The first half of my 26-year newspaper career was spent in the newsroom, wielding a notepad and camera at local sporting events for four years at my local hometown weekly newspaper and then crafting editorials, columns, features and news stories during the ‘90s at a nearby sister daily newspaper.
A 14-year stint in the West Virginia Army National Guard as a public affairs specialist and photojournalist supplemented my newsroom career at the beginning. An active-duty peacekeeping tour as a mobile public affairs team leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998 gave me the leadership experience and confidence needed to jump from the newsroom to newspaper management.
Fourteen years and three newspapers later I find myself in your world. It is an exciting time for me and my family as we wholeheartedly make Jasper our home!
As publisher of your local newspaper, I will be involved in your community. I look forward to working with the business community as an active member of the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. As a Paul Harris Fellow, I look forward to developing a lasting relationship with the Jasper Rotary Club.
My father, my namesake, was a proud, union coal miner who worked long hours in the belly of the dark, damp West Virginia coalfields. He would leave home hours before daylight and then show up at dusk during high school football and baseball practices.
My hero died of a heart attack during the last major coal strike in 1993. A life-long smoker, the doctors told us that he had tar-like gunk in his coronary arteries. While it may not be popular, I commend the Jasper City Council for having the intestinal fortitude to tackle this public health issue.
My mother, meanwhile, is a retired school cook. She, too, is a case study in hard work. She prepared a hot breakfast before school every day. At school, she made sure we consumed everything on our tray. Today, I consider her the best cook on earth; my lovely wife a close second.
I married my high school sweetheart, Nora. She and I have two beautiful daughters, Shaina (Moody), 23, of Apopka, Fla., and Brandi, 16, at home. Nora and Brandi will be moving to Jasper this summer following the current school term.
I am an avid golfer and look forward to spending quality time with my family, friends and business associates at Musgrove Country Club.
I am a diehard WVU fan. Imagine my surprise when I first visited the Walker High School website and saw the “WV” logo. Of course, here it stands for Walker Vikings. Now the chrome medallion on the back of my car can represent both as my youngest will be attending the school across the street this fall.
By the way, I realize it’s a rite of passage here to choose between Alabama and Auburn. I believe the appropriate phrase is, “Roll Tide!”
Once I get my feet settled I will launch a weekly column titled “Making a Difference.” Each week I plan to feature a Walker County resident that selflessly makes a positive impact in Walker County. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured for “Making a Difference,” send me a brief note at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle. com.
In closing, I will spend time during the next couple weeks with retiring Daily Mountain Eagle Publisher Jerome Wassmann visiting area business and community leaders. It will be the first of many visits that I make to first say “Thanks!” for investing in your Daily Mountain Eagle and then to gather input as to how we can improve our relevance with readers and advertisers alike.
Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.