Tribune publisher and East Valley activist Karen Wittmer announced she will retire later this year. Wittmer has been the Tribune’s top executive for over 10 years, serving under two owners.
She is also CEO for Freedom Arizona Information, the parent company for the Sun City Daily News Sun, the Ahwatukee Foothills News and Clipper Magazine.
Wittmer, 55, said she is leaving the newspaper business after 32 years — 24 as a publisher — to spend more time with her husband, Lou Jekel, who will be retiring from his Scottsdale law practice this year.
Wittmer said her retirement most likely will take place late this summer, but the precise date will depend on a search for a successor that the Tribune’s parent Company, Freedom Communications Inc., will conduct.
Jon Segal, president of Freedom Newspapers Inc., expressed his appreciation “for the fine work Karen has done in serving the information needs of the community with a wide variety of products.
“I also want to praise the community stewardship endeavors of the Tribune under her auspices.”
“I very much appreciate the lead time she has given on her retirement plans inasmuch as her shoes will be very big ones to fill,” he said.
Wittmer is past president of the East Valley Partnership. She is a trustee of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
She is a member of the Arizona Research Park board, the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce Board’s executive committee, the Mesa Arts Center Foundation Board, the Mesa United Way board. And she is a past member of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.
Wittmer said that, as she looks forward to retirement, she takes great pride “in giving the East Valley its own newspaper and its own voice.”
“We’ve been able to foster a sense of community in the East Valley and protect the East Valley’s interest,” she said. The Tribune “really does serve the community well.”
She recalled that, when she took over the Tribune, it consisted of five city newspapers.
She ranked repositioning those five papers into a single East Valley regional newspaper with two editions as one of her foremost accomplishments.
“Her community engagement will be sorely missed because she has been deep into the community,” said East Valley partnership executive Director Roc Arnett.
“I see the paper’s name in sponsorship of activities all over the East Valley,” he said.
He also cited Wittmer’s “great commitment” to developing the arts in Mesa and Scottsdale and to improving business and the quality of life in the East Valley through the East Valley Partnership.
“She was phenomenal in bringing us all together,” he said, referring to her
work as chairwoman of the partnership’s board development committee.
Virginia Korte, president emeritus of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, said Wittmer has shown “incredible leadership over many years.”
“She has been very successful as a publisher and done great things at the Tribune” for the Scottsdale and East Valley markets, Korte said. And “she has done it with integrity and class. She brings integrity to every table she sits at.”
“She has been a friend and a mentor and I will miss her in that leadership role,” Korte added.