The ‘State of the Mountain Democrat’

By From page A4 | February 12, 2014


Richard Esposito

I was recently invited to speak to the Pollock Pines–Camino Rotary Club. It’s always enjoyable to break bread (or in this case a breakfast Danish) with business leaders of this small but highly respected service club.

It’s amazing what 16 Rotarians can accomplish. One of their key projects is to provide free dictionaries to students within their school district. Hundreds are purchased and distributed every year and the gratitude of the young students is overwhelming.

Since my visit that morning coincided with the presidential State of the Union speech, I decided to give the Rotarians a “State of the Mountain Democrat” address. By all accounts, the speech I would deliver would be much more factual than what the nation would hear that evening.

Relocating an entire newspaper operation can be somewhat daunting. I recall during my consulting days paying a visit to The Oelwein Daily Register, a small newspaper located in northeastern Iowa. The newspaper building suffered a catastrophic fire and the staff was temporarily working out of a two-story house in town.

The advertising staff occupied the kitchen upstairs. A wooden plank covering the sink was used as a countertop. And if the smell from singed papers in burned file cabinets salvaged after the fire wasn’t enough, the publisher pointed to a gaping hole in the ceiling of his makeshift office.

“Look up there!” he shouted. “Do you see that?”

There was indeed a large hole in the ceiling over his desk. The exposed wood beams were coated in a white substance. The pitched roof line above the beams was clearly visible.

“That’s pigeon sh##! I have pigeon sh## in my office!” he declared. “Be sure to inform corporate of this when you get back to Chicago.”

This visual always comes to mind whenever people complain to me about their working conditions.

Fortunately the Mountain Democrat’s move wasn’t the result of a fire or any other natural disaster. We had a signed lease in hand with Tractor Supply Co. and the building, we still own, was renovated to meet their needs.

Finding a new home located within Placerville city limits was a priority for the Mountain Democrat. And we accomplished this when we purchased the old Blockbuster Video building at 2889 Ray Lawyer Drive. Ample parking for our employees was a key selling point and this building provides it.

California’s oldest newspaper is currently operating in the newest facility of any newspaper within the state. Where many newspaper companies across the country are selling off their properties and resorting to leased office space, our family owners made the commitment to reinvest in the community we love and serve. All totaled, that investment was $1.4 million.

Our greatest challenge was moving from an underutilized 18,600-square-foot building with 22 years accumulation of “stuff” to a more efficient 7,400-square-foot building. Newspaper folks are natural-born hoarders and just sifting through years of old newspapers, files, outdated photo equipment, memorabilia and junk took time, energy and one big trash container.

Overall our move went smoothly. Employees are excited about their new confines with ample desk area, natural light and pleasant working conditions. The only glitch on move-in day occurred when our telephone provider failed to connect our service. This found me fielding calls as they temporarily transferred all incoming newspaper calls to my cell phone number.

My “State of the Mountain Democrat” address to the Rotarians that morning was summed up with “the state of the Mountain Democrat is strong. We successfully moved our operation, while generating additional tax revenue for the city at our former location. Our employees continue to perform magnificently and our dedication to serving our readers goes unmatched. And … we still believe in the printed word.”

The same could be said about Pollock Pines–Camino Rotarians. Just ask them to show you the “thank you” cards from students receiving all those free dictionaries.

Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat.

Richard Esposito

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