Nov. 29 will mark the end of an era for Peace Arch News, and the start of a new “special section” for Rita Walters.
After 23 years with the newspaper – climbing the ranks from sales rep to ad manager to publisher – Walters is retiring.
And she is the first to admit that the adjustment to a slower-paced lifestyle from the long days of her busy career will take some getting used to.
“Quite honestly, I’m worried,” she said, laughing. “I’m going to miss my busy life.”
Walters started with PAN in 1991, and took over leadership of its sales department in ’99.
Over the years, she has helped the paper grow and evolve, and watched it succeed through myriad changes and challenges, including a still-struggling economy.
The second oldest of four children – and the last one still in the working world – Walters said she only started giving serious thought to retirement in February, when she turned 65.
“It’s probably been the most difficult decision I’ve made, to leave this community and this newspaper,” Walters said. “I’ve always felt it’s the community and the newspaper that I care so much about that has always inspired me to do the best job I possibly could.”
Walters said her strong belief in the community made getting – and staying – involved “hugely satisfying.”
Her roles have ranged from vice-president of the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and a director with the Peninsula Community Foundation, to 15 years on both the Peace Arch Hospital and Centre for Child Development’s gala committees. Walters has also been involved with the Sea Festival, the White Rock Museum & Archives, community policing and anything else she was asked to take on.
One of the many proud moments of Walters’ career came in July 2009, when she was named the Suburban Newspapers of America Advertising Director of the Year. Nominated by then-publisher Linda Klitch, Walters still treasures the glowing testimonials from PAN staffers that helped her clinch the win.
“What they wrote about me made me realize that I was doing a good job,” she said. “I read them every once in a while for inspiration.”
Professional challenges came along the way in the transition from sales rep to team leader and, more personally, in the move to publisher. The latter followed Klitch’s unexpected death in September 2011, and Walters remembers it took her “forever” to move into the office of her mentor and friend.
Now, “I think she’d be proud of me… happy that I took over the role.”
Walters describes herself as hard-working, determined, honest and loyal. She is also a strong believer in making sure people know their efforts are appreciated.
“I don’t think you can tell people enough that they’ve done a good job.”
She is retiring satisfied that she has done her best, and excited for what lies ahead – which includes travel with her husband of 38 years, Bob, and a new home in Harrison.
“It’s just time,” Walters said of her decision. “It’s time for me.”
PAN will welcome new publisher Mary Kemmis, currently of the Richmond Review, in December.