DURING THE RECENT National Night Out event at Super Target, I ran into an artist I interviewed not long ago for a Hesperia Star newspaper story. We had a pleasant conversation in which I remembered various details about his life, but I forgot his name.
Later I went to www.hesperiastar.com and looked up my article about how he was commissioned by Councilman Russ Blewett to paint portraits of Blewett's favorite U.S. Presidents. His name, my story reminded me, is Matthew Woods. (Sorry about the lapse, Matthew.)
Over the course of the last eight years I have written and edited the Hesperia Star I have had the honor to meet many talented and interesting people like Matthew. Today, as my time at the Star is coming to an end, I am tapping into the elusive newspaper archive in my brain to help remember those people who made an impact on me as a newspaper man and as a person. Unfortunately, for my memory sake, they are innumerous.
It's easy for me to think of the person who has meant the most to me as a Hesperia newsman. That person is Gil Zank, for without him I may never have had the opportunity to become entrenched in the Hesperia community 22 years ago. Then, in 1989 and the few years that followed, Gil would stop by the other Hesperia publication I was working at and pleasantly remind me of an upcoming Chamber of Commerce event such as a ribbon cutting or grand opening. While I was also covering City Council and School Board back then, it was the chamber events that truly got me out among the people. From there, my career blossomed.
Gil showed that you really can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And he caught a friend for life in the process.
Not long after I arrived in 2003, the newspaper learned of plans for a casino in Hesperia. That brought people, some of whom had never been in the public eye, to the surface. It was the beginning of an interesting and often fun interaction with Dennis Nowicki, who as a councilman was in favor of the proposal. Former Councilwoman Rita Vogler and her husband Al certainly made a big impact on the community during those early days as editor, and I became acquainted with Ed Pack and his friendly wife Shelly.
On the other side of the casino issue were Bill Muller, a retired postmaster, and his wife Eileen, and David Penn, pastor of Hesperia Church of the Nazarene. Today, Bill serves on the Hesperia Planning Commission while Pastor Penn tends to his congregation and to the needs of Main Street. Not long ago, the pastor spoke at a memorial service for Gil's late wife, Margaret, at the home of former casino rivals Dennis and Paula Nowicki. Hesperia's finer residents know how to forgive and forget and move onward.
PUBLIC RELATIONS TYPES often visit the Star office to drop off a press release or promote an upcoming event. One of my favorites is Bill "All-Star" Alves, another gentlemen who proves that spreading warmth and kindness is often the best form of PR. Bill, with his deep, sonorous voice, would bring in Elks Lodge press releases for consideration.
"Is our fearless leader here?" I'd hear Bill ask our office manager Sharon Kulakowski-Strickland. With that, I'd pop up from my desk to greet Bill and see what he had that day. After publication of the items — all of which were Hesperia-focused pieces, I might add — the retired school principal might drop by and say, "A plus, plus!" How does a person like that not make a positive impression?
Bill and his wife Aileen have several adult children who I've also had the pleasure to meet including son James and his wife Carol Alves (who I first knew when she worked for the city in the late 1980s) and daughter Carol Hearn and her roll-up-their-sleeves-and-get-things-done bunch.
Another behind-the-scenes person who I've had the pleasure to know is Mozelle Mestas, who helps publicize Moose Lodge events. Mozy is one of those special souls who is resilient, persistent and friendly. And Mozy is spreading her PR wings and helping promote some enjoyable activities at her church, Holy Family Catholic Church.
Phyllis Herman always has done a stellar job with her press releases for the Eagles. Thank you for your help over the years, Phyllis.
The great saints from Hesperia Relay For Life are near and dear to my heart, especially Tracy Moyer, Suzanne James and Danielle Chrisinger.
Assistant to the City Manager Kim Summers, another Sultana parent, and PIO Kelly Malloy have assisted our newspaper when we've needed information or quotes from a city staff member. I've been especially impressed with how well Kelly has handled herself under pressure during the Hesperia Golf Course meetings.
Also, I'd like to specially thank Mike Podegracz, Lisa LaMere, Steve Lantsberger from the city. They are true professionals.
HESPERIA POLICE STATION PIO Roxanne Walker and I have connected numerous times over the years, and it was fun to watch her rehearse for her "Dancing With The Stars" event last year. She and her fiance have a very big date coming up later this year....
Thanks to Larry Bird, who was principal at Ranchero when my daughter attended, for bringing in local photos for our publication. Thanks to the many other educators have had the opportunity to meet through the years.
Cal Camara, the former longtime administrator of the Hesperia Recreation and Park District, is also someone who goes way back for me. Years ago I covered the grand opening of the Lime Street Park Pool with Cal presiding over the event. The park district and the Star have had a mutually beneficial relationship ever since the newspaper was founded in April of 2000. The district provides content such as recreation activities news items that help fill our newspaper with local content.
Good luck to new park district administrator Lindsay Woods, his secretary Rachel Thomas, recreation supervisors Don Webb, Steve Hamm, Tim Glass and others and board members Jack Hamilton, Mike Limbaugh, Rebekah Swanson, Robert Chandler and Kelly Gregg.
The school board, which faces big challenges during these financial times, deserves mention. It's been nice getting to see school board members Chris Bentley, Hardy Black, Eric Swanson, Anthony Riley and Niccole Childs at local events such as graduation ceremonies and the like.
I also had a chance to reconnect with Percy Bakker, who I covered when he served on Hesperia's first City Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mike and Carolyn Lampignano and the late Val Shearer. It was very nice to see Becky Otwell, who I wrote about in the late 1980s, continue to receive praise and awards as a Hesperia business woman.
I've enjoyed chatting with Mayor Mike Leonard about our mutual love of jazz music. It's a pleasure to know councilmembers Russ Blewett, Paul Bosacki, Thurston "Smitty" Smith and council newcomer Bill Holland.
The T-shirt candidate Dennis DeHay often visits the Star office with former school board candidate Chris Lindsay. Dennis dropped by last week to wish me well. Thanks!
At the Chamber I'd like to thank CEO Yvonne Woytovich and her assistant Paula Martinez. I'm grateful to have known former chamber employee Margaret Caulfield, who also was a local newspaper reporter years ago. There are so many Chamber members I am going to miss.
My neighborly friend Flo Collier, who previously served as executive secretary to several Hesperia city managers, deserves a special shout out. So do Shelly and Griz Drylie at Bodacious Bundts, the friendly staff at La Casita, the Submarine Express gang, Yolanda, Tony at Julio's Cellular, Water Bucket and the friendly staff at Corral Family Restaurant. I can't forget the friendly clerks at Porgie's, where I'd get my Diet Pepsi and Chili Cheese Fritos every Saturday afternoon.
Thanks to all my Kiwanis friends over the years. The group, which puts on the annual Hesperia Days Parade, is a cornerstone of our city.
The Leisure League is a notable entity in Hesperia, and one of its members Mack Collings is one of the most charismatic people I've ever met. Although he has departed, the memory of the ever-friendly Sam Dearman is still strong. Thanks Jim Janrhett for the great work you have done taking the PR reins from Sam. Good luck to the good people at the Knights of Columbus.
In 2003, I came to Hesperia as my daughter was entering middle school at Ranchero. Although it was certainly Kaitlin's hard work and determination that made the biggest difference, I am grateful for the education she received at Ranchero and Sultana before she enrolled at UC Riverside where she is on the Chancellor's Honor List. Of course having a fantastic mother like Robbie has provided a tremendous incentive for my daughter to continually seek excellence.
Thank you to Mary Jaggli for your insights and friendship. Thanks to pastors Rene De La Cruz, Fritz Miller and Chris Centola for your guidance.
I'm grateful to have witnessed the subtle, yet effective consensus-building mastery of former school board member Jack Hamilton, who today serves on the park board. I've had the pleasure to work with different school district administrators and their staffs. It's been fun seeing a decidedly dressed-down Mark McKinney serve as a parent volunteer at various school functions.
Thanks to the Hesperia Art Club, the Moose Lodge, The Elks Lodge, The Eagles and all the clubs and fraternal organizations that have been part of this experience.
MY BIGGEST SUPPORTERS have been my Hesperia Star family, Sharon Kulakowski-Strickland and Beau Yarbrough and previous staffers who contributed to the newspaper: Rhonda Fair, Lissa Calderon, Maria Bamba, and Marilyn Horsley. Beau and Sharon are more than co-workers, they have been true blue friends. Thank you.
I'd like to thank the Hesperia Star ad reps, both past and present. I'd like to specifically thank Sheila Mockett, who poured her heart into serving her customers, and to community-minded Tom Schibusch.
Thanks to our couriers Al Moller and Linda Sipe, who are very important part of our work team. (Thanks, Al, for bringing over the Lucerne Valley Leader, and thanks to Linda for the pattycake squash.)
Thanks to Daily Press Editor Don Holland, who hired me in 2003, Publisher Stephan Wingert and his assistant Angela Marquez, Ad Director Angie Callahan, HR manager Patricia Gonzalez, Facilities Manager Harry Pontius, Production Manager (and sometimes bicycle buddy) Mike Sipe, computer guru Joshua Brunton, pagination coordinator (and another old friend) Joy Cook, business services manager Robert Fitzsimmons and classified manager Susan Drake. A special thanks goes to Ron Blair, who several times caught a clunker before the paper went to print. Thanks to others at the Daily Press, especially my newsroom buddies.
Thanks to the Star student interns, especially Scott Stephens, who was the most earnest of the hard-working intern corps. And good luck to Princess Wilson, our current intern who is taking photos and writing stories as she pursues her master's degree.
I have to extend a fond thank you to our columnists Richard Doornbos, Charlene Peters, Bob Chandler and Margaret Furman. Richard, who is the longest-running Star columnist and Charlene, have especially left their imprint on me. Thanks to freelance writer Dusty Ricketts for her help when I was getting started. It's been a long time since I heard from former columnist Dana Gordon, who also got me into the Hesperia Community Rotary Club. And thanks Chuck, Bob, Mert, Dale, Dave and other Rotarians I've had the pleasure to know.
While I was at the National Night Out event, I met a woman who was there with her boys, Ryan and Tylor Kunf.
"I love reading the Star," she said.
It's people like that woman, whose first name I didn't even catch, who helped make my time here rewarding and meaningful. Thank you Star readers. You're the best. Without you none of this could happen.
BUT THE END OF ONE ERA means that a new one will begin, and exciting changes are right around the corner. Reporter Beau Yarbrough will continue reporting on the important news of Hesperia, and office administrator Sharon Kulakowski-Strickland will greet phone and walk-in customers. But there are two additional people who are going to make a huge difference for our readers. Page design whiz Martial Haprov, who lays out the Apple Valley Review, will perform his magic on Hesperia Star pages, and Daily Press City Editor Brooke Edwards will be working with Beau on news coverage. Sue Claxton is assuming ad sales duties for the Star.
For the past 11 years the Hesperia Star has served the Hesperia community, and it will continue to shine brighter than ever for Star readers and advertisers.