Imagine, for a moment, that Mercury Racing’s Rick Mackie is one of the Fond du Lac, Wis., company’s engines. That would mean the 56-year-old senior marketing specialist has gone approximately 60,000 hours—the total you get by multiplying a 40-hour workweek by a 50-week work-year by 30 such years on the job—without a rebuild.
Rick Mackie celebrated his 30th year working at Mercury Racing this week (click image to enlarge).
But the truth about Mackie, who reached that milestone two days ago, is this: He doesn’t need one. The high-performance marine engine and accessories company is, like his giant heart, an integral part of who he is. And it’s been that way since Mackie was a kid growing up with five siblings in Sault St. Marie, Mich.
“When I was in third grade I was kind of brainwashed by my older brother, Jim,” he said. “When he was in the seventh grade, he built a C-class hydroplane with a Mercury outboard engine in our garage. I would go out with him on the water, and he would steer and I would throttle. That was pretty good for a little kid.
“My brother and I used to write letters to Mercury Hi-Performance, which was located then in Oshkosh (Wis.) all the time asking them for posters and stickers,” he added. “My brother even designed a tunnel boat for me with a Mercury Five outboard engine. He went on to become a naval architect.”
Mackie graduated high school in 1979 and—after an 18-month stint as a mechanical engineering student at Michigan Technical College followed by several years off—he earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Lake Superior Statement University in 1987. He went to work for Mercury Racing a year later as a product support specialist and worked primarily in the company’s tunnel-boat racing program at various events.
A couple of years later under Mercury Racing’s then-new public relations manager Tom Mueller, Mackie’s role shifted to helping Mueller directly with new product introductions and working closely with the media, as well as consumers, at boat shows and events around the country.
But perhaps the most pivotal moment in Mackie’s career came in 1990 when, under new leader Fred Kiekhaefer, Mercury Hi-Performance and Kiekhaefer Aeromarine, became one as Mercury Racing.
“I was like, ‘Carl Kiekhaefer had a son?’ ” he said, then laughed. “’Who is this guy?’ At that time, we had two different locations, one in Oshkosh and the one we have here in Fond du Lac. And eventually we all ended up here under the same roof.
“It was something else—it was a rush,” he continued. “Fred said at the time he took over a ‘three-million-dollar-a-year loser.’ By 1994, we were breaking even. And in 1995 though 1999, the business just went crazy.”
Kiekhaefer, who left the company in 2012, immediately recognized something special in Mackie. And although Mackie admitted that he and Kiekhaefer “definitely had a few rough moments” during the years, they became close friends.
“One of the biggest reasons I miss my time at Mercury Racing is being surrounded by so many talented people,” Kiekhaefer said. “Rick is among the best. He’s great at his work. Moreover, he’s a true friend.”
With Kiekhaefer’s encouragement and support from Mercury Marine, Mackie earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin in 1998. He was 36 years old and had been married to Jodi Schroeder for four years.
On the 24th anniversary—to the day—of his tenure at Mercury Racing, Jodi Mackie died suddenly, leaving Mackie behind with their adopted, then eight-year-old son, Jordan. In a tragic instant, Mackie became a single parent to a boy struggling with associated behavioral and educational challenges of Atttention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
While caring for his son took Mackie off the road as one of Mercury Racing’s most public faces for several years, he never lost his passion for his job. In the past few years, he’s seen his son, now 14 years old and a high-school freshman on the junior varsity soccer squad, steadily improve.
No one enjoys Mercury Racing-powered products than Mackie. Said Steve MIller, “Rick has been a Mercury Racing enthusiast since he was a boy and for the past 30 years he has brought that enthusiasm to work every single day.”
“He’s doing really well,” Mackie said. “All of the sudden, he’s maturing and things have gotten much better. The first few years were very challenging. There were behavioral issues at school and home. But he’s really maturing and I think he’s doing well. Soccer always has been a great outlet for Jordan—he’s been really good at it since he was about five years old. It’s really cool he has soccer now, and the entire team supports him. He got into a game the other day and everyone on his team was cheering him on. I almost started balling.
Mackie paused for a moment. “Through this whole thing, we’ve had tons of support in the community,” he said.
As Mackie sees it, right now—with the recent release of the V-8 outboard engine platform across Mercury Marine’s various lines—is one of the most exciting times in Mercury Racing history. That’s noteworthy coming from a man who played a key role in the public unveilings of engine products such as the HP 500 Bulldog, the 525 EFI, the 700 SCi and the entire Quad Cam Four Valve (QC4v) engine series for the past 30 years.
In short, Mackie is a living through-line of Mercury Racing’s past, present and future. No one has put more into the company and no one is prouder of its accomplishments.
And no one at Mercury Racing is more beloved by his colleagues and peers.
“Rick has been a Mercury Racing enthusiast since he was a boy and for the past 30 years he has brought that enthusiasm to work every single day,” said Steve Miller, the company’s director of sales, marketing and service. “He has a tremendously deep level of what I like to call ‘tribal knowledge’—he knows all the products, all the boats, all the players and a large percentage of the consumers who use our products. He brings a sense of creativity and passion to the business that rubs off on the rest of the Mercury Racing team.”
Mackie has been part of every new Mercury Racing product release for the past 30 years.
“Rick’s presence lights up the office from the minute he arrives in the morning,” said Kevin Skiba, the company’s national sales manager. “He is absolutely passionate about all things Mercury and his passion has burned brightly since he was a little kid. I have been blessed to have Rick as my coworker for the last 19 years since I joined Mercury Racing but I am truly blessed to have him as my friend for life. I love Rick like a brother.”
As for Mackie, his passion for the company he used to dream of working for burns as brightly as ever.
“I still get excited to come to work every day because it’s all constantly changing—the industry, the products and the people,” Mackie said. “It’s really exciting. And the people around here are so humble. They’re just a bunch of good, hard-working Midwesterners building all this amazing product at a place in the middle of a cornfield in Fond du Lac. The people behind the product are what make the difference.”
For 30 years, Rick Mackie hasn’t just been one of those people. He’s been one of the very best of them.