In February of 2014, Nicole and I, with Kris Leonhardt and Judy Vollrath, set out to create the finest weekly community newspaper that we possibly could. As we have said before, Kris moved on to bigger things and Judy retired, passing away just this year. Nicole and I continued and we indeed created a newspaper that we are proud of and will always be proud of.
I have a friend in Washington who always said that the toughest thing for a businessperson to do is to know when to hand that business off to somebody who can take it to the next level. Too many times, the founder of this or that company is not the one who can see it through to greatness. Nicole and I do not want to be guilty of that.
In a small business like ours, to grow sometimes means to expand beyond your original vision. We had seriously contemplated expanding our company by accumulating other newspapers. If we were younger, we might have done that. But other opportunities, outside of the newspaper business, began to present themselves. There was no way, however, that we were going to walk away from the newspaper that we love and the community who has been so supportive of us.
Then came a fortuitous meeting with our old friend and original Sentinel & Rural News partner Kris Leonhardt. She was now part of the team that published the Hub City Times of Marshfield and over 20 other weekly papers. Their company was looking to expand their footprint in the area and, with the Sentinel being their neighbors to the north, it was like fitting together two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It was that perfect of a fit.
In a matter of days, and I mean only a few days, we concluded negotiations with Kris and Tim Schreiber, HR manager/general manager of Multi Media Channels, LLC (MMC). The closing on the sale of the Sentinel & Rural News takes place on Wednesday, December 22nd.
MMC is the company that can use its greater resources and vast experience to move the Sentinel to the outreach and impact that we had envisioned from the beginning. MMC is not the kind of company that creates cookie-cutter publications that all look and feel the same. They are adept at meeting the particular needs of each unique community that they serve. That makes Nicole and I very happy.
That’s not to say that Nicole and I are disappearing from the pages of the newspaper. Nicole will continue her Sunny Side Up column and I will continue my religion column. In addition, Nicole will continue the layout of the newspaper. Honestly, you won’t notice a drastic change. A new sales representative will come aboard, as will new reporters. But you will probably see almost all of the same columnists that you have enjoyed for all these years. That, of course, is entirely up to the decision of MMC. With newspaper ink being in our blood, you’ll also see occasional submissions of stories and photographs from Nicole and me because we just can’t help ourselves.
So, on this coming Thursday, December 23rd, we will be having our final Christmas open house here at our home and office at 425 Altenburg Ave in Owen, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. It will be a chance to celebrate the transition of the Sentinel & Rural News from the ownership of Community Forum Publishing to that of MMC. Kris and others from MMC are planning to be here during that time to celebrate with us and to meet you.
As we look back on the almost eight-year history of the Sentinel, there are so many warm memories, especially of those who have passed. We are so grateful for all the coaches who contributed so much to our understanding of sports and the appreciation for our local sports programs. Terry Laube, Al Guthman, Darrin Ovyn, John Weiler, Russ Weiler, Chad Eichstadt, Josh Jalling, and more have always been so generous with their time and talents in sharing their recaps of the weekly games and playoffs.
And we can’t talk about schools without mentioning Bob Houts, the district administrator for Owen-Withee schools. Bob has not only been a magnificent communicator and representative on behalf of the school district, I would like to think of him as a friend. Julie Van Ark and Lance Batchelor were always so open and sharing with the goings-on in the high school and elementary school and now Matt Cihlar has stepped into that legacy wonderfully. Susan Beck, Debbie Bredlau, Morgan Mueller, and Stacy Rasmussen have all been terrific representatives of the Owen-Withee schools. Brandy Sonnenberg of the Gilman school district has been our go-to person as has Michele Green of Greenwood schools and her husband Joe Greene, principal of the Greenwood elementary school. It has been a wonderful experience interacting with all of them.
The librarians from all over have been remarkable sources of information. Louise Olszewski, Brandon Hardin, and Janice Arndt from the Withee Public Library, Loralee Petersen from the Owen Public Library, and Denise Korenuk, former director of the Western Taylor County (Gilman) Public Library, have all been amazing. Pastors Elizabeth Bier and Asfa Rajaofero were faithful with their sermons each week and Noel Barteck represented the Fire and EMS with weekly columns on safety.
We certainly enjoyed every moment with, and every word from, our contributors and columnists, including Don Wyeth, Dr. John Briggs, Dr. Jess Rohde, Mark Tobola, Joe Smoczyk, the hilarious Arian Knops, Kevin Struensee, sweet Darlene Jarocki, Jeffer Scheuer, Frank Varney, and the best mother-in-law anyone could ever hope for, Anne Gajewsky, who submitted wonderful stories, photographs, and book reviews. Then there were all those great photos from Sara Blume, Scott Barth, Jim Scheuer, and others.
Thanks also to the village of Withee board of trustees, Everett Lindgren board president, and Ellen Niemi the village clerk. Everett has been a friend from the beginning. The city clerks of Owen, Terry Ernst, Carol Devine, and Tracy Rau, along with community development coordinator Tim Swiggum have been a pleasure to work with. The same goes for two out of the four police chiefs that I have known in my time here. Chief Jesus Ibarra and Chief Tim Fehlman, along with officer Jake Haugstad, in the Owen-Withee Police Department have always been forthcoming. The same goes for the Thorpe Police Department, starting with Chief Sharon Verges and now Chief Ty Schneider. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office have always been forthcoming with information and Taylor County Sheriff Larry Woebbeking was fantastic.
When Arlene Knops was the director of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, we always had an inside track on what was going on in Ladysmith, Bruce, and Rusk County.
Those wonderful Christmas greeting cards that you see in this edition and the seasonal cards that showed up throughout the year were from the personal collection of the inimitable Connie Felton. Not only did she contribute those great cards but she also was a regular columnist for several years with her humorous look at her times and ours in I Remember.
And we will always be indebted to the best investigative journalist I ever met, Linda Wyeth. You may recall that it was Linda who made the KKK in Door County cry uncle. She was like a big sister to Nicole and I and her husband, Don, remains our big brother (but not in an Orwellian sense).
Thank you to all the advertisers who have kept us going for almost eight years. It goes without saying that we could not have done it without you. The same goes for those municipalities who published their legal notices with us: the city of Owen, the town of Hixon, the town of Hoard, the town of Green Grove, the town of Longwood, and Clark County. And the Owen-Withee School District.
But most of all, thanks to you, dear readers. You gave us tips on stories and feedback on what you did (and did not) like and push-back on what you did not agree with. Finally…finally…I get the last word. And that word is…
We love you all.
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.