By Kim Wireman Rudd
If a man is defined by what he does then Charles Michael “Mike” Prater could fill a dictionary.
Born on June 16, 1945, the second son of Robert "Bob" Prater and his wife Trudy and older brother Bobby Ray. His father Bob was the owner and editor of the Salyersville Independent for many years in addition to being one of the merchants who made up the string of stores in downtown Salyersville in those days.
Born and raised within the Salyersville City limits, he loved his community and went on to live the majority of his life as a resident of the Dixie Addition.
After high school graduation, he continued his education at Eastern Kentucky University where he majored in accounting. The first few years of his professional career were spent teaching in the Magoffin County School system where he ultimately became Head Start Director.
In 1968, he opened Prater Tax Service from his home. The business grew and prospered through the years. At one point, Prater’s Tax Service had a more than 500 clients that it preformed tax and accounting work for. Many of whom remained not only lifelong clients, but lifelong friends. One such client is Mark Rice, Principal of South Magoffin Elementary. "Mike was a student of my dad's as a member of the high school band. They always had a special bond, not just as student/teacher but through going to church together," said Rice. "Mike did my first tax return when I was 17 years old and every year since. He was just a good fella. I knew that he would always try to do what was right and that's the kind of people I like to do business with."
Deeply dedicated to the development of Magoffin County and Salyersville and throughout his life Mike worked toward that end. He was a longstanding member of the Salyersville City Council and served as Salyersville City Manager and was a member of the Magoffin County Election Board. He was also appointed as Magoffin County Treasurer for a term. In March of 1990, Mike was appointed a member of the Salyersville National Bank of Directors. He remained on that board until his passing. He was also involved in the planning of Ramey Memorial Park and served on the park board for several years.
Mike expanded his business interests as he became partners in the building two restaurants, Lee’s and Dairy Queen on restaurant row. "Mike didn't just get into that business because it might be a good investment. He did it to help Magoffin County citizens. To provide more jobs and services," said Rice. "He always had other people's best interests at heart."
An avid competitor of the game, Mike loved tennis and spent countless evenings in the park (also known as his back yard) playing. He shared his interest in the game as Magoffin County High School's tennis coach and as a mentor to others using the park tennis courts. One such student was Michael Long, "I have known Mike since I was a teen. He helped teach me to play tennis at the park. I kind of stunk at it and through playing doubles with him, I got to where I was pretty competitive."
"I think that getting to know him through tennis made me interested in accounting. He was always a positive influence and so I had a positive impression of his profession," Long said.
"I worked the whole time I was completing my degree, in other accounting firms and as a financial analyst in Floyd County Schools, before opening my own office," continued Long. "Then in February, Mike approached me about taking over the bulk of his clients." Though he had to slow down on his work load, Mike never quit. He continued to work most of his clients throughout his illness. For now, clients old and new can contact Prater Tax Service at the office in Dixie or at Michael Long's Tax Service in downtown Salyersville.
"Mike was always a supportive influence in my life," said Rice. "He was always there with financial guidance and tried to help me make good decisions in my business and personal life. Mike was a devout Christian and never passed up a chance to share that with me. Always urging me to attend church."
"People could trust Mike. He was a character and he helped build our city and county. We don't have many people like Mike and that's a shame."