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Howard McKinnon: A life of public service


Editor’s note: Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. And sometimes, modified plans intended to eliminate whatever issues thwarted those previous, initial plans don’t work out, either. And occasionally, every subsequent step you take toward turning the corner of a multi-tiered fiasco seems to blow up in your face. Such has been the case in my handling of “Howard McKinnon: A life of public service” – the feature that was to be a four-part series on the legendary, recently retired Havana Town Manager eponymous to the story title. Few stories in my career have been as important to me as this one, yet I can’t recall a single occasion over the same span when a story – or trying to publish it at least – was plagued by the level of persistent, unrelenting bad luck I’ve experienced over the weeks (and now months) attempting to get this story into print. The details regarding obstacles encountered – which range from computer data loss via forced factory reset to simple weekly space limitations to unexpected, last-minute, high-priority coronavirus reports – are myriad but frankly don’t matter at this stage. Part IV fell through the cracks in the print edition, plain and simple, and as editor, I alone am responsible for this slight to readers. But I’ll spare you the standard public relations apology and will just get on to the story. Here’s “Howard McKinnon: A life of public service,” parts I-III reprised for the sake of collective memory and finally…at long last…part IV. Look for Part IV in the print edition of The Havana Herald as soon as space allows.

Part I: A life of public service

“A dedicated workforce.” “A supportive county government.” “Low cost-of-living.” “Ideal geography…”

In a gravel-covered field a few miles north of downtown Havana, beneath the cooling shadow of an open-air shelter one hot, muggy August morning in 2019, one-by-one a familiar lineup of local government, business and civic leaders stepped up to a wooden podium bearing the Great Seal of Gadsden County and proceeded to recite an equally familiar roll call of all things great about Gadsden County – or more specifically, on this particular occasion – all the reasons Hoover Treated Wood Products made the right choice when it selected this little patch of earth off U.S. 27 on which to build its newest lumber processing plant. 

From the who’s who of local dignitaries in attendance, to the giant, taut red ribbon in the backdrop ready to be sheared in twain by a pair of comically oversized scissors – the Hoover grand opening began with few surprises. 

Indeed, this carefully scripted publicity play had been performed time and again from Chattahoochee to Midway and all points in between; the words, phrases and lines used on this day to paint a picture of Havana as a veritable Garden of Eden for growing industry could be, and no doubt have been, used to describe myriad towns in countless ribbon-cutting ceremonies across America. But amid the glowing pre-packaged declarations and tired cliches proudly uttered by the day’s guests of honor, one speaker’s “local brag” stood out as something genuinely unique – an asset wholly exclusive to this sleepy North Florida village, shared by no other town on planet Earth. Simply put, this was a reason why Havana was the perfect place for new industry that applied only to, well…Havana; and unlike “a dedicated workforce,” “supportive county government” and all the other generic perks that made the morning roll call, this distinctly Havana selling point had a face and a name: Familiar, yes, but wholly one-of-a-kind, nonetheless. 

The speaker in question was Chris Eldred, the head honcho at major Havana-based tech firm Teligent EMS and a well-respected entrepreneur and tech guru to be sure. When Eldred stepped up to the microphone that humid August morning, he skipped the broad, unverifiable claims about how it never rains in Havana, economically and proverbially speaking, instead recounting a true-life anecdote about one of the “rainiest” days in Havana’s history: the wind-battered, electricity-devoid, utter devastation-strewn day following Hurricane Michael’s ravaging ride through town back in October 2018. 

With roads impassable and the entire region in chaos, Eldred – whose residence was in Tallahassee, some 20+ debris-covered miles down the road – had no way of knowing how the multi-million dollar Teligent manufacturing complex under his charge fared in the Category 5 maelstrom that rocked the region the night prior. Perhaps the roof was collapsed, leaving millions of dollars in sensitive, proprietary equipment exposed to the elements and potential looters. Maybe the main floor was under several feet of stormwater. Understandably distraught,  Eldred’s mind raced, yet his hands were tied – powerless to protect a property into which he had invested untold sums of cash and innumerable drops of blood, sweat and tears. But before he could shed another drop of either on that harrowing, anxiety-filled day, Eldred’s phone rang. On the other end: Havana’s town manager of more than a decade and Eldred’s exemplar supreme for what makes Havana an ideal place to grow a business – Howard McKinnon. 

“Just wanted to let you know I rode by the plant, and all is well,” McKinnon told Eldred that chaotic post-Michael morn. “A few limbs in the parking lot, but everything is otherwise OK. And we’re gonna make sure it stays that way in the days ahead, until power and operations are restored.” Fast forward nearly a year to the morning of the Hoover Treated Wood Products grand opening. Eldred’s thriving tech firm was back in business, having emerged from the chaos of Hurricane Michael relatively unscathed, thanks in no small part, according to Eldred, to the quick action and thoughtful presence-of-mind of McKinnon and his crew of dedicated town employees. 

Eldred’s grand opening ceremony anecdote may be paraphrased, but the sentiment remains the same: Havana’s people are the reason Havana is a great place to locate a business. And of Havana’s “people,” a few shine especially bright when it comes to their contributions to Havana’s greatness – none less so than its town manager from 2006 until just a few months ago: Howard McKinnon. And though expressed by Eldred on this particular occasion, high esteem and fondness for McKinnon is hardly unique to the Teligent boss; nay, McKinnon’s praises have been sung by too many individuals to name, far too many times to count over the years. Yet for all the times McKinnon’s accomplishments and personal character have been lifted up over the years, the man is overwhelmingly, almost shockingly well-grounded.

Case in point: On the day of the Hoover grand opening, after having been lauded by Eldred and numerous other speakers for his tireless, singular efforts to help pave the way for the new wood treatment facility via infrastructure expansion grants and numerous other deeds, McKinnon was thoroughly drenched in showers of praise by the time it was his turn to address the crowd. Yet for his part, McKinnon spoke only a few words, not once calling attention to his own undeniable role in the day’s proceedings, opting, instead, to highlight the contributions of those with lesser name recognition, those lacking official titles or polished nameplates on hardwood desks, whose offices are in the muck, the mire, the sewers, the drainage ditches of Havana, far removed from the stately setting of town hall – ordinary, yet extraordinarily dedicated, municipal employees and other unsung heroes. McKinnon is, indeed, famously humble, quick to shrug off personal accolades and even quicker to note the efforts of those surrounding him, be it town employees, his family, his God or ordinary citizens. But regardless of his own apparent humility or any local resident’s personal opinion of McKinnon – be it good or bad –  the objective, verifiable fact remains: In his 13 years on the job, McKinnon touched thousands of lives and his contributions to the town’s infrastructure and pleasant way of life will reverberate through the roads, pipes, power lines and homes of Havana for generations to come. But what else would you expect from a Gadsden County man and James A. Shanks High School graduate – class of 1971? 

McKinnon retired from his post as Havana’s top administrator at the start of 2020. It was the culmination of a storied career that began, in truth, when McKinnon was a high school student, working part-time at a local “Post and Lumber Company” – setting aside his modest earnings to help fund his college ambitions. And go to college he did, first earning a degree in finance from Florida State University.

Early on, McKinnon worked as a private accountant, first for his old high school boss, Mr. Jim Ed Gilbert, owner of the local “Post and Lumber” company. After a seven-year stint with Gilbert, in 1982 prominent Quincy CPA Dewey Jetton offered McKinnon a job – to which McKinnon agreed, on the condition that he be allowed to attend college classes part time, working toward his own Certified Public Accountant degree. Finally, with CPA in hand, in January of ’88 or ’89” legendary Gadsden County administrator Nicholas Thomas offered the young numbers whiz a job with the county, a gig that was to be McKinnon’s first foray into local government. Years later, McKinnon also added a master’s in public administration to his growing collection of lambskin diplomas.

Working in the public sector was never part of any plan. Asked whether McKinnon’s life in local government arose “organically,” McKinnon was quick with a correction in semantics: “You say ‘organically,’ but I attribute it to my faith,” McKinnon said, warmly. The skilled accountant and natural leader enjoyed various promotions over the years, rising to the top of county administration before Gadsden County’s famously divisive politics facilitated a different road to a quieter, calmer locale: Havana Town Hall. 

“I call it a gem,” McKinnon said of the town he has called home for 13 years. Being able to “truly help people” day to day kept McKinnon working in the public sector all those years, and it was the very “people” he helped in Havana that kept him from going elsewhere, despite job offers from the private sector and larger towns – jobs that no doubt came with meatier paychecks. 

For McKinnon, “people” have always trumped “paychecks.” Looking back on his quintessentially North Florida-homegrown upbringing and background, and it’s easy to see why…

Part II: Local roots run deep

Salt of the earth.

Howard McKinnon – Havana’s town manager for more than a decade before his retirement at the start of this year – epitomized the concept long before he sauntered through the stout wooden doors of the Cecil G. Trippe Municipal Building for the first time. McKinnon’s roots stretch deep and have held firm in the clay-rich earth of Gadsden County. McKinnon grew up in and around the agri-enterprise powerhouse that was old Quincy: an environment ripe for not just skilled horticulturalists and cattlemen, but sharp men and women with a knack for numbers, capable of managing the plump accounts of homegrown businessmen, banks, large-scale planters and even wealthy philanthropists whose family fortunes rivaled those of America’s industrial royalty.

A 20th century Gadsden County “fortunate son” McKinnon was not; but neither did he want for basic needs. Born to a devoted, hard-working mother and father of grit and principle, McKinnon never shied away from hard work, nor did he consider the sweat of his brow to be a mark of shame. As a high school student, McKinnon worked a steady part-time job and saved nearly every dime he earned with college tuition in mind. But his post-secondary goals were never meant as a means of escape – a bigger city, fancier surrounds, a flashier existence. No, McKinnon remained faithful to his boyhood home of Gadsden County, even when Gadsden County proved unfaithful to McKinnon.

Such was the case in the mid-2000s, when McKinnon – who had served as county administrator for perhaps a record-long stint, relative to his counterparts in the increasingly politically charged, post-Nicholas Thomas world of county administration and politics – was abruptly relieved of his post at the top of county government. Now, surely there’s a story of intrigue and betrayal to which Gadsden natives old enough to recall the era in detail are privy. But attempting to extract anecdotes of the juicy political gossip-variety from a man like Howard McKinnon is a bit like trying to draw blood from a stone.

Perhaps McKinnon has plenty of cause to be bitter for this apparent professional slight, despite his years of sacrifice and dedication. Or maybe not. While the former is a likely bet, it’s tough to know for sure, as McKinnon seemingly has no use for talk that might disparage another human being – not for laughs, not in defense of his legacy and certainly not for attention. While quietly charming and warm, McKinnon is famously a man of few words and would barely be noticeable at all if not for his larger-than-life competence, skill and mental acuity, all of which are virtually undeniable, given the genuine, tangible results they’ve yielded up over the years. And that’s what seems to be most important to McKinnon – uncolored, un-hyped, ultra-real results. Not talk. Not airs.

McKinnon’s “results” in Havana are myriad, and the value of the public projects he has spearheaded are best gauged in their day-to-day impact on ordinary residents, rather than flash or charisma – or the amount of attention they garnered.

“I like to fly under the radar; if you didn’t hear about me, it meant everything was going right,” McKinnon quipped. 

But boys get the girls with fast, shiny cars and other proverbial peacock feathers. One’s role in making the municipal water supply under his charge among the finest quality in the state is not your typical boast or personal selling point. And McKinnon certainly doesn’t “boast” about it, but he’s secure enough in his capabilities and work ethic to look back with pride on his shrewd contributions to Havana’s public infrastructure landscape. Pride, not because his name is emblazoned in big block letters across the town water tower (it’s not), nor because any bridges or buildings are named after him (but stay tuned…?), but because even in retirement the projects McKinnon oversaw during his tenure in Havana are still functioning, still serving every man, woman and child living within the town limits, whether they realize it or not. Serving people, helping people is what has kept McKinnon from jumping ship to the more lucrative private sector, after all.

Oh yeah, and Mr. McKinnon did get the girl, albeit not by impressing her with his penchant for planning wastewater systems. He met his wife, Elaine, in 1982, while serving as coach of her softball team. But more on that later. 

And though humble, McKinnon is not above a bit of navel-gazing – reflecting on his legacy for posterity. 

“As you get to retirement age, you get to thinking about your legacy and how you’ll be remembered,” McKinnon began. As he continued, it quickly became apparent that this latest series of recollections, like those preceding them in the course of this interview, would not be ego-centric in nature. Just as when asked to recall his younger years, and as when prompted to discuss his initial forays into the world of public works, McKinnon instead framed his Havana legacy around the public works projects in which he was instrumental and other tangible accomplishments and results that genuinely served others’ needs, not his own ego. And including said projects within the scope of his personal legacy was not a ploy to highlight how impressively he executed them; nay, McKinnon was just happy they had value to others, plain and simple. 

And the ever-humble McKinnon can barely discuss any accomplishment without noting how any exploit or task at which he succeeded in town administration, he did so thanks in large part to the efforts of others. 

“I wasn’t doing the job for the accolades,” McKinnon said. “And what I’d really like to be remembered for is the legacy of the people who worked for me. A manager is only as good as his employees, and I had some of the best; I hope they’d [McKinnon’s employees] say I treated them fairly. I couldn’t always be their best friend, but I always tried to treat everyone fairly. I would hope they would appreciate me.” 

As with so many of his so-few words, McKinnon’s voice betrayed an earnestness not often discerned from louder, more talkative leaders. His pride in his employees was genuine, his gratitude authentic. And what McKinnon accomplished with the help of aforementioned employees is truly epic, even if it remains largely concealed under the radar, far removed from the spotlight, barely noticeable due to its uninterrupted functionality. After all – as stated by McKinnon – in public works, when things go right, they tend not to be noticed at all…

Part III: Water, water everywhere – and service, and kindness…

There’s no Heisman Trophy for the most valuable players in the municipal water supply game. 

And if there were, you’d be hard pressed to find a major media outlet willing to report the winner of what would almost certainly be a ratings yawn. Public works lacks the glitz, glamour, grit and glory of college sports, no doubt, but when one examines the genuine, day-to-day, real-world impact of a celebrity athlete versus that of a city manager, it’s puzzling to think how “Howard McKinnon” is not a household name, not even in Havana, where the man behind the name was town manager for 13 years until his recent retirement. 

For all his fame and fortune, Roger “the dodger” Staubach’s contribution to the lives of most Americans ends at mere entertainment – a fleeting, dispensable thing. Yet Staubach – decades since he wowed sports fans on the field – still almost certainly enjoys greater name recognition around town than the man who made sure the water flowing from every man, woman and child’s faucet in Havana was top notch. For better or worse, clean water is simply not held in the same regard as things like touchdown passes – for most folks, anyway. Truly dedicated to, even passionate about topics like wastewater management, sidewalk beautification and other public infrastructure topics, Howard McKinnon is among the exceptions to this paradigm. 

Of his countless accomplishments and accolades over the years, McKinnon looks back on his time in Havana and recalls two public works challenges he was instrumental in helping the town overcome as perhaps his greatest claims to fame: the town waste/stormwater treatment plant and the municipal drinking water supply. 

When McKinnon arrived on the Havana scene back in 2006, the town’s aging wastewater treatment system was hanging on by a thread – a victim of time, the elements and old technology. With frequent failures and repairs becoming ever more regular, McKinnon recognized the urgent need for Havana to cease its policy of temporary fixes and stopgap measures, and make an investment toward a new, cutting edge effluent treatment plant that would serve the needs of a growing Havana generations into the future. 

It was an expensive proposition that lacked the photo-op-friendly appeal of, say, advocating for a community recreation center. But McKinnon was never interested in winning popularity contests. His goals lay in serving the average resident through projects that – although vital – largely go unnoticed until disaster strikes. And when it came to keeping Havana’s effluent clean and out of Florida’s watersheds, McKinnon was key, averting water supply disasters long before they even became possibilities. 

And McKinnon went beyond merely requesting that the Havana Town Council build a new wastewater plant. Always keeping the interests of all at the forefront of his decision making, McKinnon was not only key in having Havana’s new water treatment system built, but tracking down the state and federal funds to do so with minimal impact to the town’s bottom line. When all was said and done, Havana’s state-of-the-art $5.5 million waste- and stormwater treatment facility cost local taxpayers just $1 million. More than 80 percent of the hefty price tag was covered by outside sources of bread. And it’s not as if government agencies, nonprofits and other entities are just handing out $4.5 million checks to anyone with his or her hand out. No, tracking down funding to the tune of several million bucks is no easy endeavor, to be sure. Grants must be written and written well. Arguments must be made and made effectively. Havana is far from the only small town with infrastructure needs exceeding budget realities. 

“I always looked hard for sources of assistance – through grants and such,” McKinnon recalled. “I knew if we didn’t do that, the financial impact would be too much on the town budget.” Indeed, McKinnon never approached public works projects with a sense of entitlement; if he made the request, he also did everything he could to facilitate said request, financially, functionally, operationally…

Fast forward a few years from that initial town council request and Havana’s new state-of-the-art water treatment plant is nearly complete – expected to serve the current adult generation’s children, grandchildren and beyond. Another water project about which McKinnon speaks with pride is his work in drilling a new well to not only satisfy the town’s drinking water needs, but provide drinking water of among the highest quality in all of Florida, according to state hydrologists and hydroengineers. Once again, McKinnon’s role in blunting the blow to the town’s budget can hardly be understated. Thanks to grants and other outside sources of cash obtained by McKinnon, the Town of Havana was only required to finance a half-million dollars of the $2 million water supply well-digging project.

Wastewater and wells. But what about McKinnon’s role in job creation via expansion of municipal services to the new Hoover Treated Wood Products plant? What about the long hours he put in to ensure Havana’s electricity returned within mere days of Hurricane Michael, while neighboring towns waited weeks for the lights to turn on? What about countless other examples of times when McKinnon made life better for the people of Havana, either by a sharp mind, steady hand and strong work ethic, or by fearlessly meeting daunting challenges head on? 

Once again, the famously humble town manager is quick to deflect attention from himself. 

Regarding the aftermath of Michael, McKinnon recalls: “The town crew did an excellent job in handling the disaster. We were the first electric utility in the effected area to restore service 100 percent. We had between $250,000 and $300,000 in damages and it it was a major effort to coordinate food and lodging for the 23 additional electric linemen we brought in to assist. It was all a tremendous community effort.”

In McKinnon’s mind, it seems, every accomplishment is thanks not to himself as an individual, but in his role as part of a larger community of capable men and women.

Part IV: Family and future

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to know and work with Howard McKinnon,” said Nick Bert, longtime Havana newspaper publisher and current town council member. “He is both pragmatic and good natured, two traits you don’t find in a lot of public officials. We’ll miss his sage advice and informed recommendations, which over the years resulted in many accomplishments for the Town of Havana. He’s always been a good town manager and a good person.”

When it comes to being effective on the job – or perhaps to a greater degree, holding on to said job – ask anyone who’s held a local council- or commission- appointed position like town manager, and they’ll be quick to tell you that adaptability and top notch interpersonal skills are key. Particularly in politically charged Gadsden County, town council makeups are but dust in the wind, if you can forgive the cliche – quick to change at the whims of a fickle voting populace. And in the past few decades especially, town and county administration has been as fragile and fleeting as the elected councils that appoint them. With radical new politics come radical new ideas and starkly different goals for municipalities, and as is unfortunately human nature – new grudges, new popularity contests, new avenues of uncertainty. In so many towns, as well as county government, in Gadsden County, new head administrators barely have time to warm the chairs in their offices before they’re abruptly shown the door, ushered out by antagonistic new council members in favor of administrators or managers better branded to the ever-vacillating politics of the day. Put simply, if you’re looking for job security as a public administrator in Gadsden County, well…look elsewhere. 

Yet in the 2000s, McKinnon managed to hang on to his county administrator role longer than nearly all his counterparts immediately preceding and following him; and in Havana, McKinnon bore witness to several major council shakeups, yet by all accounts his job was never once in jeopardy. Granted – as has been stated earlier – Havana has largely been spared the political volatility of its neighboring towns and municipal governments. But it certainly isn’t altogether immune. 

Regardless, it takes a special kind of man to survive, even thrive, for 13 years in a town manager office in Gadsden County and be able to leave on his own terms to boot. To quote councilman Bert, it takes a “good town manager.” But equally, if not more importantly, such staying power requires a public administrator to embody the latter half of Bert’s comment, and that is of course: “a good person.” 

And when it comes to McKinnon, you don’t have to take Bert’s word for it; “good person” is tattooed on virtually every conversation, every project, every deed attributable to McKinnon. While a “good town manager” may make double sure municipal landscaping is pristine, electricity is always flowing and the other glaringly obvious, highly public portions of his job description are always up to snuff, a “good person” like McKinnon goes above and beyond these photo-friendly duties, taking care of the little man while no one is watching, ensuring the success of small projects that fail to garner newspaper headlines. 

McKinnon has much to be proud of when looking back on major, generation-spanning achievements like championing Havana’s new wastewater plant, but he seems to speak most fondly of his smaller scale accomplishments and opportunities to tackle issues one-on-one: Helping a local small business owner get his variance approved. Assisting a little old lady in filing her permits. Responding swiftly to the concerns of a small, impoverished neighborhood regarding a pesky pothole on their street. Never showing favoritism. Never leveraging his authority, asking for favors in return or otherwise behaving unethically. This far-less flashy side of the town manager job description hidden from the wider public view proved a major anchor holding McKinnon in the small-town public sector; these unpublicized, routine interpersonal interactions – these opportunities to truly lend a hand to Havana residents on a deeply personal, direct  level – these were among McKinnon’s greatest sources of joy during his tenure as town manager. Listen to him describe such exchanges, and it’s immediately obvious that McKinnon’s heart truly beats with human compassion and a sincere desire to do everything within his power and ability to serve and to help others – never hinder.

“I especially enjoyed some of the ways you help people more directly like getting permits, walking them through the zoning process, fixing potholes, picking up trash…we’d always send someone out to help with these kinds of things, assisting any way we could,” McKinnon recalls. 

McKinnon’s “helping-hand” values were infectious around town hall. Whether via personality osmosis or through McKinnon’s tutelage, the town manager always made sure to instill and nurture a spirit of servitude among those he supervised. 

“The town employees and I are here to serve the citizens. From utility workers to police, we’re all here to serve the people and do what we can for them,” McKinnon declared matter-of-factly, the notion so deep-seated it hardly needed mentioning at all. “I used to tell [town employees], never be a stumbling block to any citizen. Of course there are rules and guidelines we have to follow, but don’t ever look for a reason not to help.”

And as many in Havana will tell you, kindness, good work ethic, selflessness and servitude – whether due to McKinnon’s mentoring or pre-instilled – are famously alive and well among the town staff, in contrast with some other area municipalities, where morale often sags toward the bleak and dismal, and citizens complain that it shows, sadly.

“As I’ve said before, a manager is only as good as his employees, and Havana has very dedicated and conscientious employees. They’re the best. Any time there’s an emergency, whether it be a gas leak, police matter, downed electrical line…they always have a sense to serve. Anything I’ve accomplished is due to the employees who worked for me,” McKinnon said, his humility and gratitude on full display once more.

A good town manager, a good man. The proof is in the pudding. 

Behind every “good man,” it’s said, is a great woman. While perhaps sexist in its gender specificity by today’s standards, the sentiment rings true when discussing Mr. McKinnon. The devoted family man speaks warmly, fondly of his longtime bride, Elaine. 

“Elaine, she has always been a tremendous help to me; she’s been not only my mate but an [indispensable] advisor and supporter,” McKinnon said, enthusiastically and without a moment’s hesitation.

Indeed – for all his love and passion for municipal works and public service, McKinnon’s heart is most at home, well…at home. Hearing the smile in his voice as he names and brags on his children and grandchildren, one notion becomes movingly obvious: Within McKinnon’s professional sphere, politics could change with shifting voter attitudes, loyalties could change with shifting politics, and those who championed him one day could call for his ouster the next – but at home, wife Elaine, son Tyler and daughter Malorie always had Dad’s back. 

Love of family has proven a major contributing factor in McKinnon’s decision to retire at the start of this year. The seemingly perpetually level-headed, calm, moderately tempered McKinnon comes as close to “giddy” as seems possible when speaking of plans to spend more time with Tyler, his wife Brooke and their two children (McKinnon’s grandkids) Maddie, 6, and Riley, 2, all of whom live in Orlando; as well as Malorie, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Pensacola. For their part, Howard and Elaine aren’t ready to spend their days altogether vegging out, either. 

The husband-wife duo have formed a small, family-run tax and accounting firm: HME Bookkeeping and Tax Solutions. And if you can believe it, hard-working Mr. McKinnon said he’s looking forward to playing more golf – or at least “attempting to play more golf” – in retirement, as well. 

For all the happy opportunities for spending greater time with family, golfing and the like McKinnon has to look forward to in retirement, it can’t be easy for anyone to let go of such an important position, held for as long as McKinnon held his seat in the Havana town manager’s office. Yet McKinnon genuinely seems at peace with handing over the keys to the proverbial kingdom to Havana’s youthful new town manager Brad Johnson. 

“I’ve been fortunate enough, and I’ve come to believe that when it’s time to pass the torch, you need to pass the torch,” McKinnon said. “I told the new town manager I support him and want him to be successful. I’m here to do anything I can to help him.” 

McKinnon himself may have retired, but the spirit of selflessness, humility and passion for helping others that resides deep in his soul, it seems, will never rest – always active, revealed through every task he tackles, every step he takes until his body’s dying breath.

By Brian Dekle