Milestones, transitions & longevity

By Gary Abernathy – [email protected]

One thing we are blessed with at The Times-Gazette is longevity across all our departments. It really does make a difference.

As we reported last week, Sharon Hughes celebrated her 30th anniversary here last Wednesday. I well remember that day in 1985 when she first burst into the building. Burst, or explode, or crash, or some other verb describing a tornado-like action is appropriate. Sharon will never be accused of sauntering into a room. When she arrives, she arrives, all enthusiasm, excitement and energy.

Her coworkers brought in a cake last week inscribed with the words, “It’s been a thrill.” That’s a phrase Sharon uses to conclude most of her phone calls. When she says it, she means it.

Sharon is a morning person. I am not a morning person. Sharon has learned to allow me a cup of coffee in the morning before bursting into my office with the latest exciting development, which might be a huge sale she closed, or a new scarf she bought. There is no difference in her level of enthusiasm describing one event compared to the other.

A few people misunderstood the anniversary and thought Sharon was retiring. She is not. She says she plans to celebrate her 40th anniversary here, and I hope she does. She’s a tremendous asset to this organization in more ways than one, and she appreciated everyone who stopped in, called, emailed or sent cards, flowers or gifts to congratulate her last week.

The only drawback in having a staff with the years of service that we have at The Times-Gazette is that longevity can be taken for granted if it’s less than 30 years.

Poor Chuck Miller. Sharon’s fellow ad rep is celebrating 25 years on the job here. Normally, doing anything for a quarter century is cause of a celebration of its own – except when you work with someone hitting the 30-year mark.

For that matter, Jeff Gilliland has spent about 30 years in various newsroom roles, although he did take a break for a couple of years to do something else.

Brenda Earley, our circulation manager, has been here 27 years. Ann Runyon-Elam, our inside sales rep (who does so much more) is at 21 years.

And I’m not even counting Nola Walker, who now works part-time here, but who, all told, has worked here about 35 years.

Counting both my tours of duty, my own combined 12 years of service here makes me a rookie compared to Sharon, Jeff, Brenda, Chuck, Ann and Nola. The only slight advantage I have in bragging rights is that I actually started here before any of them except Nola. I started in September of 1983, and Jeff came on board a couple of weeks later.

I left Hillsboro in 1991, worked at a couple more newspapers, and then did politics and government for about 15 years. I had the privilege of returning here 20 years after I left, thanks to a job offer from Pam Stricker, our regional publisher who is now preparing to take on a big new job as publisher of The Lima News.

Pam’s move is another milestone that deserves mention here. I first met Pam when I worked at the Marion Star from 1991-93 and she was the ad director there. But as city editor at the Star, my job did not interact much with advertising, so I never got to know her well. But it’s a small world.

In addition to being regional publisher in recent years, she has been the publisher of the Wilmington News Journal for about 15 years (including a couple of years doing double-duty as publisher of The Times-Gazette). She also has been serving as publisher of Salt magazine and Rural Life Today, both of which she basically created. Her impressive resume includes seven years with the Cincinnati Enquirer, including time as its advertising sales manager.

I know her decision to accept the Lima opportunity was not an easy one. She could have stayed put. But she has never shirked a challenge. Lima will be fortunate to have her.

Sharon Hughes’ 30 years here is remarkable. Chuck said it best when describing Sharon in the profile we did in last Tuesday’s newspaper. Chuck said, “She has a love for Highland County in particular that comes through in every conversation she has.” That is as true a statement as you will ever read, and she decided long ago that being part of this newspaper was the best way to put that love into action.

Congratulations, Sharon. Everyone here loves you and appreciates you. May you keep bursting through doors for many years to come – but in my case, thanks for waiting until I have that first cup of coffee.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.