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2013 — Focusing on what matters

Amy RichardsMy name is Amy Richards, president of Regional Publishing, and I would like to welcome you to my 10th annual report.

I hope all of you have had a great 2013. Each year in January I take a look at what we accomplished in the previous year here at Regional Publishing. With regard to the finances this year, we were able to end the year pretty much where we started it. In challenging economic times, especially in our industry, I’m comfortable with the fact we were able to break even. On a bright note, we finished the year stronger than we started it, and I am optimistic that we can achieve a modest profit in 2014.

I am very glad that despite these challenging times, our readers have continued to value their subscriptions to The Regional News and The Reporter. I am truly thankful for the support the members of this community have shown The Regional News and The Reporter Newspaper. As we head into another year, we will continue to stay true to our mission — to keep you, our reader, connected to the community through unbiased reporting of the news of our towns.

To help us achieve this mission, this year we have seen significant changes in our editorial staff. I’m thrilled with the quality of journalism and the experience in the field that each member has. The two newest members of the RPC team are Tim Hadac and Bob Rakow, who both started in August.

Tim Hadac was hired as a reporter for The Regional News and is a seasoned reporter and editor whose career in mass communications stretches back to 1984 with his award-winning coverage of efforts to save Chicago’s last farm. Most recently, he and his wife, Joan (also a longtime journalist), successfully launched an online news site serving the Midway Airport area in Chicago. They live in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood and have two daughters, Johanna, 22, and Mary, 19.

Bob Rakow was hired as a reporter for The Reporter. Bob is veteran journalist, having spent more than 25 years working for newspapers, trade publications and associations as a writer and editor. He has covered the towns in The Reporter and Regional coverage areas for other publications and is extremely familiar with the community leaders and issues that dominate the Southwest Suburbs. Bob lives in Oak Lawn with his wife and three children. Tim and Bob have both been doing an excellent job covering their respective towns, and we couldn’t be happier to have them on board.   As many you of know, we also have a new editor for The Reporter. Jeff Vorva — formerly a reporter for The Regional News, was promoted to the position of editor of The Reporter Newspaper in August. In more than 35 years in the business, Jeff has written or photographed everything from the NBA Finals and World Series with tens of thousands of screaming fans to local board meetings in which he was the lone member of the audience. He and his wife, Maggie, and children T.J. and Lauren live in Orland Park.

Jeff was able to help select our new reporters, and under his leadership The Reporter has made some very positive changes in the past few months. I hope many of you have a chance to read his weekly column in The Reporter on Page 3.

Top News Stories of 2013

In Orland Park, village Trustee Brad O’Halloran resigned both his seats on the Village Board and Metra board of directors amid controversy over personnel decisions he made as Metra’s chairman. Dan Calandriello was appointed to fill his trustee seat on the Village Board in September. Orland Park School District 135 also saw changes at the top when voters unseated three incumbents from the school board in the April election. A new superintendent, Janet Stutz, began her tenure on July 1.

Palos Heights endured the closing in late December of the Dominick’s grocery store in the Indian Trails shopping center. Its owner, Safeway, had announced in the fall the closing of all Chicago-area Dominick’s stores by year’s end.

On the verge of the celebration of the centennial of Palos Park’s incorporation as a village in 1914, residents saw the publication of a new book chronicling Palos Park’s history in 200 vintage photographs compiled by the public library and the village. Copies of the newly published “Images of America” Palos Park edition published by Arcadia Publishing were signed by librarian Jeannine Kacmar, its lead author, at the village’s tree-lighting festivities in December.

Worth residents were stunned in November when 18-year-old Brittany Wawrzyniak died after being ejected from the back seat of an alleged drug dealer’s car near the Worth boat launch. The Shepard High School graduate died one hour later at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. The circumstances of her death remain under investigation.

Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann lost his bid for a third term when he was defeated by political newcomer Sandra Bury, a community activist and business owner. Bury, the village’s first female mayor, won following a tough campaign in which she also secured the village board majority.

Both Worth and Chicago Ridge got the ball rolling on their centennial celebrations, which occur in 2014. Plans for a joint parade to celebrate both communities’ milestone birthday remain under consideration.

Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton rehabbed throughout 2013 after contracting West Nile virus the previous year. The veteran mayor was lauded for his comeback efforts at Christ Medical Center’s 25th annual Rehabilitation Awards Ceremony.

Despite preliminary controversies, the Carson & Barnes Circus put on four shows in Palos Hills in August. The circus planned a special segment with a candlelight vigil and information about sexual assault victims under the title “Survivors Under the Stars.” The segment was cancelled after Palos Hills officials deemed it inappropriate for a family circus.

Palos Hills police officer Ryan Bajt was hailed as a hero for pounding on the doors of the Camelot Banquets in Hickory Hills to wake two sisters and get them out of the building as fire ravaged the facility. The sisters, Krys Drozek and Joanne Naughton, were in the building, which they own, at the time of the fire. The damage caused by the early-morning blaze on May 12 rendered the building unusable.

Awards

  The Regional News won three awards for editorial excellence in 2013. This brings the total amount of awards on The Regional’s “Wall of Fame” to 692.

The Regional News won one award from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association. Former Regional News reporter Jeff Vorva won first place in the Best Sports Story, nondaily category for a feature titled “Miracles can happen.” The story was about former Sandburg High School athlete Lukas Verzbicas’s return to competitive running just a few months after he suffered life-threatening injuries after a bike accident in Colorado and doctors told him he might never walk again.

The judges said: “Writer Jeff Vorva captures the essence of an ultimate human interest story — from elite high school runner to life-threatening accident to reincarnation. Pertinent quotes from others sources, research and details all enhance this.”

Earlier in the year, that same story took second place in the B Division of the Illinois Press Association contest.

Regional and Reporter Sports editor Ken Karrson also brought home hardware in the IPA for second place in Division B headline writing. Former Reporter Editor Jason Maholy took third place in the same category. Maholy also won an honorable mention for Division B Spot News Photo for his image of “Random Hearts in the Snow.”

Vorva was also a finalist for the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Award for a news feature on Palos Park shooting victim Brian Reed’s decision to live after suffering horrific injuries that have left him paralyzed.

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On a personal note 2013 was a great year for me and my family. Sullivan just turned 1 year old in December and is running around the house keeping Derek and I busy. It’s wonderful to watch him learn and grow every day. My parents, Charles and Gerri Richards, still live in Palos Heights and enjoy several summer visits to their home in Iron River, Wis.

Q: Why have we been making this annual progress report every year for the past 48 years, since Regional Publishing is a private family-owned corporation?

A: The success of our company, like few other businesses is dependent upon the support of the majority of the families in each of the communities we serve. You have placed your trust in us and we promise to bring you a comprehensive progress report each year.