CEO J. Ronald McElheney, who retired last month after 45 years of dedicated service to Jones-Onslow and its customers, was recognized recently for his community service excellence by North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCroy.

Governor McCroy presented Mr. McElheney with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. The award, the state’s highest civilian honor, recognizes individuals who have contributed exemplary service that has made significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

In a surprise presentation at Dixon Elementary School, Governor McCroy praised Mr. McElheney and Jones-Onslow for leadership in supporting education (specifically the Bright Ideas Grant Program), as well as the local communities that the cooperative serves.

Called a “phenomenal leader” who was always in touch with his employees, McCroy went on to say of Mr. McElheney, “He understands the connection between economic development and public education. Ron McElheney represents the best of North Carolina.”

Mr. McElheney started with Jones-Onslow in 1970 and has served as CEO of the cooperative since 1988. Known for his leadership in local economic development and support for the military community, he also served on the boards of Coastal Carolina Community College, the Jacksonville-Onslow Economic Development Commission and Committee of 100, and the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, where he was recognized in 1998 as its Golden Eagle “Man of the Year.” Mr. McElheney was also chairman of the chamber’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC), which is regarded as one of the best MACs in the country.

Dixon Elementary School educator Beth Howard, a 21-time JOEMC Bright Ideas grant recipient, also received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award from Governor McCroy. Howard’s Bright Ideas grants have benefited more than 20,000 students over the years.