Former TV reporter finds 'a really awesome big picture'
EARLY — If Ricky Ray had been asked six years ago to describe the perfect job, there’s just one reason his employment with the City of Early wouldn’t have fit that description.
That’s because the 30-year-old Ray, a Howard Payne University graduate former KTAB-TV news reporter, didn’t know anything about the job.
That job — executive assistant/marketing and communication specialist — didn’t even exist in 2014, the year Ray graduated from HPU and began working at KTAB.
The city created the job in its 2020-’21 fiscal year budget. Ray, who lives in Brownwood with his wife, Ciera, started working for the City of Early on Oct. 19.
Ricky and Ciera Ray attend Midtown Church, where Ray is a vocalist, guitarist and a sometimes-drummer in the church’s band. Ciera Ray is a social worker.
Ray is the son of Dion and Michelle White. Dion White is the executive director at the Center for Life Resources, and Michelle works at the Brownwood school district’s central office.
Ray has abundant opportunities to bring his love for photography and videography to this job as well as other skills he learned on previous jobs, including how to work well in an office. He’s learned to use Excel to make spread sheets, and he has been invigorated learning the plans city officials are making for the city.
“It’s literally the job that I’ve wanted since I graduated college,” Ray said recently at Early City Hall. “Everything that I want — it involves photo, graphic design, video, but then something else that I really enjoy doing is actually the executive assistant part. I really enjoy, I guess you could say the word, ‘serving.’”
Ray knew he wanted to find a longterm job that he would enjoy — but he didn’t know what or where.
That changed last fall when several friends texted him after seeing the City of Early had posted an opening for a new job.
Ray grew up in the Texas Panhandle town of Plainview, where he was a decent golfer on his high school’s varsity golf team.
He enrolled at Texas Tech University, hoping to become a golf coach.
“I wanted to play (golf) in college and I did try out for the Texas Tech team, but I didn’t make it,” Ray said. “I wanted to be a golf coach. And that didn’t happen. I didn’t like the idea of teaching as much as being a coach, and you kind of have to do both.”
Ray had dropped out of college by the time his parents arrived in Brownwood.
“It was kind of that time in my life where I was thinking, oh my goodness, what am I going to do?” Ray said. “I didn’t feel like college was for me. I did not like Texas Tech. It was gigantic.”
But Ray took his dad’s advice to check out HPU. “So I ended up coming to Howard Payne, met my wife Ciera and I started pursing a degree in communication,” Ray said. “And that was mainly because I like talking.”
Ray credited Dr. Julie Welker, chairman of the communications department, with teaching him “how to speak and be confident.”
After graduating from HPU, Ray signed a two-year contract to work for KTAB as the Brownwood-area news reporter.
“It was an experience,” Ray said of the KTAB job. “You have to want to be very specifically that thing. You have to want to be a reporter to be a reporter. I liked the camera part of it. I liked meeting people. But there were other aspects that came with the job that I just didn’t really enjoy.
“It could be stressful at times, trying to get news stories out … you’re doing the filming, you’re doing the writing, you’re doing the editing, all that stuff, so it could get a little stressful and overwhelming at times.”
After his contract was up, Ray opted to leave KTAB and was jobless for a couple of months. He went to work as an admissions counselor for HPU.
“That was great,” Ray said. “I love Howard Payne. I loved the people that I worked with. I got to travel around and meet a lot of kids. What I liked most about it was getting to tell them about the experience I had at Howard Payne, because if it wasn’t for Howard Payne, I don’t think I would have even graduated college. I couldn’t find a college like Howard Payne anywhere else.”
Ray left the HPU job after a year and a half to pursue a full-time photography and videography business. While it was a success, Ray didn’t like the stress of running a business and decided photography needed to be a hobby rather than a profession.
He went to work at Barr Fabrication, where he learned the office skills he now uses with the City of Early. At Barr Fabrication, Sandra Barr “teaches you how to work well and efficiently,” Ray said.
A friend in management at the Chicken Express restaurant in Early asked Ray to come work there and help out in management. Ray said he’d commit to a year at the restaurant and went to work as an assistant manager.
Ray was on his lunch break one day when the texts began rolling in from friends who’d seen the City of Early job listing.
“This job has taken the best of every single other job that I’ve had so far and combined them into one job description,” Ray said. “That’s why four or five different people texted me about this job description, because they knew I was looking for something like this, and with all my past experiences, it was just perfect. I have to use photography. I have to write for the public like I did as a reporter. I’m the executive assistant so I have to do certain things, make spread sheets, that kind of stuff. So there’s all these different areas that all come together.
“And I didn’t know I was so interested in public administration or development — municipal development, all those kind of things. It’s so exciting and interesting to me to see what plans there are and how you get to those plans, and seeing that sometimes you have to sit down and have hours long meetings … and it all comes together for a really awesome big picture. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Reflecting on his love of photography, Ray said, “I see beautiful things all around, and a lot of times I see that God created a lot of beauty around us. I like being able to capture that and I like being able to take the photo in a way that makes it look beautiful to other people.”
Ray said he wishes everyone he knows could accompany him on adventures that include taking photos of storms and stars.
“A year ago today, I thought ‘what am I doing with my life?’” Ray said. “I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
“You realize God had a plan."