As promised, this column is devoted to our hardworking, dedicated staffers here at the Coastal Courier. Whether you are a reader or an advertiser, I want you to understand that without these people I could not do my job as editor, nor could general manager Patty Leon do hers. These folks are the fibers that bind this newspaper together. Some are young, others are “seasoned.” Some have weathered calm seas and stormy waters with the Courier for 20 years or more. Some are recent additions to the paper, offering their talent, skills and perspective to the mix.
When I met Patty nine years ago, she was a sports staff of one. She also covered crime and the courts. Patty immediately welcomed me when I was a new staff writer, willing to lend a hand whenever I needed it. That will never change. If you’re willing to go the mile, Patty will help carry the load.
Another generous person is Lisa Sanchez. We met soon after her youngest child was born. Lisa’s smiling face is the first you will see upon entering the Courier’s front door. She is our customer service specialist. Lisa has been with the Courier since 1991, the year she graduated from Bradwell Institute. Her family moved here after her dad retired from the Army at Fort Dix, N.J. Lisa began as a part-time employee in the accounting department. She moved over to the circulation department in 1995. Lisa is a busy person in the office and at home. When she’s not tending to our subscribers’ needs, she tends to the needs of her five beautiful children.
Elly Mattingly came to the Courier her first go-round in 1983. “I was here 10 and a half years. Then I left and came back,” Elly said. She returned to stay in 1998. Elly was head bookkeeper for a while, before handling our legal and classified advertising. She is originally from West Virginia. Elly and her family moved to Liberty County for her husband’s insurance career.
Multimedia accounts executive Jeff DeYoung, a native Floridian, came aboard in February. “This is my fifth newspaper in both Florida and Georgia,” Jeff said. He once worked for the St. Petersburg Times, when that paper was delivering 400,000 newspapers on Sundays. Jeff and his wife moved to the area when his wife received a promotion with Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems in Pooler.
Videographer and photographer Lawrence Dorsey began freelancing with the Courier 10 years ago. He joined our staff as a full-time employee two years ago. Lawrence is a Liberty County native. He was born at Winn Army Community Hospital. Lawrence’s interest in videography was sparked in 2002. He attended Sanford University, formerly known as the International Academy of Design and Technology, in Tampa, Fla. Lawrence is an easy-going guy, and tall. He and I resemble the old cartoon characters Mutt and Jeff when we walk along together.
Multimedia accounts executive Missy Wright has been with the Courier for a year in total. “I left back last October and came back this March,” Missy said. “I love my job because I get to see all the business in Hinesville and the surrounding areas grow month after month. I enjoy being able to be a little part of that. I have been married to a wonderful man in the Army. He has been in for six years. We are originally from Tennessee but have just moved to Georgia from Fort Hood, Texas. We are in the process of adopting our beautiful daughter that completes our family!”
Diminutive graphic artist and ad designer Chandra Hughes came aboard the Courier three months ago. She says she did not choose the job, it chose her and she is grateful. Chandra has been in graphic design for 12 years, but you couldn’t tell by looking at her. “I have been 12 for 15 years,” she said. “People usually guess I’m between 12 and 16 years old, and I just go along with it.” The youthful millennial will turn 27 in September.
Eliese Bowles works with Chandra in our production department. Eliese is another relative newcomer to the Courier, having been with the paper four months. “I really wanted something stable after freelancing for two years,” she said. “I do layout at the Frontline. I do ad placement and design ads and other graphics as needed. In my spare time, I do illustrations like comics and painting. Something many people might not know about me is how much I build and paint model kits.”
“I’ve been at the Courier for three months now,” said Caitlyn Smoyer, special projects coordinator for the Bryan County News. Caitlyn is also in charge of legal ads at the Courier and the News.
“I used to work in public affairs in the Army, so I already had my foot in the door. I was introduced to Jeff (former Courier managing editor) when I was a soldier.” Caitlyn works for us part-time because she’s a full-time student and the mom of two young children. She is also an athlete. “I used to play basketball and run track in high school, and I was actually pretty good at it. After joining the Army, I became an even better runner and finally ran my first half marathon this past April.”
Our senior correspondent Joe Parker has deep roots in local news coverage dating back to the 1970s. He covered Liberty and Long counties, in addition to 16 other counties, for the Savannah Morning News once upon a time. Joe left the area for some years, and returned to coastal Georgia, and the Courier, in 2000. He also corresponded for other area weeklies.
News editor Pat Watkins hired me when I began with the Courier for the first time in 2009. Pat has been with the Courier for 27 years, longer than some of our youngest staffers have breathed air. “It was a job south of the Mason Dixon,” Pat explained. Pat hails from the mid-western state of Kansas. I don’t think he misses long, cold, snowy winters.
Mark Swendra, chief of digital operations and fulfillment at the Courier and the News, returned to his first love, reporting, when he joined our staff last August. “It’s afforded me the opportunity to work on stories that I’m passionate about, like the ‘Those who Served’ series, honoring local veterans, and an upcoming series recognizing volunteers,” Mark said. “When I’m not writing, I manage the two newspapers’ digital operations.” A little known fact about Mark involves his wedding day. “I was married on the same day, just five miles away from Elizabeth Taylor’s final wedding at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California. Needless to say my wedding didn’t draw the same number of paparazzi.”
Sue Nelson has been with Morris Multimedia, the Courier’s parent company, for five years. Sue has served most recently as the regional digital specialist for our newspapers in southeast Georgia. She has served as interim ad director for the Courier and the News since January. “Being in the newspaper industry for 13 years has taught me how incredibly important delivering local news to a local audience is and what an impact we have on our communities,” Sue said. “In advertising, we aid businesses in our communities reach their target audience, whether in print or online, with our portfolio of products and assist them with getting their message out.” Some of you might not know that Sue was a member of the U18 Georgia Panthers back in 1998, the year her team won the women’s United States Specialty Sports Association’s (USSSA) World Series tournament, beating out 222 other teams in the bracket. She still proudly wears her ring.
Delivery supervisor Darlene Redmon joined the Courier in February. “I chose to work here to make a difference in customer service and circulation,” Darlene said. She is also a mother of six and “nana” of 14. Somehow she finds the time to create jewelry, often using turquoise stones and sterling silver in her designs.
And last, but certainly not least, is Lewis Levine, our “murder and mayhem” correspondent. Lewis will breeze through the office, drop off photos and video, and laugh and joke in his still strong Brooklyn accent. Lewis covers gritty crime and accident stories, sometimes in the wee hours.
Still, he has not lost his soft inner-heart. You may not know it, but Lewis is a devoted family man. He is total mush when he’s in the company of his lovely wife, children, grandson, and furry babies. Lewis, like many of our readers, is a veteran, and takes it upon himself to cover the military on and off Fort Stewart. I look forward to those middle-of-the-night phone calls from Lewis!
Etheridge is editor of the Coastal Courier. She lives in Ludowici with her husband, a sweet teddy bear of a rescue dog, and a grumpy cat that guards the house.