Columbia City Manager, Civic Volunteer
Year Inducted: 2015
Ray Beck grew up in St. Elizabeth, Missouri and after earning a degree in civil engineering, serving in the Army and working in state government he arrived at his first job with the city of Columbia in 1960. In a year’s time he became the Director of Public Works. At the time the town had a population of 36,600 and was a mere 10.5 square miles. In 1960 Columbia had no uniform sanitation system, no modern water system, very few public parks, antiquated sewer systems, no storm drainage system and was working from a master plan developed in 1935. During 24 years of supervising Public Works and another 21 years as Columbia’s City Manager, Ray Beck was a guiding force in reversing those situations and in helping to create a community that was winning awards for excellence in all area public works and city planning.
Among the hundreds of improvements to the community that occurred under Ray’s watch and sometimes by his conception and direction: 80 miles of streets constructed, dozens of miles of sewers rehabilitated, the creation of flood plan management protocol, the approval and implementation of a storm water utility, implementation of the first city-owned transit system, the rehabilitation of the old municipal airport and subsequent creation of Cosmopolitan Park.
Ray managed smart and forward-looking annexations that enlarged the city boundaries by six-fold, while making investments in green spaces and multiple parks, trails and other recreational facilities. Ray’s other achievements include: managing the creation of the Columbia Regional Airport, the construction of the ARC recreational facilities, acquiring land for the trailhead for the MKT Trail, property for the new City Hall and Stephens Lake Park.
In retirement Ray spends time volunteering for Boone County Historical Society and Father Tolton Catholic High School where he supervised the fundraising for its construction in 2005. Ray’s life and work have had an immeasurably positive impact on the present and future success of “College Town USA”.