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Meet the people who make The Beacon happen

Our first billboard — In this combination of photographs created by Beacon CFO Michael Jaeckle, Beacon Publisher Barb Shepherd stands by the newspaper’s billboard, which was displayed along East New York Avenue in DeLand for most of November. For years, Beaconites wished we could afford a billboard; for our 25th anniversary, we made it happen.

Our first billboard — In this combination of photographs created by Beacon CFO Michael Jaeckle, Beacon Publisher Barb Shepherd stands by the newspaper’s billboard, which was displayed along East New York Avenue in DeLand for most of November. For years, Beaconites wished we could afford a billboard; for our 25th anniversary, we made it happen.

BEACON PHOTO COMPOSITE/MICHAEL JAECKLE

Some Beacon staffers — and readers — can recall when the presses stopped printing the DeLand Sun News. Some also remember a small group of employees determined not to let the community lack a news outlet of its very own. 

Many DeLandites can’t remember a time when Beacon co-founder Barb Shepherd wasn’t hurriedly crisscrossing the streets Downtown, notepad and camera in hand. 

She reflected on those early days: “I was a mom with 8- and 5-year-old daughters who were used to having me home and available most of the time. I had been freelancing with the Orlando Sentinel after spending about 10 years working for the DeLand Sun News on a very flexible schedule.

“When we started The Beacon, there were only a few of us, and we worked night and day, seven days a week, very highly motivated to give West Volusia its own local newspaper.

“Husband Jeff stepped up in a big way to make sure the girls’ needs were met. 

“Also, the first year, we Beacon founders took our pay in stock shares, rather than money. I’m very grateful to my family for hanging together during those early, crazy years. 

“Now, daughters Anna and Ella are 33 and 30 and both very successful, self-reliant women with their own careers. I think they have mostly forgiven me for starting a newspaper.”

 

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In 1992, a few of today’s Beaconites were yet to be born, or just taking their first steps. 

The employee population is diverse — varied ages, backgrounds, interests and goals — but it works, exactly in the fashion Shepherd, Joann Kramer and Eileen Burns Everett envisioned in 1992, when the fledgling newspaper took wing.

Perhaps even more visible than its first reporter is The Beacon’s ever-roving, always-focused photographer Marsha McLaughlin, a DeLand native who joined the paper early on, in 1992.  

Marsha, who also is a talented illustrator, expertly and consistently captures the fun and frivolity at the community’s never-ending events, and she’s reliably among the first to arrive at any crime scene.

Belonging to a large family, Marsha treasures her siblings, nieces and nephews as well as her mother, Frances McLaughlin.  

 

Every office needs someone with all the answers. Copy editor and proofreader bar-none, Keith Allen is Google personified. His language skills, recall and attention to detail are invaluable to the process, which relies on accuracy. 

The New York native moved to DeLand in 1963, and graduated from DeLand High School in 1975.   

Keith has been married to his wife, Kitty Allen — a former employee and permanent Beacon family member — for 11 years. 

“Twenty-five years ago, I was doing volunteer work in the local effort to elect Bill Clinton president, and to elect other Democrats to office,” Keith said. “Through good friend and fellow volunteer Jeff Shepherd, I learned that his wife, Barb Shepherd, and others were starting a new local newspaper, The Beacon. I became a subscriber in early 1993 and came to work at The Beacon in October 1996.

“I love our workplace environment at The Beacon, very much like family, and it’s great to be able to work at something that’s helpful to local communities like DeLand, Deltona, DeBary and others in West Volusia,” he added. 

 

The Beacon’s first employee, Paula Tigges, left after several years to pursue other interests, but returned in 2004 to work as a page designer and dummy maker (Disclaimer: This is an industry term for blueprint and does not apply to Paula’s offspring, Bobby, Ben and Emily) — a position she continues to hold. A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Paula moved to DeLand in 1987.

She and her husband, Tim Olson, are enjoying being grandparents to four “wonderful children”: Emylee, Riley, Bailey and Wyatt, all of whom live in DeLand. 

Paula’s favorite aspect of working for the hometown newspaper: “The people!” she said. “I enjoy working with the entire staff at The Beacon; everyone is talented, caring and dedicated to being part of a great team, who give their best to make a great community newspaper.”

 

Newsroom manager and duchess of diplomacy Margie Dykes is the essence of serenity, a valuable commodity in any deadline-driven workplace. Another New York native, Margie also has lived in Miami Beach and Tallahassee, and found her way to DeLand in 1978.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Margie worked as a mental-health counselor before joining The Beacon staff in 2002. 

The self-described “homebody” said her job and its duties — writing obituaries and family news, compiling items for the religion page, the calendar of events, and the arts and entertainment page, as well as sorting through hundreds of daily emails — keep her in the center of all that is happening in West Volusia. 

Her fellow Beacon staff members have “been a wonderful extension of family since I started here,” Margie said. 

A high compliment as she truly embraces her large family, including her beloved grandchildren Sophia, 5, and Alex, 3. 

 

Coni Tarby and Vicki Duckett offer the most welcoming smiles to all who enter the office.

Born in Eustis, Coni moved south to Miami, and, in 2001, back north to West Volusia. She joined the staff in 2004. 

Remembering what she was doing 25 years ago is easy, but not necessarily pleasant. Coni and her family were months into the long process of recovering from Hurricane Andrew. 

Temporarily squeezed into a small trailer in the backyard, she recalled dashing through the grass to visit the Christmas tree, set up in the family’s condemned home. 

Coni answers questions and phones, greets all who enter, and listens like she has all day to whatever visitors have to say. 

She handles classified and other types of advertising, coordinates various office activities, and provides lots of laughter. 

“You get to see and talk to the people in the community every day,” Coni said, explaining why she loves her job. 

She also adores and cherishes time spent with her grandchildren, Carter, 3, and Adeline, 9 months — courtesy of her son Cory and his wife, Jenny. 

Three more loves of Coni’s life are her dogs Tank, Sky and Sketch.

 

Circulation manager Vicki Duckett always offers the second friendly greeting from her desk at the front of the newsroom.

She enjoys helping subscribers manage print and online delivery and loves putting faces with names and voices when she gets to meet them at the many community events for which she always volunteers to staff the Beacon booth. 

Vicki, who is celebrating her 19th year with The Beacon, has also held the positions of receptionist, website manager and graphic artist.

The Miami native graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.

She and her husband, Denis, came to West Volusia in 1989. 

In 1992, Vicki was very busy managing the Chart House restaurant in Daytona Beach. 

Also that year, she and Denis spent five backpack-laden days hiking 51 miles along the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada region. 

Today, Vicki stays busy volunteering for Halifax Youth Sailing; she and Denis’ son Quinn sails year-round with the group. 

 

Michael Jaeckle — “of all trades” — is a third-generation Floridian and The Beacon’s IT manager and chief financial officer. 

The 1995 Stetson University graduate joined the staff in 2001.

Ever-patient and calm, Michael said he enjoys having a job that allows him to be “a part of something that makes the community better.”

He and his wife, Shannon, are parents to one boy, Jackson, who recently turned 5. 

 

Veteran newsman Al Everson is a supercharged — and super-charming — interviewer, meeting-attender, researcher and writer who is interested in everything.

“I’m an unreconstructed Rebel and redneck and a proud graduate of the fifth grade,” he said, grinning. “I was an unwanted child, and I’m now wanted in 28 states.”

Al, who came to West Volusia in 1969 to attend Stetson University, worked at radio station WXVQ (now WJTV) before transitioning to print and joining The Beacon in 2000.

He’s passionate about history, has an abiding interest in and deep respect for all people and events military, as well as a keen ability for fact-finding and information retention. 

“Practically everything I know about life I learned from the Bible and the Three Stooges,” he states often.

 

Everything Joe Crews knows he learned from Lou Grant. Just kidding. Joe takes regularly being called the “office curmudgeon” well. And what good is a business editor who isn’t (mostly) “all business”?

The hardworking, award-winning journalist also began his career in radio before finding his way into print in the mid-1990s. 

As an Air Force brat, Joe spent his youth living in locales throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has lived in DeLand since 1991, and has covered West Volusia’s business community since 1998. 

Joe maintains that he enjoys working for The Beacon because it “beats (barely) unemployment.” 

 

Anthony DeFeo joined the team in July 2015, initially as a full-time writer, before taking the responsibility of managing The Beacon’s website and social-media presence. 

Currently, he serves as editor, leading the news team and organizing the stories for each edition, as well as digital-presence manager.

A native of the Long Island hamlet of Bellmore, New York, Anthony came to West Volusia in 2012 to report for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, after graduating from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

“I like working for the hometown newspaper because nobody has their finger on the pulse of West Volusia better than The Beacon,” Anthony said.

A technology junkie and animal lover, Anthony has an orange tabby cat named Cecil. He still enjoys checking up on Conrad Beacon Cat in Conrad’s retirement.

Anthony can sometimes be spotted around DeLand with his girlfriend of four years, Ally Gardner.

Born in 1990, Anthony said he can only assume the nature of his activities 25 years ago, but the history buff knows more about what was happening politically and otherwise in 1992 than do some of us who were adults at the time. 

 

Co-publisher and advertising sales executive Sammie Wiggins began her newspaper career in North Carolina. 

The Phoenix native moved to Florida in 1991 with her husband, David — a veteran, award-winning newsman — and sons Jon and Brooks. Sammie and David both went to work for The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Ten years later, in 2001, Beacon co-founders Barb and Joann offered Sammie the position of advertising manager. 

“They gave me the opportunity to work in a hometown community newspaper,” Sammie said. “It is nice to know you can know your neighbors and be able to make a difference in your community.”  

 

In 1997, Jan Giroux agreed to try selling advertising for The Beacon “for 30 days.”

Twenty years later, the tireless volunteer and Kiwanis Club of DeLand member continues to roam the streets, selling, selling, selling. 

Jan said she enjoys having a career that dovetails with her commitment to community service. 

In 2015, her son, Scott, and his wife, Kristi, became parents, and Jan welcomed her first grandchild. 

Jan’s main memory of 25 years ago is being involved in the All America Soap Box Derby with her son, Scott.

 

A native of Martinsville, New Jersey, Beacon advertising sales representative Sarah McAskill joined her parents, Bob and Dot Brown, when they retired to her father’s beloved hometown — DeLand. 

Sarah graduated from Stetson University in 1988 and moved back to the Northeast, where she met and married Dr. Stephen McAskill. 

“In February 1992, I was marrying the love of my life, Stephen McAskill,” Sarah said. “We have also just celebrated our 25th anniversary.”

Together, they moved to DeLand, where Stephen began his practice, Advanced Dermatology, in 2000. 

Sarah’s family shares a longtime love for DeLand and its hometown newspaper.  

“My parents were initial investors in The Beacon in the early 1990s,” Sarah explained. “We believe in our community and The West Volusia Beacon, which complements and enhances DeLand. I have served on The West Volusia Beacon board of directors for several years. This volunteerism led me to embark upon the adventure of working in advertising sales last January.”

Sarah is the youngest of five sisters. She and Stephen are parents to three girls, Emma, Jane and Leah. 

Another happily anticipated family affair is the upcoming celebration of her mother, Dot’s, 90th birthday in January.  

“My faith, family and friends are what bring me joy,” Sarah said. “Being a part of the Beacon family has been a special gift as I transition with two of our daughters now off to college.”  

 

The daughter of Beacon co-founder Joann Kramer, Joni Kramer was born in Ohio and moved to West Volusia in 1966.

This second-generation Beaconite worked for the startup newspaper but left to pursue other employment opportunities.

She returned in 2002, and now is production and special-publications manager. As such, Joni coordinates and oversees — from planning to printing — all aspects of ad creation and special publications.

When she’s not at The Beacon, Joni is attending to her first labor of love— her family, including three grandchildren, Taiden, 4; Gracie, 2; and Omari, 9 months. 

Now retired, Joni’s mom and Beacon co-founder Joann is also actively involved in caring for her great-grandchildren. 

 

Working diligently alongside Joni, Deb Davis brings much experience from a long career history in the newspaper industry.

The Sodus, New York, native moved to West Volusia in 2007, and joined The Beacon team in 2010. 

As The Beacon was printing its first editions, Deb was working as a graphic artist at The Post in Glens Falls, New York.

 

Account executive David Dean was born in Dayton, Kentucky, the fifth of seven children.

On his father’s doctor’s advice, David’s family moved to Daytona Beach in 1965. 

David graduated from Mainland Senior High School in 1969 and attended Brigham Young University, for a year, on a baseball scholarship. 

For two years, he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington state. 

David married DeLandite Norma Slaydon on Dec. 15, 1972. The couple have two sons, David “Chipper” W. Dean Jr. and Kyser Slaydon Dean. 

Kyser, his wife, Carrie, and their four children live in Orange City. Chipper lives in Washington, D.C. 

David and Norma lived in Daytona Beach for two years, DeLand 30 years, and have lived in Orange City for more than 12 years.

David’s mother is 96 and lives in Port Orange. 

The second-newest member of the Beacon advertising team, David has spent his entire career in (mostly) retail sales. 

Selling newspaper advertising is different but, David said, since he’s gotten used to it he loves the job.

“I really enjoy selling,” he said. 

 

Keeping advertising operations flowing and organized is Karen Bures, who has worked for The Beacon since 2014.

Karen says she has the most interesting job history ever, including: fern cutter, bartender, water-bed saleswoman, pilot supply-store owner, picture framer and florist. 

The “almost-native” DeLandite has lived in West Volusia since the age of 5. 

A self-labeled “news junkie,” Karen said she enjoys working for the paper because it helps her “stay in the loop.”

She’s an active member of the community who enjoys volunteering and attending the city’s many events. 

Karen’s friends have labeled her a future (crazy) cat lady, but she says she just has a big heart when it comes to “fur friends” in need. 

 

Intern Tom Stevens dove right in, writing about everything from the music scene to restaurants to the recent and highly publicized Luis Toledo trial in St. Augustine. 

Tom graduated last May from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a bachelor’s degree in English-creative writing. 

Though journalism was not part of his postgraduate plans — he studied mostly poetry, literature and history in college — family in DeLand guided him to an internship opportunity at The Beacon. 

“My mother, Vicki Brown, worked at the DeLand Sun in the ’80s, and she’s still good friends with Barb,” Tom explained. “That’s how I got this opportunity.”

Tom also is the nephew of advertising sales representative Sarah McAskill.

While it’s been great having him here, Tom will return in December to Massachusetts, where he’s applying for jobs — any kind that will allow him to do the things he loves.  

“In my free time, I like writing poetry and music, recording music, and performing with my band “oldsoul” (Facebook.com/oldsoulMA),” Tom explained. “We’re getting ready to release a record in February, and starting to plan a tour to Austin and back in March.”

“I’m grateful to everyone at The Beacon for welcoming me and giving me work to do, and to my grandmother for allowing me a place to live,” Tom added. “Since arriving in DeLand, I’ve written about things I never thought I’d experience, from farm tours to murder trials.”

Though Tom will be missed by us all, we look forward to watching his star rise.  

 

Another longtimer with an ever-ready smile is Melodie Robinson, The Beacon’s legal-advertising manager. 

Originally from Vermont, Melodie arrived in West Volusia in 1979. She too worked at the DeLand Sun News, and joined the Beacon staff in 1993.

“I enjoy being part of a publication that is very important to the community,” said Melodie, who also serves as the pianist at her church, Calvary Baptist in DeLand. 

Melodie and her husband, Mark, have two daughters, Courtney and Lindsay. 

 

The newest staff member, social-media manager Leah Pough, can’t recall much about what she was doing in 1992 — the year she was born in New York. 

At the age of 10, Deltona became her home. Leah graduated from DeLand High School and recently bought a home in DeLand. 

“Working at The West Volusia Beacon makes me feel like a real member of the community,” Leah said. “I’ve only been working here for a short time, but already feel like I’m doing something meaningful, and contributing to the town that I love so much. 

“From interacting with the local businesses, restaurants, and just talking to the people who happen to walk through The Beacon’s door every day, I feel like I’m making a true difference to my town.”

 

Erika Webb moved to DeLand from Key Biscayne in 1979. She graduated from DeLand High School and attended Daytona Beach Community College and the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and communications.

She has been married to Cal Webb for 34 years. Together they have one son, C.J., and a most delightful granddaughter, Kekona Lani. 

After working in banking and advertising sales and as a Realtor in West Volusia, Erika finally decided to give reporting a later-in-life try. 

She loves the friendly, relaxed, creative and interesting atmosphere at The Beacon. Like her co-workers, she really enjoys being part of an effort that embraces this great community.

Twenty-five years ago, Erika was selling advertising for the Pennysaver and marveling at how Barb, Joann and Eileen possessed the know-how and mustered the courage to start a newspaper. 

Great job, ladies!

 

Contributors

Also invaluable and so appreciated are the endless efforts of regular contributors Tanner Andrews, Tony Tussing, Dr. Primrose Cameron, Linda Dorian, Russ White and David Rauschenberger. 

Expanded viewpoints, spirited and informed exchanges — even when they spark ire — serve to inspire and motivate all readers.

Equally appreciated are Alexa Baldwin, who writes about the performing arts; Dr. Schandra Rodriguez-Conte, whose topics include school news; Rick Butler for finding, covering and photographing a wide array of subjects; and, last but nowhere near least, “king of the feast” Ryan Rougeux for his mouthwateringly descriptive restaurant reviews.

 

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com

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