11/23/07 — WAGES will have new leadership in January

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WAGES will have new leadership in January

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 23, 2007 2:12 PM

A replacement for retiring WAGES Executive Director Bryan Sutton has been named by its governing board.

Dr. Marlee Ray, who recently retired as director of instructional support services with Wayne County Public Schools, will take over the reins Jan. 1, one day after Sutton leaves.

"They made an excellent choice," said Sutton, who has been with WAGES -- Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency Inc. -- since its inception 42 years ago. "We have known Marlee for years, have collaborated with her in several programs."

Sutton said he plans to continue his involvement on several boards, and might do some traveling. His departure from the familiar role is bittersweet, he noted.

"I could sort of stay here forever, but I think it's fair to move along and let some new ideas come in," he said.

Dr. Craig McFadden, chairman of the WAGES board, also chaired the search committee for Sutton's successor.

"We had 24 applicants for the position," he said. "We had a lot of interest."

It was quite a lengthy process, McFadden admitted. Sutton announced his retirement more than six months ago, in May.

"We took our time," McFadden said. "We interviewed, and I think we came up with the very best candidate."

He added that he "hates to see Bryan go. He's done a wonderful job." At the same time, Dr. Ray has a history with the WAGES programs and has a knowledge of the organization.

"She's going to do a wonderful job," he said.

When Dr. Ray attended ceremonies this past spring honoring retirees from the school system, she was uncertain of the next direction her life would take.

"I think it worked out perfectly. I knew I wanted to do something and I knew there were some things in town," she says now. "I've been familiar with this organization for years. My mother actually worked there for years."

WAGES holds a rich legacy of providing support to the community, she said, so "it's just a real honor to be able to be part of an organization that has provided that much for our community."

The community action agency boasts one of the strongest foundations in the state, she said, crediting the man who will soon be her predecessor.

"That's happened because Bryan Sutton has built a strong program," she said. "It's wonderful to come in and follow someone who built such a strong program and built all the things that are in place."

The staff is also comprised of "people with a lot of vision and passion for what they do," Dr. Ray said, so coming in and being a part of such a team is "a real honor."

Dr. Ray is a 32-year veteran of public education, starting as a classroom teacher and then coordinator with Wake County Schools, as well as an elementary school principal there. She has also worked with exceptional children programs in Wake and then Wayne County.

She earned her master's degree and doctorate, in educational leadership, from East Carolina University.

She said she is looking forward to her new career path.

"I think this next chapter holds many challenges, exciting opportunities for growth and expansion of the programs that are already in place and maybe looking for ways to keep support for the needy in our community," she said.

One of her initial goals, she noted, will be to bring even more awareness to the public of the variety of services WAGES offers.

"It's such a strong agency," she said. "It's important to keep a strong base of support for the people who have a need to benefit from it."