goal was to be here a couple of years and receive a promotion and move on to bigger things. Yet when he was scheduled to receive a promotion to be an assistant manager in his native Oklahoma City, Ruby decided to stay in Enid.
“I love the smaller market,’’ Ruby said. “It seemed to be the right size. I really liked that it was a real community with good churches and good schools. It was a good place to raise a family, so we stayed.
“I never regretted because I knew Enid was a place where a person could contribute to the community and make a difference. My impression of Enid was a lot of people who were interested in making a difference. My passion remained for 45 years.”
Ruby and his wife Pam raised three children — Katelyn, a former volleyball coach at Oklahoma Bible Academy who works for a non-profit, reemerging organization in Edmond “that gives women a second chance;” Nan, an elementary school teacher in Fort Smith, Ark.; and Steve, an university professor and attorney in Stillwater.
“All three of my children have grown up with a serving attitude and are active in their communities and churches,” Ruby said. “That makes me proud.”
He has four grandchildren — Maggie, Micha, Rhett and Zeke. The best thing about retirement so far, he said, was having more time to see and do things with them.
Ruby joined OG&E in 1988 as a meter reader after being in private business and real estate development.
“There was an economic downturn,’’ he said. “I sold one business and quit the other.’’
His father, Bruce, had worked for OG&E in Oklahoma City for 40 years in data processing. The younger Ruby always had enjoyed going to his dad’s office and seeing his work and the evolution of computers from the IBM punch cards and disc drives to huge frames of computers.
“It was pretty interesting,” Ruby said.
Ruby was told of the job opening at OG&E from a friend who worked there. A meter reader had failed a drug test.
“Once that opportunity presented itself, it got my attention,’’ Ruby said. “I applied and started to work a couple of days later.”
He had been hired on a temporary basis because OG&E was on a hiring freeze. He would move to customer accounts and sales in Oklahoma City for five years until going back to Enid in a managerial role. He would manage offices in both Woodward and Muskogee before coming back as the community affairs manager.
“We always maintained a residence here (Enid),’’ Ruby said. “I always looked forward to coming back here. I was blessed to come to Enid as community affairs manager. That always was my goal. Having that job was one of the best in the whole company.”
The work was challenging — the biggest being calls from people “who were really in trouble” because their electricity was discontinued due to non-payment or communication issues.
“At times customers were just mad,’’ Ruby said. “I loved being able to accept those challenges and provide some resolution to the question or situation. I prided myself to do that. It required me to know where the resources were and the people to talk to and how the process works. I worked internally with others to resolve it satisfactorily.”
He said most of the problems could be solved by working and listening with others.
“I took pride in my ability to work with others and make that happen,’’ Ruby said. “I miss that, but it was time to retire. I don’t miss the stress, but I miss the people.’’
‘It was pretty intense’
Stress can be defined by being the commercial and accounts manager in January 2001 when power was knocked out by an ice storm.
Ruby was in charged of feeding all the crew members and contractors who had come to town to restore power. There were some 700 people involved if Ruby’s memory serves him. There were no resources since everything had been closed down.
“We had never done that before,” Ruby said.
Ruby would contract with Brent Swadley of Swadley’s Catering to bring meals three times a day from Oklahoma City. Swadley since opened a branch of his restaurant chain in Enid in 2019.
“He saved us,” Ruby said of Swadley. “He was awesome. He’s a friend of mine to this day.”
Ruby estimated he worked 100-hour weeks during the time the power was out.
“It was pretty intense,’’ he said.
Ruby feeds people today as the current board president of Loaves & Fishes. During the coronavirus, he helped oversee a conversion of the operation from an in-store facility to more food distribution.
“It’s been a busy two weeks,’’ said Ruby in late March. “The staff has been so creative. The food bank has been generous to allow us to have an extra truck for distribution on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have tried to keep everyone fed.”
The regional food bank was one of his accounts while working for OG&E in Oklahoma City. He is happy to contribute as the board president.
Ruby had been the Rotary Club president in Woodward and was active in Muskogee. When he was asked to be the local president here, he said he gladly accepted.
“It’s one of the best in the state,’’ he said.
One of the club’s projects was to provide the Northern Oklahoma College Enid nursing department with a medical mannequin.
The club has just completed a fundraiser for Festival of Flavor to support schools. The next project will be supplying 300 flags to be displayed in downtown (including at David Allen Memorial Ballpark) for Memorial Day.
“We want to honor people for their service,’’ Ruby said.
The club has provided funds for Project Graduation and donates to several non-profits.
Ruby is the Chamber’s economic development liaison. He has been involved with the Oklahoma Blood Institute for 20 years.
He asked to be on the board and would end up as its president.
“It’s a very interesting organization,’’ Ruby said. “It does great work supporting hospitals and doctors.”
‘I had a passion for it’
Ruby has always seen himself as a multi-tasker, which is why he could always find time to volunteer with different organizations.
He said he got more out of it than he put in.
“I had a passion for it,” he said. “I was able to work with some outstanding individuals in Enid. Serving on the boards whet my interest and helped me develop leadership skills and community skills. I got more out of it than I gave .... I promise you that.’’
His volunteering hasn’t slowed down with his retirement.
“It’s a great feeling,’’ Ruby said. “I’m still busy, and I like it. If I want to scale back, I won’t hesitate, but I’m going to continue to be involved in the community. That’s why I stayed here. I’m looking for more opportunities. There always will be something that will interest me to get involved. That’s the way I’m built.”
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