©2009 Wilson County News, 1012 C Street, Floresville, Texas 78114 830-216-4519 Fax 830-393-3219
History of the Wilson County News
The Wilson County News works hard to provide a true value to both its readers and its advertisers. From the news coverage to the editorials, from information about community and scholastic events to local sports, it is a newspaper that strives to always be professional and, put simply, to always be the best.
It is a newspaper for South Texas, about South Texas. It is respected and trusted as the number one source for local news and events. As one of the largest circulations for a paid weekly community newspaper, Wilson County News readers expect top quality and they will not be disappointed.
Elaine Kolodziej began publishing the Wilson County News when its owner Peter J. Russo died Dec. 29, 1984 (Read "Our Sincere Appreciation" by Elaine Kolodziej). At that time, it was a little shopper with no assets, hidden debts, and no apparent future. Against all odds and her family's wishes, Elaine pursued her vision of a real newspaper. After a year of struggling out from under debts and working to overcome the paper's poor reputation, the business stabilized and began to take on a life of its own. Elaine did all the running, including picking up the now almost 6,000 papers from Richards Printing in San Antonio each Tuesday, delivering them to seven local post offices and also distributing all the newsstand copies. The business was operated from rented quarters on Hwy. 181 in Floresville.
In the summer of 1985, Cathy Green joined as the sole employee (part-time). In August 1986, Cathy came on full-time, providing new enthusiasm for the newspaper and an infusion of ideas for the business. In October Al and Elaine Kolodziej purchased the building where the newspaper is presently housed at 1012 "C" Street. The operation was run from the front two rooms of the building. The paper was being produced on some antiquated Frieden machines that had been discarded. Opportunities were limited, but enthusiasm grew as people expressed their love for the little paper.
1987: First Computer
The first Macintosh Plus was purchased in July 1987. Cathy quickly taught herself how to use the computer and "We were in business." In August Ginny Brown and her friend Pilar Flores were hired part-time. In September the second Mac was purchased. Meanwhile, various people had come in as part-time hires, but for one reason or another the newspaper was not to be their future.
By November more help was needed to keep pace. Judy Hons joined the staff. Although she applied for part-time, her skill at bookkeeping and proofreading proved invaluable, and she was put on full-time. She also had a talent for working with brides-to-be, and we quickly discovered that there was a need as well as a market for the wedding-invitation business. Thus, a new sideline was born.
1988: Bridal Shows
In 1988 Lucy Garza came on part-time, helping to deliver the newspaper and doing various odd jobs. Lucy became full time and stayed until she "retired" in 2000. A telephone system was installed and the offices expanded across the hall. By September, Sharon Greenwood was hired as typist. (She stayed until she moved in the spring of 1991.) After a slightly slow summer, we decided to instigate some excitement by planning a bridal show. The show was scheduled for the third weekend in September but had to be postponed for one week because of a hurricane. Despite all the problems, the show was a smashing success. The following year no bridal show was held. The shows then were moved to the second weekend in February; four more shows followed. Our wedding business increased substantially, but as our newspaper business kept us increasingly busy, we decided not to continue the bridal shows because of the enormous amount of work and expense. Our business in wedding invitations remains strong, with many customers coming in from other areas, including San Antonio.
In November the Wilson County News purchased a facsimile machine and became the first business in Floresville to offer a public fax service. A second-hand delivery van was purchased in October. To handle an ever-increasing demand for classified ads, a classified ad program for the Mac was purchased in December.
In 1989 WCN changed printers, now going to San Antonio Press. In August, the Celebrations Room was opened across the hall to accommodate a growing wedding-invitation business. Remodeling and expansions had become a way of life for the burgeoning business.
By 1990 the circulation of this little paper had become 13,886, largely by Third Class mail. Keith Kolodziej graduated from high school in May and began working during the summer. He continued part-time while going to school. (Keith left the newspaper during 1994 to work for an architect. He continued part-time until he received a degree in architecture in 1998.)
More offices were added that year. Linda Calvert began reporting in the summer of 1990 and was editor while she worked toward her masters in journalism. She continued to free-lance here and with the San Antonio dailies for the next couple of years.
In November a Mac IIsi, scanner and laser printer were purchased, changing forever the way the newspaper was put together. This system allowed us to do our own halftones.
In January of 1991 Judy's office was moved allowing more space for production. Judy had become the office manager. In February a 25¢ charge was added for newsstand copies, largely as a means of control rather than for a profit motive. In September WCN purchased a Risograph, a high-speed copier/printer which allowed for in-house processing of a growing demand for quick printing. A commercial paper-cutter was needed to cut large orders, and the business of graphic design began.
Elaine purchased an historical 100-year-old building across the street from the newspaper in 1991. Eventually she opened an antique shop DBA Heritage House.
A major change with the newspaper itself took place in the fall when the decision was made to apply for and become a Second Class newspaper. It would meet all the qualifications of a "paid" newspaper. However, the Wilson County News remained a free publication. Actual mailing under Second Class requirements began on Nov. 27, 1991. Altman Direct Marketing in San Antonio handled the mailing list and prepared the newspapers for distribution. They were mailed directly from the main Post Office in San Antonio.
The office continued to undergo changes with additions, painting, new carpets and remodeling. A number of part-time employees continued to drift in and out. Newspaper was just not in their blood. Meanwhile, the newspaper business continued at a hectic pace.
Teresa Benns began working as a free-lance reporter in February 1993, as the newspaper concentrated more on news content. She was one of several reporters and photographers who would eventually compliment the news staff. The newspaper continued to win awards in competition.
In the fall WCN published its first "Newcomers Guide" for the Floresville Chamber of Commerce using mostly part-time and temporary personnel. It was a major undertaking but proved to be a great success and a tradition WCN would continue.
A reporter from Oklahoma found his way to WCNs office in November via Ohio, the Middle East and Europe, and, again, the newspaper changed the way it did things. Marty Kufus began part-time, covering city hall and courthouse news. As his considerable talents became apparent, he was hired as a full-time reporter and, shortly after, made news editor. The Wilson County News, for the first time, had a "newsroom," and excitement continued to grow as it experienced added emphasis on news reporting.
Two offices were added, expanding the Wilson County News company to occupy the entire space of the building. (This was space previously rented to a chiropractor.) Kristen Kolodziej, who grew up with the newspaper and always worked when she could, was able to assume the duties of maintaining WCNs growing list of requesters this summer. Kristen worked after school, as she was a senior in high school. The paper changed printers again, going to Christopher Press. Accu-Mail began doing the mailing, and an IBM compatible system was purchased to maintain the papers mailing list.
No longer able to resist a desire to pursue more adventure than could be found in Floresville, Marty left for the Soldier of Fortune in Colorado. Gary Gius came in as courthouse reporter.
Remodeling continued with additional storage space and another office in the back for Liza Elizalde, who came in September as Advertising Director. The telephone system was maxed out with eight telephones, and there was no more room for expansion in the existing building. The addition of an Advertising Director brought the Wilson County News to yet another exciting new stage in its ever-expanding growth and progress.
The year 1996 began rather tumultuously, with newsprint and ever-increasing postage costs taking their toll. In managements attempt to come up with solutions, they began to explore seriously for the first time, the possibilities of becoming a "paid" newspaper rather than remaining a free publication. The more management explored the option, the more they liked what we saw! Even though Liza made the decision to join a larger publication in San Antonio, she left the paper with the enthusiasm and the courage to pursue switching from a "shopper" to a full-fledged paid subscription newspaper.
Even though the main reason for initially considering the option of going paid had been the reduced postage rate for paid newspapers, within a few months the economics improved considerably, so that it was no longer a factor in determining the decision to go paid. By this time, however, everyone on the staff wanted to work to become a full-fledged regular Second Class paid newspaper. It proved to be a good decision.
To begin preparation for going paid, customers in zips 78223 and 78263 were notified that they would no longer receive the newspaper free. After three weeks, those who had not paid $20 would be dropped from the mailing list. The paper had almost a 16 percent return and thought that to be a very good indication of things to come. Things were optimistic.
On June 17 Wilson County News publicized the announcement that it was going to become a paid newspaper. The response was overwhelmingly positive! Subscriptions began rolling in and Kristen had a full-time job entering the new subscriptions into the computer. The conversion was made to a fully paid, subscription newspaper by the first issue in August.
Indeed, 1996 was a historic year. At the end of August, Al Kolodziej retired from City Public Service after almost 33 years. Without missing a beat, Al joined the newspaper as business manager.
By the end of September, the papers paid audited circulation was 6,315. This put it ahead (after only two months!) of all other neighboring newspapers except the Pleasanton Express, an award-winning publication. The staff was extremely pleasedand relievedas many people had told them it couldn't be done.
Subscriptions continued to pour in and numbers climbed. Al began to absorb newspaper lingo as the ink seeped into his blood. As the circulation numbers grew, so did the demands on the small staff and little building. Al negotiated the purchase of a new delivery van for the company, and before the end of the year, made a successful offer to buy the old "saddle shop" next door to the newspaper. It was purchased for eventual additional office space, as things were getting very crowded! By December, he had negotiated the purchase of the building on the other side of the saddle shop. Both buildings were in extremely run-down condition, but that was the only possible space for expansion. In fact, the Floresville Realty Building had office space that Wade Hawkins and his wife Betty still were using. Al was able to immediately move his office in the Floresville Realty Building, and Wade and Betty would continue renting some of the office space for their real estate business for the next year as they phased in their retirement.
Another major undertaking awaiting Al in his new career was the incorporation of the business as WCN, Inc. Previously, it had been Elaine Kolodziej DBA Wilson County News . The incorporation went smoothly. It was a big step in the papers continuing journey. With the spring rains, however, came dismal news. The roofs on both of the new buildings would have to be replaced, and there was no time to lose. A serious remodeling program was under way by March. That summer, more changes were in store for the ever-growing newspaper.
Gary Gius also was leaving to accept a position with the city. Elaine recalled having received a letter from a guy who "decided he wanted to become a newspaper reporter." He had been training polo ponies. Elaine called Brian Murphy and since he was eager to give it a try, didn't make too much of a demand, and we didn't really have any other options, Brian started as a part-time reporter. He proved to be a fast learner, and soon was the full-time reporter. Indeed, "Someone was looking out for us!" At the same time, Elaine received a letter from Marty. He had had enough of Boulder, Colo. and was testing the waters to see if he might want to come back to Texas. It was almost providential that, as Gary left, Marty was about to return. It was not soon enough for Elaine. She was ready to cut back on the stress.
Marty returned to find a serious newspaper with a real newsroom this time. Susan Hodges had joined the staff as proofreader, working three days a week. Brian stayed on as a full-time reporter, taking time out for a quick wedding and honeymoon, and Marty re-joined the staff the next week. It was a smooth transition. Just in the nick of time, the two new buildings were ready for the staff to move into, at least partially. Since Elaine relinquished her office space to Marty, she moved her office into the new "executive suite" with Al's office.
Remodeling continued. Walls came down and others went up. A kitchen was put in the back half of the saddle shop. The telephone system had to be expanded and voice mail was added.
That summer, the accounts receivable were automated. This was a big step as manual bookkeeping had become unwieldy.
As the second year as a paid newspaper approached the July 31st "magic point," subscription renewals began to pile in. Weekly distribution had reached 9,500 with mail subscriptions almost 7,000. The papers circulation was one of the largest in the state for weekly community newspapers!
A job for a part-time receptionist was posted. Dozens of applications were received. Finally Rebecca Rodriguez was hired as an administrative assistant, helping process the mail, answer the phones and assist with duties for Al and Elaine from their "executive suite."
In the fall Elaine and Al attended a National Newspaper Association convention in Las Vegas. This was where Elaine became convinced that the Internet was the place to be.
But sandwiched in the middle of all this was the historic flood which hit Al and Elaine's home on Oct. 18. For the remainder of the year, they slept on the floor in their offices as Keith Kolodziej supervised the remodeling of their country home and added an apartment upstairs from the offices.
In December the Wilson County News was poised to enter yet another stage of its exciting story as the first attempt of the Internet was launched.
1999: Surfing Isn't What It Used To Be
In 1999, the Wilson County News found itself continuing to explore the Internet, a still relatively new concept to newspapers. Wilson County News Online found its way into the pages of history. Several changes in the online edition were made over the next few years while trying to find the right approach for the an online presence that would complement the print edition.
2000: The new millennium
Although the year 2000 approached with aprehension for fear of computer systems crashing all over the world, somehow the Wilson County News and the world survived. The new year brought exciting changes. The Web-site continued to be a work in progress as the Wilson County News developed its own online identity.
On April 24, as the First Lady of Texas visited Floresville to participate in its ceremony distinguishing Floresville as an official Main Street city, the Wilson County News opened its doors to a new central office. The old Vela Saddle Shop had been remodeled to accommodate the company's spacious front office. With a state-of-the-art design that embraced the history of the building by retaining certain features in the walls, Keith Kolodziej had developed a winning plan. A full-time receptionist to coordinate the three buildings now housing the expanding newspaper operations was needed.
This was also the year the newspaper began participating in a nationwide program, Newspapers In Education.
2001: A new way of newspaper life
In June, the Wilson County News not only changed printers, but also changed the way it processed the paper. As the change to the San Antonio Express-News was made, the size was changed as well, going from a 16-1/2" tabloid to the newly popular 25" broadsheet. These were drastic changes but intensely exciting and challenging.
This huge step required the design staff to work long hours, sometimes doing double work. Because the newspaper was going all-electronic, there would be no more cut and paste. Gone were the days of using wax and scissors! A concept that seemed too far-fetched just a year before was only weeks away.
Guided by Kristen who had recently graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Elaine and the staff felt more at ease with the transition. New ad sizes had to be formulated, everything would have to be processed in the computer, and all departments faced the strange feeling the digital world was bringing to the business. It was difficult to adjust from being able to hold, shape, and see every single piece of the newspaper, to the abstract idea of every ad, article, and page being transmitted digitally via the computer.
During the excitement of the many changes taking place, Kathleen Azzaro and Olga Garcia came on board. Kathleen would move on after a couple of years, and Olga would go from part-time to becoming the HR person.
At the close of 2001 another change was in store for the Wilson County News . This was the announcement that Kristen Kolodziej Weaver would be named Director Of Operations.
2002: Wilsoncountynews.com reborn and another flood
Kristen discovered a new Internet company that offered big, yet simple and cost-effective results. Thus, wilsoncountynews.com was reborn and proved to be a tremendous success! The new Internet host would offer the affordability and flexibility that wilsoncountynews.com needed. And the newspaper's approach newspaper and Web-site working to complement each other became a reality.
In April, Monica Lyssy joined the staff, helping in the design department. She became the subscription manager and NIE coordinator, thus enabling Newspapers In Education to take a new direction, allowing more communication with teachers using the newspapers and providing fresh ideas.
Even as operations were running smoothly, another crisis was to present itself. Though people felt assured that the Flood of 1998 was a "100-Year Flood," good 'ole Texas weather made South Texans think again. In July another flood struck Wilson County. While most of the the staff was stranded at home, the Wilson County News managed to get a paper out. Unfortunately, Al and Elaine's country home didn't fare so well. The Kolodziej's would not risk another possible flood and quickly moved to a golf community in Floresville called RiverBend.
Other people came and went. In the fall Marty announced that he would be leaving the newspaper industry for a job as the homeland-security manager with the Bexar Metropolitan Water District. Brian quickly stepped up to the plate acting as news editor while Elaine searched for a replacement. Brian eventually agreed to stay on as news editor.
Lynette Lopez joined the developing staff. Even as a junior in high school, she was ready to take a serious job in the workforce by helping in the front office and printing department, eventually becoming a graphic designer on the design team.
During the summer the newspaper held its first-ever NIE Golf Tournament. It was a huge success and the program received a nice boost for the next year.
Kathleen Azzaro left in the fall and Erica Quintanilla joined the growing staff as the classified ad manager. Bill O'Connell and Amy Seiford joined the newsroom, and Mary Drennon finished the year before making a career change to the medical field.
During this year Olga Garcia added human resource responsibilities to her administrative assistant title. Many changes would continue to take place as she worked with management to help create a more organized company structure.
The second very successful NIE Golf Tournament was held showing great potential for the future of the NIE program and proving to be an event that will be continued each year to draw support for NIE.
The staff grew and started to develop in several departments this year: Julie Smith joined the staff as copy editor and Crystal Hill joined the staff as front office clerk. Sara Canady and Lisa Boenker became a customer service team working with Judy on expanding the client base. Holly Mutz also joined the growing newsroom.
With Toyota building in Wilson Countys "backyard" all eyes now were focusing in the area south and east of San Antonio. An H-E-B and Bill Millers opened in Floresville and new opportunities quickly developed.
During 2005 several faces came and went. Brian announced early in the year that he had made the decision to change careers to teaching. He soon began his classes to pursue teaching while management looked for the right person to take the lead in his absence at the end of the summer. Another golf tournament tournament was held for NIE.
By May the paper had put together its annual graduation section, "Tomorrow's Leaders," which included an exclusive cover photo derived from an intricately planned photo shoot of the top local graduates featured in the section. The photo shoot turned out to be an enjoyable opportunity for WCN staff as well as the graduates.
In the spring Bonnie Ramirez helped launch the ag section. "Agriculture Today" continues to create interest and excitement although Bonnie moved on.
Susan Hodges was named "editor" to fill in after Brian's departure in August. Soon after, Bill O'Connell left to serve his country. Curtis Burton joined the newsroom team for awhile. At the end of summer Nannette Kilbey-Smith joined the staff as copy editor.
In the fall, Amy Seiford moved to Austin. Fred Owens, who decided to move to Texas from Washington, joined the newsroom to help ease the load and fill in the gaps between the police beat and ag news. Pam Smith joined the staff as proofreader and soon found an interest in customer service with Lisa and Judy.
2006 was yet another year of change at the newspaper, allowing constant development of department teams. Holly announced her departure to pursue other interests. Curtis also left the newsroom. Around this time Robert C. McDonald and Victoria Dixon found their way to Wilson Countys workforce. They joined WCNs newsroom. Robert soon became the sports editor debuting his work with the annual Fall Sports section and football coverage in the fall. Victoria moved to Texas from Hawaii and became enthralled in education coverage as well as special interest features, police beat, and meetings.
The year also saw changes in other departments as well. Crystal Hill left in January. Becky Pantuso joined the front office team filling Crystals void. During this year she got married and became Becky Bounds. At the end of the year she left to pursue other interests.
Sara Canady became the NIE Coordinator and helped to continue developing the programs mission and goals. She also undertook seeing the programs mascot, Wilson, become a reality, a project that had been ongoing for the past several years.