Dear Readers,

My grandmother used to tell us that “IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING, ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE!” The wisdom in her statement has kept me with a plan for my life, and a prayer that heavily leans from the scripture Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Thus, I believe my departure is divinely planned as a part of God’s plan for my life – giving me a Hope and a Future.

Leaving Pine Bluff is without a doubt bittersweet for me. I have found that within the 1.5 years of my being Publisher at The Pine Bluff Commercial that the people, (from leaders, elected officials, advertisers, business owners and residents), have a fierce determination to rebuild the foundational structure of this city and make it as powerful as the will and fire within them.

That in itself prompts a little lump in my throat, and admittedly many tears that have fallen as I think of my departure. Every good leader wants to be a part of something great. I trust that even though my time here has not been extensive, someone will say I made a difference. Good leaders are difference makers, and I did my best to make a difference while here.

Upon arrival, my plans were big, because this job is a big task, a big responsibility, and it takes a person with a big heart and big dreams to hold this seat. I am a big dreamer with a big heart. I believe in the people of this city and the vision they have to bring Pine Bluff back to its feet.

Equally, I certainly believe in The Pine Bluff Commercial and its endeavor to serve this great community. I trust you will agree that, as I depart, I have left The Pine Bluff Commercial a better organization in some ways. Did I do everything I first set out to do? Of course not. With full transparency, it was an elephant task, and I took one bite at a time.

• Community involvement was a bite we accomplished, and we remain committed to being a vital part of breathing life back into this community; as well as other communities we serve.

• Working collaboratively with the business owners and advertisers to aid them in offering their goods and services to consumers within our vast audience is an ongoing endeavor that we will continue to keep alive as we build bridges that create win-win scenarios.

• Fair and Honest coverage that did not always include Crime, Blood, or Disorder in this city was a goal that we met a myriad of times this year. Good news and inspiring stories hailed as Headline News on several publications throughout the year. We remain committed to providing you that same level of coverage emboldened by integrity and a strong desire to see Pine Bluff excel.

Gatehouse Media has not walked away from its loyalty to the S.E. Arkansas area. It remains committed to do its best work in journalism to provide you with a newspaper you can be proud of. There are a myriad of reasons to be proud of your local papers that serve these local communities.

While I am Publisher at the Pine Bluff Commercial, I support each of our publications across this Region as Sr. Group Publisher to include Hot Springs Village Voice, Bastrop Enterprise, White Hall Journal, Stuttgart Daily Leader, Helena World and Newport Independent. The good news is the GMs and leaders at each of these publications remain in place.

Their vision is clear and I am confident they will lead you onward.

A search for a replacement is being sought, and I am confident Matt Guthrie, the regional vice president for this area, will place a leader who will take this organization to the next rung of the ladder toward being the media source you need.

In closing, I leave here but I am staying in the Gatehouse Family. I will take on an exciting role more aligned with my greatest skillset as Vice President of Sales at The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. I am excited to join that team and look forward to bringing new and exciting ideas that will lead us to a banner year in Oklahoma. So I am just one state over!

As I depart, I must say I have enjoyed the journey that began with high spirit, strong enthusiasm and a zeal to win. That spirit has not died in me. I still believe in the promises of HOPE. I still believe in the PEOPLE who hold those promises. I still believe I was meant to come this way and stay for a while.

I still believe this was the job for me for such a time as this. I believe all things happen for a reason, so I am grateful to have had this awesome opportunity to live out a dream and to meet so many wonderful people. The staff at The Pine Bluff Commercial, and all other publications we serve, could not be more devoted to the task of putting out a fine publication.

The communities we serve are filled with fine people. My prayer for your future is to stay the course and know that IN THE END, WE WIN!

Blessings abundant,

Teresa “TEE” Hicks