When it comes to voting, it is often said that “every vote counts.” That old adage really rang true for Houston native Ray B. Shackelford, as he was recently elected as the 10th national president of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) by a narrow one-vote margin.

The vote took place at the recent National Urban League (NUL) Annual Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. NULYP is a National Urban League volunteer auxiliary that targets young professionals from the ages of 21 to 40 years old, who seek to empower their communities and change lives through the movement. NULYP’s mission is to support the Urban League Movement through volunteerism, philanthropy and membership development.

Since its inception in 1999, NULYP has worked to support its affiliates and to develop a leadership pipeline for the NUL. Over the years, the NULYP’s role has expanded to a point where it has provided leadership in every space, while helping to bridge generational gaps and solve problems that have plagued the African American community for decades.

Shackelford is a Houstonian at the helm of the very organization that was launched in his home city of Houston exactly twenty years ago.

“This all still seems surreal,” said Shackelford. “I am humbled and thankful for this awesome responsibility.”

It is also fitting that Shackelford will be at the helm of leading the organization, as the NUL Annual Conference will be returning to his hometown of Houston in 2020.

Shackelford was born and reared in Houston’s Third Ward, where he spent his childhood attending Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. After graduating from Lamar High School, he left Houston to attend Morehouse College, where he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, concentrating in Finance.

Upon returning to Houston, Shackelford became a member of the Houston Area Urban League for Young Professionals (HAULYP) and was eventually elected to serve as its president.

As president, he steered HAULYP to an intense focus on service programming and connecting with the community. His impact in that role led to him being named as the National President of the Year. Shackelford went on to serve as southern region vice president of NULYP before recently being elected to serve as the 10th National President.

Recognized as a leader in his community, Shackelford was nominated by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council to serve on the city’s Independent Police Oversight Board (IPOB), making him one of the youngest members to serve on that board in the city’s history.

In this role, Shackelford reviews investigations conducted by the Houston Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division when officers use force on civilians or discharge their firearms.

After reviewing those cases, Shackelford and his peers make recommendations to the Mayor, Chief of Police, and the Public Safety representative for City Council.

Not only is Shackelford an Eagle Scout, he is also a proud member of the Rho Beta Beta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., as well as a graduate of the Houston Black Leadership Institute Class II, National Urban League Emerging Leaders Class VII, United Way Project Blueprint Class XXXV, and Leadership Houston Class XXXVII.

He is also the father of a nine-year old daughter, Jordan. While maintaining significant commitment to his community, Shackelford has also excelled in his professional life. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston, and previously worked for the Houston Area Urban League in its Housing Programs department and as a certified housing counselor for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

In both roles, Shackelford worked to solve housing issues facing disadvantaged communities. He is currently working on a major Census 2020 project to ensure an accurate count for African Americans in the upcoming year.

Shackelford understands that he must gain the trust and respect of all members, especially those who did not vote for him. He is optimistic that the organization can thrive with collective unity and focus on advancing the movement.

“Just like I didn’t get here on my own, moving forward the same will be true,” said Shackelford. “In the coming months, my team and I look forward to meeting with the members across the country and hearing their ideas of how we can work together to advance the movement. It will take all of us to create the impact that we want to see, and our communities desperately need.”

Shackelford knows it will take a lot of hard work to accomplish those goals. He believes the current climate in this country as it relates to African Americans won’t allow him to be deterred from his mission to better the organization.

“Today we live in a nation where Black lives have little to no value, mass shootings have become the norm, children are being stripped from their families, women cannot receive equal pay, and a host of other issues. So, what does that mean for you and I?” asks Shackelford. “We must achieve record voter turnout in both presidential and local elections. We must ensure that every soul is counted in the census. We must become the best version of ourselves and we must come together as a family. We are necessary. We are needed and we must all step up to lead now. The time is now, and this is too important of a time to have a seat on the sidelines.”

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Boney is an award-winning journalist, international speaker, entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.