She says 'hello' and we say 'goodbye'
Margo Yates is the unofficial Walmart greeter of Marion.
Sure, the giant retailer doesn’t have a store here, but if it did, Yates might well be one of its employees greeting customers at the door.
Officially, Yates is community enrichment director and interim zoning administrator for the city.
People looking for a place to open a business, buy a home, find out the headliner at Chingawassa Days, or apply to be a vendor at Art in the Park often call her first.
Yates writes detailed, two-page reports every two weeks for city council agenda packets about how she’s spent her time in a town that doesn’t have a Chamber of Commerce or an economic development director.
An excerpt from her most recent report, dated July 7: “Answered the question, ‘When is Old Settlers Day this year?’ ”
(Her answer, in case you also are wondering: “It’s always the last Saturday of September.”)
The next entry: “Asked again two more times about the date for Old Settlers Day. LOL.”
- “Left a message for a business owner who has asked for my help with ideas. I have a new idea!”
- “Per request, messaged beekeeper about bees in the trees in the park and what is recommended.”
- “Asked young handyman if he would like to be introduced to a young man who is flipping houses.”
- “Tried to help new resident find someone to do indoor painting. First idea is retiring. Still trying.”
- “Helped the city office figure out an invoice that was to be paid by Chingawassa Days.”
Earlier in her career in Marion, Yates worked a mishmash of jobs — all at one time — to support her family.
“I’ve worked for the community in one capacity or another since 1993,” she said.
“I started out as a part-time recreation director for the city and school. I also was part-time chamber executive secretary. I was doing the county beat for the Record. I was the community service work coordinator for the 8th Judicial District. They don’t have that position anymore.
“It took all four of those jobs to make it work.”
Yates grew up in McPherson and has lived in Marion since 1990.
She enjoys her job because “you do something different every day,” she said. “I really do like helping people. People appreciate it. It’s sad that our world has gotten away from the good old customer service.
“My dad would write handwritten notes on every invoice he sent. He was an insurance man in McPherson. He was very involved in the community. He was the May Day (All Schools Day) parade chairman for many years. He was in every club. He was just very, very active with the community.”
So is Yates, who plans to retire from the city when she turns 65 in May. She’s not sure whether she’ll fully retire, though.
“I think I’d probably go crazy,” she said about the prospect of not having at least a part-time job,” she said. “I don’t think I can just sit around, and my doctor doesn’t want me to just sit around.”
Yates prides herself on answering people’s questions.
“I just don’t like to tell people ‘I don’t know’ and not do anything more to help them,” she said. “So I’ll say, ‘I don’t know, but give me your number and I’ll try to find something out.’ ”
Once, someone called her about who could help get raccoons out of an attic.
“I called the Corps of Engineers, and they loaned them a live trap,” she said.
Although she’s not a real estate agent, Yates fields a lot of calls about properties for sale. Homes in Marion tend to get offers quickly, and inventory is tight.
“One night,” she said, “I was in a meeting in the evening, and someone said, ‘So-and-so is going to be putting their house up for sale.’ I sent a text to someone who was looking, and by the time they called in the morning, it already had a contract.”
Yates planned to be a journalist but quickly learned most reporters don’t make much money. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in sociology. She started at what is now Butler Community College and studied for two years at the University of Missouri, one of the nation’s mostly highly regarded journalism schools. She finished at Wichita State University.
“She’s a valuable asset to the city of Marion,” council member Ruth Herbel said. “Everybody kind of relies on Margo. She’s the go-to girl if you need anything.
“She’s willing to help anybody. If somebody has a question, she’s going to find the answer.”
Last modified July 13, 2023