After eight months and a horde of Acting Operations Managers, the US Army Corps of Engineers finally has a new sheriff in town. On June 24, Ricky Raymond arrived from Jasper, Texas to take the reigns as Operations Manager for Lake Shelbyville, a position left vacant by Andrea Lewis in October of 2006.

"This is a lot like where I grew up," said Raymond pointing to the area surrounding the lake. "In the southeastern part of Texas, we have rolling hills and pine trees - a lot like here." Raymond also said he is an avid hunter and had taken notice of some of the wildlife, "There are a lot of rabbits here. There would have to be a lot of rabbit hunters around. We used to run our beagles and rabbit hunt back home."

Raymond was born in Earle, Arkansas, about 20 miles from West Memphis. Raymond worked with the Arkansas State Parks system for four years before going to work with the Corps in Texas. "My first job with the Corps was at Lake Sam Rayburn and I stayed there for 20 years. Sam Rayburn is one of the biggest lakes in Texas. What I like about Lake Shelbyville is that I can drive around in it a few hours, not a few days."

(The Sam Rayburn Reservoir comprises 142,700 surface acres as opposed to Lake Shelbyville with 11,100 acres).

Raymond brings with him his wife of 23 years, Susan, a native of Baton Rouge, LA; daughter Christine, age 18; son Christopher, age 12 and Elizabeth age 10. "Christine is getting ready to start college this fall. She will probably attend Lake Land for a while and then transfer. Christopher and Elizabeth will probably attend school here in Shelbyville. We are currently renting a house near Lithia Springs and will decide on which home we will buy before school starts so we can get settled in. We've already bought a season pool pass and Christopher is out there almost every day. Christopher is also enrolled at the Taekwondo Academy and will be in Boy Scouts. Elizabeth is a soccer player and the new soccer field under construction will be a big plus for her."

Raymond came up last year as Acting Operations Manager for a while before accepting the job. "I was here last winter and got an idea of what winter is like here. I figured if I can survive one winter, I can make it. My son is anxious to sled down the dam hill. Last year when they were up, they just missed the big snow. They got here just before it snowed and the second time it snowed just after we left. We are looking forward having the full range of seasons here. You don't have that in Texas, it's just hot and hotter. It is not unusual to run the air conditioning in February."

Raymond is also no stranger to an agricultural community. "I chopped cotton, beans, and rice for $5.00 a day. I rode tractors and did most everything a farm boy would do. We didn't have corn, but we had rice. Susan introduced me to Cajun cooking. Before I met her, the only thing I thought rice was good for was rice pudding and I thought crawfish was something you only used for fish bait."

Raymond said that the size of the town and quality of life in Shelbyville influenced his decision to move here. "Shelbyville is a good size town. I like the small towns, so that was definitely an incentive to come here. You couldn't pay me enough to live in a big city like St. Louis or Dallas. I have been very impressed with this community. For a small town, Shelbyville offers a lot. The park system here is very involved, you have a very nice swimming pool, good trails, people walking on streets. I knew then that this must be a safe town for all those people to be out at the park , downtown, and down by the lake taking an evening or afternoon stroll. I grew up in a small town with a population of about 3,000. But still, we had to lock the doors and had to be careful when we went out for a walk or a jog. I used to love to jog."

Coincidentally, Andrea Lewis was born in Texas and took over as Operations Manager of Lake Shelbyville in 2000. She accepted an appointment in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2006 so she could be closer to family. Raymond was born in Arkansas before going to Texas, and is now in Shelbyville. It is almost like Raymond and Lewis had exchanged places.

Raymond said his house hunting adventure is almost complete. "I would rather live in the country and Susan likes the city. I am sure we will reach a compromise and live in the city," laughed Raymond.

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