On Tuesday, the Marion City Council honored Jay Melton as the Citizen of the Month for March.
Melton, 40, was chosen for this honor by Councilman Don Ramsey.
“This month, Marion City Council honors Jay Melton for his kindness, commitment and inspiration to others with his positive personality,” said Ramsey in his introduction. “Jay is like that hidden jewel – strategically placed in a position to see almost every person in McDowell County.”
Melton works at the Walmart Supercenter in Marion as a greeter and has been employed at both local Walmart locations for around 17 years. But he and other Walmart employees like him made national news recently when the retail giant informed the greeters about their new job requirements.
Melton, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has been able for years to greet customers at the Marion store with a smile and a hello. But last month, Walmart informed him and other greeters throughout the retail chain about the changes regarding their job. They would go from being a greeter to being a “customer host.” That means within 60 days from Monday of last week these greeter employees would now have to stand for long periods of time and be able to lift 25 pounds. Some greeters are able to perform these tasks and keep working at Walmart. But Melton and others like him with disabilities cannot do these tasks.
When his family posted this news on social media and talked with The McDowell News, it resulted in a tremendous amount of support for Melton and lots of anger against Walmart, which is a multinational corporation and the world’s largest private employer.
“The community rallied around Jay and wanted him to remain at Walmart,” said Ramsey.
More than 18,000 signatures were collected on an online petition and the mayor and the City Council wrote a letter in support of keeping Melton at the Marion Walmart. His story and others like him were told national news media outlets like ABC News, USA Today and National Public Radio.
“It was as if our community was taking on big business to try and change their new policy,” said Ramsey.
Last week, the Marion store announced Melton accepted a position as a self-checkout host and will keep working there.
“It takes a certain kind of manager or company to look at a change and realize there is a better alternative,” said Ramsey. “Walmart saw what was best and for that we are grateful.”
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Steve Little presented Melton with a certificate and a Marion mug. Melton was joined by family members as he received this honor.
“I am just thankful that the county stood up for me,” he said with emotion.
In other business, the Marion City Council:
* Approved the closing of downtown streets for the following events for this year: Sweet Treats of the Carolinas Festival (April 20), Marion Cruise-In (April 27), Blue Ridge Recovery Rally (May 18), Memorial Day Weekend Car Show (May 25), Liver Mush Festival (June 1), Marion Cruise-In (June 15), Independence Day parade and events (July 4), Marion Cruise-In (July 20), National Night Out (Aug. 6), Brews Blues and BBQ (Aug. 17), Bigfoot Festival (Sept. 13 and 14), Marion Cruise-In (Sept. 21), Mountain Glory Festival (Oct. 12), Boos and Brews 5K (Oct. 19), Halloween Car Show (Oct. 26), Dia de Muertos (Nov. 2), Marion Christmas parade (Nov. 24), Christmas Fest (Dec. 20) and New Year’s Eve celebration (Dec. 31).
* Agreed to sell a small portion of city-owned land. The city will seek to sell one-tenth of an acre of land on Ridge Street to Derek Forbes for $9,000. The sale has to go through the negotiated offer and upset bid process before it is final.
* Approved an interlocal agreement with McDowell County and the McDowell Trails Association concerning trail maintenance and development.
* Approved the purchase of a 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV for $34,827 from Ilderton Dodge in High Point for the Marion Police Department. The upfit cost for police use is $6,075 bringing it to a total of $40,902. This SUV will be bought through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association bid procurement process.
* Appointed Niki Palmer to the Tree Board.