A loving farewell to a dream career
WHEN I BEGAN as managing editor of Kentucky Living in September 1996, I already knew how beloved the magazine was. Growing up on Salt River Electric co-op lines in Spencer County in the ’60s and ’70s, our family couldn’t wait to see who was in that month’s issue of what was called Rural Kentuckian until 1989.
As the flagship publication for Kentucky’s 26 electric cooperatives, Kentucky Living informs members about energy. But it’s so much more than that. Kentucky Living celebrates 75 years next year and it is as much a trusted source of information as it was when it began teaching people how to use electricity on farms in the late 1940s.
Our goal is “to create a community of people who take pride in thinking of themselves as Kentuckians and as knowledgeable electric co-op members, in order to improve their quality of life.” In October 2009, we added the tagline: “Celebrating the energy of your community.”
From the first day I began working here, the one statement I’ve continued to hear over and over is, “I love that magazine.” Community is what Kentucky Living is about. The magazine now mails to an average of 472,000 households a month with more than 1 million readers, and I’ve enjoyed talking to many of you over the years. I consider you friends.
I’ve also had the privilege of working with some of the most prominent writers over the years. The late David Dick, who wrote The View From Plum Lick back page column for over 20 years, always had the last word. He once told me, “Anita, every word is golden.” He’s right.
One story sticks out in my memory. In December 2004, David wrote about teenager Freddie Bevins from Vanceburg who had a rare immune disorder and needed a bone marrow transplant. Readers donated upward of $30,000 to help Freddie and his family. I donated a bed for him to use while he was staying close to the hospital in Louisville, and got to know his mom, Shirley. A successful transplant gave Freddie a normal life from 2007 until his death in 2013. I felt humbled that we could help.
For 15 years, I worked with the dearest cooking columnist, the late Linda Allison-Lewis, then famed Courier-Journal food columnist Sarah Fritschner for another 10, before Heather Bilyeu took over in 2021. Who could forget The Weekend Gardener Fred Wiche, who wrote about life and gardening for 17 years, followed by Shelly Nold, whose friendship and gardening advice I’ve enjoyed since August 1998. Another storytelling great, Byron Crawford, took over the back page column in 2010. I’ll miss his humor, but I’ll still be reading his column.
There are so many others—Great Outdoors’ Dave and Dave—Dave Baker and Dave Shuffett—followed by Ken McBroom; 22-year books columnist, Penny Woods; and Kentucky Kids’ Brian Orms. There are dozens of talented freelance writers and photographers. Two writers I admire, who have written for the magazine since before my time, are Kathy Witt and Debra Gibson Isaacs, as well as our longest standing freelance photographers Tim Webb and Joe Imel. We consider them family.
I could not have done this job without the daily support and enthusiasm shared by our entire team. Thank you for being the best team anyone could ask for. To my previous Editor and Vice President of Communications Paul Wesslund, who retired in 2015, and current Vice-President of Strategic Communications Joe Arnold: Thank you for listening to my countless ideas and allowing me to use my creativity.
A few projects stand out. For six months, freelance writer Debra Gibson Isaacs and I worked on the Frozen State book, which told the story of how our members and our co-ops overcame adversity during the January 2009 ice storm. I am proud of the popular Uniquely Kentucky column, which I added in 2017, and the addition of the Kentucky Eats restaurant column in 2019.
This truly has been a dream job. Thank you for allowing me to tell your stories these past 27 years. My only regret is that dozens of your stories, due to either time or space, are still waiting to be told.
As I hand over the magazine to Editor Shannon Brock and our new Managing Editor Joel Sams, I know they are prepared to carry the torch.
Wave to me as I travel across Kentucky, enjoying the beauty of our state.