Wednesday, August 17, 2022
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SNP a little less sunny with Alexander retirement

by CHANSE WATSON
Managing Editor | July 30, 2022 6:00 AM

A new era has once again come to the Shoshone News-Press, as Publisher and community icon Keri Alexander retired this year and has moved on to more flowery, colorful pastures.

Holding the title of Publisher for the last eight years of her 31-year career within the Hagadone Corporation, Keri (or Mama K, as we often called her here at the News-Press) navigated the News-Press through some of its toughest times, but was also responsible for many of its greatest achievements.

A Silver Valley native, Keri moved to the area when she was 2 years old after originally being born in an Air Force hospital where her father was stationed in Sue St. Marie, Mich. Her parents being Silver Valley natives themselves, her father, Art Krulitz is from Mullan and her mother, Sherry Krulitz, is from Osburn.

Little Keri grew up living in Pinehurst, attending school in the Kellogg School District, and got to experience what the Silver Valley was like before the area’s main industry packed up and left.

“Bunker Hill was booming,” she said. “Most everybody's parents worked at Bunker Hill and it was booming.”

Art initially worked as a diesel mechanic, while Sherry worked with the Pinehurst City Clerk’s Office for many years. She would later serve as Shoshone County Treasurer at 27 years old, then retire to stay home with her daughters — Keri and Karla. The timing of this decision wasn’t the best though, as the Bunker Hill Mine would shut down a week later.

“During my childhood, it was hard to find a job,” Keri said. “So many of my friends left because their parents couldn’t find jobs, so it was kinda cool that my mom and dad were able to do whatever they had to do to stay here.”

To keep the family supported, Art opened up his own business working on heavy equipment for a little while, then eventually got a job with the Kellogg School District.

Keri’s first jobs were cleaning cabins at Arrow Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene and helping weigh and package products at Kellogg Plastics.

Graduating from Kellogg High School in 1987, Keri then went off to the University of Idaho where she initially planned to major in education, but did not enjoy the grade school environment. She then changed her major a couple different times until she finally took a journalism class and found an interest in the public relations side of the job. Because of this, her major landed on advertising/public relations and a minor in English.

A college degree wouldn’t be in her future though, as she would meet the man she would later marry during a brief stint at North Idaho College. Mitch Alexander, who would later serve as Shoshone County Sheriff for eight years, was in the law enforcement program at the time.

After going back to U of I and juggling both her studies in Moscow and seeing Mitch in Coeur d’Alene, her parents made the call to have her studies put on hold when her grades continued to slip. She moved back home to Pinehurst in 1990 with her parents and quickly applied for an administrative assistant position that was listed at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

“I wanted to work in the news industry. I was getting close to having a degree in advertising/public relations. I really wanted to work in the newspaper industry or do something in the media.”

The position she applied for was filled by someone else though, so she sent in an application to Courtesy Communications later that same year.

In 1991, Keri received a call from the person who ended up getting the administrative assistant position that she had applied for.

“She said, ‘hey! You had come in and left your application with us and I ended up getting the job, but I am leaving…Are you still interested?’ I said, ‘absolutely!'”

Following an interview with then-Publisher Roy Wellman, Keri got the job and made her first step into the world of the Hagadone Corporation.

“I was so nervous,” she recalled. “I was driving to Coeur d’Alene (from the Silver Valley) and everyone was so shocked that I would drive so far to come to work, but I had to because Mitch had been hired by (Shoshone County Sheriff) Frank Crnkovich… so we had to live in the county.”

Keri and Mitch married in 1991 and subsequently purchased a home in Pinehurst, where — for the next 23 years, Keri would drive to Coeur d’Alene for work through every type of weather imaginable.

“I never, ever missed a day because of bad weather — ever,” she recalled. “There were occasions where I was late, but nobody ever made me feel bad if I was late because they knew I had to travel so far.”

Her next step in the company occurred nine months after landing the administrative assistant role when she moved into classified advertising. There she handled legal notice billing and scheduling.

“I loved that job,” Keri said. “I worked in that job for 10 years and five of those years I managed that job. That’s when Jim Thompson came into our life (as the Publisher) and he turned our little department into a full-force sales machine.”

After a decade there, Keri then moved to a position in outside sales, but quickly learned that it wasn't suited for her at the time. In an effort to put her in a position to succeed and learn, Thompson created the Co-Op Advertising Manager role for Keri in 2002. In this position, Keri traveled with all the sales reps and sought out marketing money that the various businesses would receive through the products that they sold.

Blacksheep Sporting Goods was her first big client.

“I literally found for Dave (Knoll), that first year, $30,000 in co-op money. The second year, I found $50,000. I was so tickled.”

Over the years, Keri would develop both a strong professional and personal relationship with the sporting goods store owner.

During her five-year stint in this Co-op Advertising Manager position, Keri learned a lot about ad design when she had to lay out co-op ads. She also had the opportunity to observe how every other advertising representative succeeded and failed in their jobs. This experience would give her the tools to later succeed in her own right.

In 2007, she took another crack at being an account executive and was not only awarded one of the largest accounts at the Coeur d’Alene Press (Super 1 Foods), but also one of the largest account blocks.

“It was just really super fun,” she said. “My sister-in-law and my brother-in-law both worked for the company for a period of time, so it was like the Alexander trio and there were just some really, really really beautiful years.”

After seven years, life events combined with commuting fatigue to motivate Keri to pursue a dream that she had been working toward for a long time — to become the Publisher of the Shoshone News-Press.

“When I got hired at the Coeur d’Alene Press, I always knew that I wanted to caretake my hometown newspaper,” she said.

The Shoshone News-Press went through its own trial by fire (pun intended) not four years before, when its original office in Uptown Kellogg was destroyed by an arsonist on Sept. 23, 2010. By December of the same year, Brad Hagadone, then-president of the Hagadone Communications Division, announced that the News-Press would be reopening at its new location at 620 E. Mullan Ave. in Osburn.

The Keri Alexander-era of the News-Press began in January 2014 after longtime publisher, Dan Drewry, took a position within the Hagadone News Network in Montana.

She learned that she was being sent to lead the News-Press from Thompson during a particularly stressful time in her life, as Mitch was at the FBI National Academy and she was left to manage their two kids, Mason and Abby, while also dealing with a 45-minute commute to Coeur d’Alene.

“Jim pulls me into his office and said, ‘darlin, we’re sending you home’ and I just couldn’t even believe it,” Keri said. “It was just jaw dropping. These things just happen when you least expect it…and so, I said, ‘well, when do I start?’ and he said, ‘tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.”

Once Keri jumped into her new role, the first task was to get reacquainted with the community that she had spent much of her life in.

“There was some bridge building that needed to take place; lots of repair,” she said. “I had worked outside of my community that I lived in for so long that I felt like I was kind of a newcomer.”

While it took some time, Keri established herself in the community as the shining face of the local Silver Valley media company. On the personal side, she was overjoyed that her new position allowed her to be more involved in the lives of her family and spend more time at home — and less on the road.

“It was a super big honor to caretake this newspaper,” she said. “Our team did the most amazing job on looking at the trends and seeing what we could do differently than our sister newspapers that we can test and try and not be afraid to fail.”

During Keri’s tenure, the digital footprint of the News-Press grew exponentially.

At the start of 2016, the News-Press lacked an interactive website and had little presence on social media platforms like Facebook. Fast forward to 2022, the News-Press boasts a frequently trafficked website, a strong social media followership with numbers close to the population of the county, a mobile app for reader convenience, and a regional podcast that first started out as a county show.

Keri also brought a new flair and approach to ad design, ensuring that ads were eye-catching and professional.

Speaking of her personal flair, Keri also put her own special touch on numerous special sections. While she always hoped to bring on a special section writer, the budget never could accommodate it. To get around this fiscal challenge, she was able to come up with creative ideas, such as the Hike and Bike special section, which almost always featured articles and photos from Mitch at the husband price.

Looking back on her whole 31-year career with the Hagadone Corporation, Keri is most proud of her work with younger people in the company.

“Later, it was really cool to work with such young and talented people and see them stay (with the News-Press), like Chanse (Watson) and Josh (McDonald).”

As far as her advertising work, Keri was proud of her time in Coeur d’Alene where she was able to manage a million dollars worth of business as one sole account executive.

“That was really, really exciting to be in that position and be trusted. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am just really, really proud that I was able to accomplish getting into that position and work with some really talented people.”

Looking back on something she may have done differently, she admits that she was a rule follower to a fault and wished she had more confidence like others in the company did to pursue certain goals or shape a position. Anyone who knows Keri, either for 20 minutes or 20 years, knows that she is an eternal optimist who always looks on the bright side of things. While she's very aware that this attitude is her greatest strength, she also knows that it causes her to be weak in certain areas.

“I wish I would have been a little stronger in selling myself,” she said. “I never wanted to ruffle any feathers. I always want to help people.”

While her time in advertising, and at the helm of a small-town newspaper, never had a chance of ever taking away her smile and perpetual cheery attitude, it did teach her how to have thicker skin when the need arose.

“You have to be really tough to work in our industry. It’s not easy, it’s really not easy, and I did it for 31 years and I’m really, really proud to work in this industry,” she said. “People are depending on us for the truth and I certainly grew as a daughter to my parents, as a wife to my husband, and as a mom to my children because of what I did in my career path. It helped strengthen me because of the toughness of the job.”

Entering the next phase of her life, Keri has embraced a very appropriate hobby of hers in flower farming with the goal of turning it into a business.

Dubbed “the Sunshine Flower Farm,” she chose the name not only because of her eternally optimistic attitude, but also because the farm — located at her house in Big Creek — sits just down the road from the historic Sunshine Mine. The plan is to sell the flowers she grows to florists by the spring of 2023.

“My ultimate goal is I would love to someday sell these long stem, gorgeous blooms to The Coeur d’Alene Resort, to the Hagadone Corporation, and I’d like people who walk around the resort to ask, ‘where did these come from? And I’d like Mr. Brad Hagadone and his team to say, ‘those came from Kellogg, Idaho.'”

As the farm unfolds, Keri plans to document her journey over social media through what she calls “the sunshine report” and eventually getting into vlogging and creating a website.

It wouldn’t be Keri if she didn’t spread the love around on her way out.

Thirty-one days before her official retirement date, she took to her Facebook and sent out what she described as “31 days of gratitude,” where she made a new post everyday talking about and thanking those who had the most impact on her during her time with the company.

As one of the young people that had the privilege of working with Keri, I will always be thankful to her for the opportunity she offered me here at the Shoshone News-Press and will continue to cherish our friendship.

Have fun in the sun and enjoy your retirement, Keri!

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Courtesy photo

Keri Alexander (center) smiles for the camera with Managing Editor Chanse Watson (left) and Local Editor Josh McDonald in 2019 to promote one of her many fun and brilliant projects — the Silver Valley Cookbook.

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Courtesy photo

An early family photo of Mitch and Keri Alexander with their son, Mason, and daughter, Abby, in front of their old Pinehurst home.

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Courtesy photo

Keri Alexander and Kayla DeTienne in 2010 while working at the Coeur d'Alene Press. DeTienne has since taken over advertising responsibilities at the Shoshone News-Press since Alexander's retirement.

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Courtesy photo

Keri Alexander shares her first harvest photo as a flower farmer earlier this year.

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