Who would have thunk it?
It’s been almost five years since I took over as general manager of the Regional News.
I had recently moved to Lake Geneva following a divorce and the closing of The Week, where I had worked for almost 20 years.
I was working part time at the Lake Geneva Library when someone showed me an item in the local paper that indicated the RN may be looking for a new general manager.
I shuffled my feet for a few days before calling my future boss Ken Dowdell, the general manager for United Communications Corp., our parent company.
I was pleased he answered the phone directly. No secretary screening his calls. He greeted me with no frills, no pretense.
A few weeks later Ken and Ron Montemurro, UCC’s financial guru, and myself were sitting in a restaurant in Kenosha.
“Why do you want this job?” I was asked.
“I’m not sure I do,” were the words that came out of my mouth.
A few weeks later I was standing in the backroom of the Regional News for the first time being introduced as the paper’s next general manager.
Three years after that Lisa Seiser, the longtime editor of the Regional News, who had been the identity of the paper, gave her notice that she was leaving for a different job in a different part of the country.
I advertised nationally for a replacement but never found anyone with what I thought was the right stuff or the right fit for Lake Geneva. Since my background and true passion was always on the news-end of the business, I took over as editor on a temporary basis.
It was reminiscent of the time before my tenure at The Week, when I’d been offered a job there on a six month basis. I’d been a columnist and associate editor at the Janesville Gazette, which owned the Week, and loved that job. I had been unsure whether I wanted to leave that job too — but went for it with the understanding it was only a “six month” assignment. I stayed 19 years.
I guess that seems to prove that my best career moves were the ones I questioned.
And so it was that I eventually decided to edit the Regional News on a full-time basis, or as full time as my general manager duties would allow.
It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and here’s why:
I’m working with the best people I’ve ever worked with. Our newbies have fit in well with a staff already steeped with a work ethic and a pride in their product.
I love the city. Ever since I can remember I’d wanted to live in a pristine tourist community by a great lake.
I love the opportunity to write. It remains my true passion. And writing about a city you love, being at its core, swiveling between caring and concern, makes me know how important it is for a community to have a local chronicle. I am really proud to be part of an institution that works at being a living history.
I love the people I meet on an almost daily basis. I love the contrarians and curmudgeons nearly as much as I like those who like us. I enjoy the arguments that belie the facts that we’re all human beings, passionate in different ways, with different beliefs, who can still interact. This city is full of varying voices and while the clash of those voices can be jarring at times, it’s also enlightening. It’s made those who are at the seat of power make sure they’re doing the right things.
As for those people in power — the city council and business leaders — I’ve grown to appreciate them. While they have different agendas than the contrarians, like the contrarians, they want to do what’s best for a city they love.
Those differences between human beings are great fodder for our paper and are ultimately great medicine for a great city.
It never fails either, that whenever I’m feeling a bit puffed up about myself, circumstances always put me back in my place.
And so it is, as 2013 comes to a close, that I count my professional blessings.
Thanks, Ken and Ron for ignoring my counterintuitive interview answers and hiring me anyway.
Thanks for the willingness of the staff to accept me and for their undying commitment to the Regional News.
Thanks to the readers who have accepted our occasional missteps and appreciated the changes we’ve made.
Thanks to the advertisers who pay our bills.
Happy New Year to all of you.
Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.