If there’s a light up ahead, well brother I don’t knowBut I got this fever burnin’ in my soul So let’s take the good times as they go And I’ll meet you further on up the road One sunny mornin’, we’ll rise I know And I’ll meet you further on up the road. Bruce Springsteen “Further On Up The Road,” 2002
Over the weekend, I was packing up some personal items from my office at Citizen Central. It was tough duty and took longer than I thought because every time I came upon some picture or keepsake or collectible, the memories associated with those things flooded over me. One such framed picture that has hung in my office for the duration of my ownership of The Citizen was of a bunch of puppies frolicking about in a cornfield. The title of the picture is “The Rookies.” Instantly, I remember when and where I had acquired it and what it meant. Patty and I had attended a Ducks Unlimited dinner and auction at Snow Creek Ski Resort in Iatan shortly after we had purchased The Citizen in August of 1998. The late Burton Hiatt was the auctioneer that night and delivered one of his trademark performances, blending his staccato auctioneering with homespun tales and anecdotes. Hiatt, who had advertised his Weston-based business with The Citizen before we bought it and continued after, made a point of identifying us when we bought the picture as “the new owners of The Citizen.” No doubt — we were rookies, but what a glorious time it was. I was 36 years old, had plenty of hair and was thrilled to no end to be the owner of my own media outlet. Nevermind that Patty and I had never owned a business before. I knew how to run a newspaper; Patty had years of experience as an office manager and we had so much excitement and energy, just like the puppies in the pic. The sky was the limit. We spread our wings and soared into it the next 16 years, sinking our heart and soul into The Citizen and the community that helped build it. During our tenure, The Citizen became the most-read weekly newspaper in Platte County and our Citizen/Citizen Shopper publication combo currently reaches more homes and businesses than all the other weekly publications in the County combined. It’s been a great run and brings us to now. In last week’s issue, we reported that Patty and I have agreed to sell The Citizen, Citizen Shopper and Citizen Printing to Will Johnson and his son Adam Johnson, Northwest Missouri publishers who have decades of experience in publishing weekly community newspapers in Missouri. This means that after presiding over nearly 1,000 issues of The Citizen, including more than 830 as owner, today is my final day at the helm of this publication. There’s no way I can do justice to all the people I met, places I saw and events I covered in those 16 years and the nearly 20 years overall I worked at The Citizen, but of course, some memories stick out a bit more than others. Like…….. standing in front of a hay wagon in 1997 where Platte Valley Bank currently sits in Platte City and listening as then-Platte City Mayor Pearl Brown told us to look at the miles of empty fields behind her and imagine the Runninghorse Road corridor; the July 1998 issue with a front page picture of Patty, my kids and me under the headline : “Citizen announces new ownership;” patrolling the sidelines during 2000-2003 for every game of the Platte County High School football team’s 52-game winning streak, including the Pirates’ back-to-back-to-back undefeated state championships; standing in front of a TV and watching the horror unfold on Sept. 11, 2001 and the way our coverage localized the story; The Citizen’s Platte City Business of the Year awards from the Platte City Chamber of Commerce in 2001 and the Platte County Economic Development Council in 2005; covering a presidential campaign stop of Barack Obama at the former TWA Overhaul Base at KCI in 2008; the Alissa Shippert murder in 2011 and how it rocked the community; moving The Citizen office to its present 1110 Branch location in 2011. I could go on and on and on….. so many headlines, so many memories. Of course, I have many people to thank for The Citizen’s success and for supporting us all these years, and I’m certain I’ll miss somebody (my apologies): former Citizen owner Paul Campbell for giving me a chance; my parents, Richard and Carolyn Stubbs and Patty’s parents, Jim and Barb Stevenin for all of their support, both financial and otherwise; all of the local city, school, county, law enforcement and community officials who answered the phone when I called and, of course, all of the hardworking staff members who worked for me over the years. The roll call of former Citizen staffers include Dana Roe, Mary Beth Erickson, Sara Swenson, Dawn Lemasters, Tricia Zenner, Valerie Greenough, Matt Kelsey, Gavin Abraham, Jerry Keuhn, Ross Sanders, Carrie Crockett, Todd Whittaker, Jason Lawrence, Sara Lovelace, Bill Graham and a host of other folks who worked for us in some capacity or another over the years. I thank them and also want to give a special shout-out to Chris Patterson, a local attorney and longtime Citizen photographer who I also call a good friend. A special thanks to the current Citizen staff, which will remain intact through this transition. That they are doing so makes me feel good that The Citizen is in good hands moving forward and I want to take this opportunity to not only thank them, but to tell you about them. I will start with Ross Martin. Ross first worked for me in 2000-2001 as a PCHS student writer. I could tell then that Ross had the motivation and talent to succeed in this business, and I was thrilled to hire him a month ago as managing editor. Like I said last week, he is one of us, is eager to make his community proud and will do fine as the face of The Citizen moving forward. Ambra Miller has only worked for The Citizen for a little more than 10 months, but she is an extremely talented graphic designer who has fit in so perfectly it seems like she has been here for years. Jeanette Browning Faubion has been with me for about 10 years total- first as a full-time assistant editor, then, when motherhood beckoned, as a part-time reporter. She has covered just about every beat there is, and The Citizen is lucky to have her professionally-written stories and features. She is also a fine columnist — maybe Ross can coax her to write a few more op-ed pieces. Pam Ulitschan was the first full-time advertising manager Patty and I ever hired. The year was 2006, when Patty was stepping out of the day-to-day operations of The Citizen to pursue her emergency medical response career. Pam had worked for The Kansas City Star and The Kearney Courier and brought a professional, experienced sales presence to The Citizen staff. She helped The Citizen to its most productive years in its history and her involvement with Citizen Printing helped push that area of our business to a new level as well. Pam has also been a friend with whom I have had many conversations over the years — about work and otherwise. I will never forget your loyalty and commitment, Pam, but I really think you should start calling your grandson by his given name before it’s too late. Anyway, I thank you staff and thank you Will and Adam Johnson for helping me make this decision on my own terms. Finally, a special thanks to our readers and advertisers over the years. A newspaper is nothing without a loyal and supportive readership and strong local advertising base. I’m proud that we were able to cultivate that and earn the respect and trust of the community, from Edgerton to Platte City to Parkville and all points in between. All of you folks have allowed me to be a part of your lives via this column for the better part of two decades. This community — a wonderful place to live and do business — has been so very good to my family, as well. For this, I will always be grateful. And, of course, I thank my family. Patty, for being my partner in every sense of the word, my confidant, my sounding board, my best friend and — when I really needed it the most — my biggest fan. My son, Mitchell and my daughter, Mandi, who not only worked at the paper from time to time, but also put up with my crazy schedule and had to live with the fact that their Dad sometimes brought more attention to our family than they would have liked. I’m so proud of you, and I’m a lucky guy to have a family like you. So, there it is — I think I have covered about everything I had to say. Now the hard part. Time to sign off. As most of you know, I’m a Platte County native and I live in Platte City. So, you may see me around from time to time. But, this is the grand finale of Stubbs Station, a column I have penned for this newspaper since 1995. It has been my great honor. Thanks for reading.
Lee Stubbs is owner/publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 858-5154. Follow him on Twitter @leejstubbs.