A wife, proud mother of three, and "grannie" to four, Elaine Kolodziej is a 1964 graduate of Karnes City High School. The self-taught publisher and editor began her newspaper career after years of voracious reading, and in particular, reading and writing letters to editors in area newspapers.
Her journalism career may have begun accidentally, but , just as accidentally, her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and, what began as a rag-tag little shopper, today is an award-winning newspaper and has one of the largest circulations of weekly community newspapers in the Texas Press Association.
Along the way, she convinced a reluctant husband, Al, to join the business. At various times and in varying degrees, all three children, Karl, Keith, and Kristen have worked and continue to work with the newspaper. Grandson Jacob, at age 19, is very familiar with the operation and shows great potential. Grandchildren, Julia, James Paul, and Jude spend many days at the newspaper while their mother works.
The Kolodziej family moved in 1973 from San Antonio to rural Wilson County where they are involved with school, church, and civic activities. When the flood ruined their country home on Oct. 18, 1998, they immediately began work on an apartment upstairs from the newspaper. After a second flood in July 2002, they moved into a new home in the golf community of RiverBend in Floresville.
Texas Press Association
National Newspaper Association
National Federation of Independent Business
Board of Directors, Wilson County Economic Development Foundation
Charter member of Crime Stoppers of Wilson County
Board of Directors, Wilson County Historical Society
Board of Directors, Floresville Chamber of Commerce
Board of Directors, Floresville Economic Development Foundation
Member, Sister City Project with Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico
Awards and Recognition:
Delegate to White House Conference on Families, Los Angeles, 1980
Delegate to Republican State Convention, Houston, 1980
Delegate to Independent Free Papers of American Convention, St. Louis & Orlando
Volunteer of the Year in 1990 by Texas Community Newspaper Association
Regional Citizen of the Year by Alamo Area Council of Governments, 1991
Verne Offerman Award for distinguished service in the newspaper industry, 1991
Charter Member of Wilson County Crime Stoppers, 1992
Community Service Award, Floresville Chamber of Commerce, 1995
Excellence in Journalism Award, Texas Farm Bureau, 1996
Honorary Lone Star FFA Degree, 1998
July 13, 1994 -- George W. Bush autographs a copy of the Wilson County News during a visit to Floresville.
He was on a campaign stop at Promised Land Dairy. Loyce McCarter and an unidentified man are looking on. (Photo by Reuben Garcia (or D. Camera Man)
Elaine Kolodziej received a call one day, way back when, actually about 1980. Out of the blue, a publisher called and was interested in her writing. She began a column in the Karnes Citation. Shortly after, her state representative contacted her to work in his local office in Floresville. Later still, she answered a help-wanted ad for a newspaper "correspondent," and she was hooked. No doubt, there was ink in her blood.
In 1980, Kolodziej befriended the publisher of a little rag-tag shopper. After he died on Dec. 29, 1984, she continued to publish the shopper on her own. Typesetting was contracted out, and there wasn't much else. The paper consisted in those days of 12-16 pages a few ads, no classifieds, and whatever articles presented themselves. But it was clear that people loved the "little shopper," as it was known for years. By then, it had become the Wilson County News and contained as much news as she could muster.
With no capital to invest and not wanting to dip into the family's income, her entrepreneurial instincts kicked in. She did a lot of bartering, including an exchange of advertising for office space. She also enlisted the help of anyone around, including her children, friends, and relatives. She was serious about the business, but with no debts or obligations, there was little pressure. Still, she put pressure on herself to ever improve the paper. After overcoming the initial reluctance of many, including her family, the business began to grow.
She fell in love with the "little paper" as did the readers. Advertisers naturally followed. In 1985, she realized for the first time that hers was not the only "shopper" in the world! In fact, there was an entire organization of free newspapers and shoppers. She promptly paid the $100 to join and dragged her reluctant husband to their first of many conventions in Houston. There she met others in the industry and soaked up as much information as she could in one weekend. She made valuable contacts and began active participation, eventually becoming president of the TCNA, and even representing it at three national conventions.
Kolodziej continued this approach, ever joining more professional associations and reading anything and everything about the industry. By October 1986, the business had developed to the point of viability. Elaine and her husband, Al, bought a building in downtown Floresville. A huge investment at the time, it proved to be the right thing. What began as a diversion for a bored housewife suddenly became a serious business.
The newspaper has one of the largest circulations of a paid weekly community newspaper in Texas, according to Texas Press Association information. Its online edition is one of the most widely read community Web sites. The business is housed in three buildings. Remodeling continues as opportunities and needs present themselves.