Steve Neese is usually the first one into the office in the morning and gets the coffee pot running. He lives in Canton and gets up early to watch SportsCenter and iron his slacks. He drives over to Alpharetta, opens up, and fills up the cheap coffee machine in the break room. It will be visited many times as folks make their way in.

From my office I can hear and see the morning bustle from two different doors. I get to hear little stories about their families and friends, their joys and their sorrows. It’s a constant reminder for me that our industry is filled with everyday Americans doing a job they love in order to pay their bills and take care of their families.

We’ve got a great team.

Susan is the one who answers the phone when you call into our office and she gets you to who you need to talk to. She is an ad department assist, graphic artist, web developer and, on top of it all, a great mom to her three kids.

Wendy, Paul, Mike, June, Dean and Steve are on the sales floor. I cut my teeth in the business selling newspaper ads, so I’ve been in their shoes and know how good they are. They’re really good. Their job is literally to help businesses get more customers. How cool is that?

Lisa is our accounting manager. She keeps the money moving in and out so we can continue to do what we do. She is also our entire circulation department. She greets and helps readers when they come to the office asking for a copy of an old newspaper or directions to the library. She’s also my “work mom” and my go-to for just about everything.

If you are reading this column in a print newspaper format, then it was delivered by either Anthony & Kendra, Dagmar & Dave, Lisa, Amber, Jamohn, Danelle & Paul, Bruce, Jessica, Gary, Raman, Joel, Terry, Tony, Aldo, Charles, Sheree, Adrian, or Ilka, some with us as long as 25 years. It also may have been bagged by a group of young adults with special needs who come to our office every Wednesday.

Our carriers are the unsung heroes of our industry. I remember a couple of years ago we had a snow storm, and businesses across north Atlanta closed. They delivered newspapers to 75,000 houses that week on slick roads and in freezing temperatures. That’s 3,900,000 copies a year.

Upstairs we’ve got the news and production crew. You won’t find a finer, more dedicated group of journalists and production artists committed to community journalism in the state. That’s not just my opinion -we ran out of wall space to hang their awards years ago.

AJ, Suzanne and David are our production team. They design and build the ads for approximately 8,664 pages each year. They are consummate professionals who have led every initiative we’ve done in the last six years to rebrand, diversify, expand and innovate.

I couldn’t ask for a better news team. Kathleen, Julia, Joe, Carson, Pat, Candy, Keith, Steve, Geoff, Dick, Lori and Kathy write literally tens of thousands of stories every year. They are at five different city councils, two county commissions, two school boards, and countless ball games, ribbon cuttings, festivals and chamber functions. They are our ears and eyes and we are better people and communities because of that.

Our clients are two-fold. You, our readers, are both our greatest critics and our greatest supporters. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Our advertisers literally keep the lights on, and the presses rolling. When I’m asked about the future of our industry I often refer to them. They wouldn’t advertise if it didn’t work. Plain and simple. And they keep advertising.

And then there are our founders, and my parents, Ray and Christina. To try and pen the words to describe their contribution to the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people over the last 28 years would be a futile task. One day I’ll attempt it, but not this day.

For all our faults and our shortcomings, I thank God I get to wake up in the morning and work in an industry I love, for a company that’s in my blood, and with people I consider family.

They were for the fourth time in the last five years recognized by the Association of Free Community Newspapers as the best newspaper group in the country. But I already knew that.

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