The license plate YBRJOAT on Ron Makela’s truck hints at both his past and present lives.
YBR — Yellow Brick Road, the name of his home maintenance company, and JOAT for “jack of all trades,” which makes sense when you get to know him.
In his 60-some years, Makela has been a 1970’s protester (his words); deputy marshall in Crested Butte, Colorado; mastered the building trades; sold cars; served as president of the Civic League Association, spent 14 years as a professional firefighter and EMT in Tidewater, retiring as captain; and worked at the Chrysler Art Museum in Norfolk.
“That where I learned to hang pictures,” he says, which he now does for RAAC’s annual art tour and private clients.
In the 90s, he came to Rappahannock County with his soon-to-be wife, Jan, whom he had known for 20 years in Virginia Beach. Here he managed Jan’s longtime family’s store in Amissville, was elected to the school board, chaired the county’s Recreational Facilities Authority, started Yellow Brick Road, and runs lights and builds sets for RAAC Community Theatre.
Now he can add to that impressive resume: Member of the Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals. Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker signed the order May 25 appointing Makela, whose first meeting as BZA member will be June 27.
“The BZA makes decisions that can affect a lot of people in the county,” says Makela.
It’s important to him that the BZA focuses on the nature of a request, not about who brought the request.
“People make requests,” he says. “You have to look at what the request is. Then you have to look at the code and see if it fits. I’ve been to numerous meetings where [the issue] became about the ‘who,’ and not about the ‘what.’ You can’t be swayed by emotional presentations that aren’t backed up by the code.”
Makela seems naturally civic-minded, serving the community wherever he has resided. He says he first became involved as a Boy Scout, studying civics and government, in his home town of Grand Rapids, Mich. He learned about planning and zoning while serving on the Civic League Association in Virginia Beach.
He met Jan in Virginia Beach at a basketball game between Michigan State, his alma mater, and a long forgotten other team.
“She was a new elementary teacher,” he says, “out with a group of friends.”
Did they hit it off immediately?
“Not really,” Makela says with a laugh. “We were part of a bar crowd, so we ran into each other frequently.”
He says he’s looking forward to serving on the BZA, despite the challenges.
“At times you have to not be afraid to say what needs to be said and to deal with the issues,” says Makela. “You can’t be afraid to make decisions.”
In fact, he says, he once had a wall poster “that was kind of what I based my life on. It read, ‘Not to decide is to decide.’”