MCC Alumni Feature: Jimmy Newkirk, leading Scottville on a new path. 

April 28, 2022

MCC Alumni Feature: Jimmy Newkirk, leading Scottville on a new path. 

Spartan News is presented by Mason County Central Schools in partnership with Mason County Press. This special series of Spartan News features alumni of MCC. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

  • MCC class of 1993
  • Undergraduate degree: bachelor of political science, Grand Valley State University; social studies teaching certification, Saginaw Valley State University. 
  • Current position: Scottville city manager. 

SCOTTVILLE — O’Neil James Newkirk III, known by most as Jimmy, always thought he would have a long career as a teacher, like many in his family. School budget cuts in the late-90s made him re-access that career choice, which lead him to two decades with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources parks division and then recently back home to Scottville where he became the city manager in May 2021. 

“After two layoffs in two different school districts, I needed to find another plan,” he says. “I had worked a couple summers at Ludington State Park, so after the second layoff I applied for a park ranger job there and was lucky enough to be hired.” 

He stayed at Ludington State Park two seasons and then transferred to Silver Lake State Park, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Porcupine Mountains WIlderness State Park and then Harrisville State Park. 

“While this was a career I didn’t plan originally, it was very good to me,” he says. “I always loved the outdoors and working with people. This was also a great opportunity to do things I loved to do and get paid for doing it. When the opportunity to come home and be part of the growth and development in Scottville came up, I couldn’t pass it up.” 

Jimmy says he believes city management is a natural fit for him. 

“I think this career really chose me,” he says. “I have always loved government and how it functions. With my dad and grandpa both being social studies teachers it was always a topic of conversation. I took the next step by studying politics at Grand Valley and seeing how and why things are done the way they are.  This experience has given me a great background to come back here and get the city government functioning proactively.

“My favorite part of being the Scottville city manager is working with the business owners, residents, and outside parties in spurring development and seeing Scottville come back to life.”

Jimmy has some big “boots” to fill in Scottville. He is the grandson of legendary Mason County Central High School teacher O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk. Jimmy’s grandmother, June, taught preschool while his mother, Connie, taught middle school for many years. Jimmy’s father, Jim, taught at Hart High School and then at West Shore Community College. All have passed. 

Jimmy was the third generation of Newkirks to attend Scottville/MCC schools. His grandmother, June, attended school there, as did his father, his uncle Bill, his aunts Susie, Cindy, and Paula, and along with his sister, Kerry.

“There is such a strong family connection to MCC that we started the Newkirk Family Education Scholarship for students attending Central Michigan University pursuing a teaching degree,” he says.

“I attended MCC for all of my schooling. Most of my best memories are from athletics and band. I was one of the first freshmen to be selected for the jazz band and actually graduated with an extra class credit because jazz band was at zero hour my freshman year and I still kept a full academic schedule. I don’t play much anymore outside of helping my oldest daughter practice and enjoy listening to some of the trumpet players that influenced me. Playing at the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival and once with Doc Severinsen are probably the highlights of my band experience.

“I also had a great time running track and cross country at MCC. I was never the fastest but I did win one junior varsity cross country race at WSCC. My times I had slid back for a couple of races and I ran in the JV race at the Briggs True Value Invitational. This was quite a coincidence because I was working for Al and Elaine Deering at Briggs Hardware at the time. I was either having a really good day or maybe Al told me to hurry up and finish because I couldn’t have the afternoon off. But I led that JV race from start to finish. I had my best personal record and was back up to varsity the rest of my career. My love of running at MCC and the success our teams experienced led me to walk on to GVSU’s track team. I was able to travel, run, and by some miracle placed sixth in the 1500-meter at the GLIAC indoor championships in 1994. My love of track found at MCC and GVSU pushed me try coaching where I was successful at Mason County Eastern, Saginaw Arthur Hill, and Manistique Area Schools.”

On May 3, voters in the Mason County Central School District are being asked to decide on a 1.95 mills bond request that will raise $33 million towards school facility and technology improvements. Highlights of the bond include safety and security upgrades in all five of the school buildings, upgrades to the high school (including renovations to B and C halls, new administrative offices, renovations of A.O. Carlson Gym and construction of an auditorium), repairs to the school campus streets and athletic facility upgrades.

“I was fortunate to play in the “old” band room with the tiered flooring for about a year before the expansion was built,” he says. “I say fortunate because I don’t think you can truly appreciate something new unless you experience the old. During my years the concert band was large enough we were cramped up on the stage and we played our concerts mostly on the gym floor. It also made pep band interesting as you always had to keep an eye out for basketballs that came careening onto the stage. 

“Having the opportunity for students to play in an auditorium to me is exactly the same as providing the proper field for athletics to play on. During the few years I taught school I used the auditorium in those schools when I was teaching lessons on the legislative branch. I set the stage similar to the House of Representatives or Senate and the legislators sat in the front seats just like the real ones do. The students got a much more realistic feel for what they were learning because they got to experience it. I would hope voters will think outside the box and not just limit this space to band performances, forensics, dramatic arts, community speakers, meetings, and many other uses I’m not thinking of.”

Jimmy says he enjoys being back in Scottville. He likes to spend most of his spare time with his school-aged daughters.

“I am enjoying being back in the area with my two daughters and going to the places and doing the things that I enjoyed doing when I grew up here. I never felt it was a detriment to be known because your parents or grandparents were well known in the area. Grandpa taught high school at MCC for 39 years, Mom taught about 15 years in the junior high, my dad taught at Hart for 40 years, and my grandma worked for Head Start in the area in a few roles for over 20 years also. Toss in my aunts, uncle, and cousins who all went to school here and you get used to ‘being known.’ My kids are getting a similar experience now with my job as city manager.

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