Leifeste named Gazette's new general manager

Terri Leifeste
Terri Leifeste
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Terri Leifeste is the Texarkana Gazette's new general manager, parent company WEHCO Media Inc. has announced.

Leifeste assumes responsibility for the Gazette's day-to-day operations and will relocate from Jefferson City, Mo., to Texarkana.

"I look forward to getting here and getting on the ground and working with the team here to grow our newspaper," she said. "I come here energized and happy. I've been in this market a lot, so I feel comfortable here. We're going to do great things."

Leifeste will remain president of WEHCO Media's Palmer Newspaper Group, which comprises Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. – publisher of the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun and California Democrat – and five newspapers in Arkansas, including the Gazette. She is stepping down as general manager of CMNI. Read about Todd Frantz's appointment as GM.

Her experience spans almost 40 years and includes stints as general manager of Middle Tennessee Community Newspapers, publisher of the Courier News in Elgin, Ill., and vice president of Horizon Publications, where she served as publisher of the Saline Courier in Benton, Ark. She has been a member of the National Newspaper Association, Arkansas Press Association and a variety of other newspaper groups.

A native of Greenville, Texas, Leifeste is the first woman to hold the title of president at a WEHCO Media newspaper. She said the company's leadership is more focused on how a job is done than on who is doing it.

"If you're here, you're here to do a job," she said.

"When I started in 1978 – almost 38 years ago – it was a guys' business. It was pretty far along in my career that I wasn't the only woman in the room," she told the Jefferson City News Tribune last year.

Jeff Jeffus, president of WEHCO Newspapers, said he was confident that Leifeste's thorough industry knowledge would take the Gazette to a new level of success.

"I know Terri's abilities and leadership skills and knowledge of working in multiple markets and different companies. She'll bring leadership and guidance to this operation," he said.

WEHCO Media President and CEO Nat Lea agreed, saying that Leifeste should not find it difficult to feel at home in Texarkana or at the Gazette.

"Terri has worked a great deal with the Gazette's managers, so she's familiar with the community, and she's very familiar with the newspaper. I look forward to having her leadership here in Texarkana," he said. "I think our employees and the community are going to enjoy working with Terri."

Community service is a priority in Leifeste's life, and she plans to bring those values to her role at the Gazette.

"I'm really involved. I'm on a couple of boards of directors, and I'm involved in some charity things in Central Missouri, and I expect that I will be just as involved in the community here. There, I'm on the United Way board, I'm on the Boys and Girls Club board, and then I volunteer for other things. I expect not just that I will be involved a lot in the community, but our newspaper will," she said.

Leifeste promised a more diverse range of publications tailored to the community's needs, as well as a renewed focus on digital content and services.

"I think our readers and our advertisers will see more products come out of our newspaper, maybe some more niche publications, some things that the community may see that might not even be inserted into our newspaper but that we see the need for in Texarkana.

"We'll be focusing a lot on our digital offerings, not just for subscribers, but for advertisers. We're going to grow that business," she said. "We now have Flypaper, which is a digital agency operating out of this building, and we're going to make sure that that team gets the resources they need to get out there and be competitive in this market with other digital agencies."

Leifeste replaces Kirk Blair, who had been general manager since April 2014. In a career at the Gazette that began in the 1970s, Blair served as circulation director, advertising director and for more than 20 years, marketing director. He took over for former publisher Buddy King, who retired. At the time, King was also president of the Palmer Newspaper Group.

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