Take a chance……it just may pay off

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Over my lifetime I have had many people give me a chance and in turn, I have given many people a chance as well. As my time at News Media Corporation comes to an end after 24 years, as I am officially retiring, I’ve had time to reflect on the chances that were given to me.

In December 1980 my employer, Swift & Company, was closing. I worked there for three years. What was I going to do? The unemployment rate was 18 percent in Illinois. I did not have a college education but was always willing to work. Houston, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada were booming at the time. Well of course I chose Vegas. My wife was just a girlfriend of mine at that time. She had two years left to get her nursing degree and was not moving. We took a chance that we could make it work long distance, and get married after she graduated. Toughest two years of our life. We took a chance. It paid off. We have been married for 40 years.

We lived in Vegas for 18 years. I took a job at a casino as soon as I moved there. I started out as a blackjack dealer before being promoted to a table game supervisor, then becoming a pit boss. We started a family in 1995 and grew somewhat tired of Vegas. My father and mother-in-law had passed away and we weren’t sure Vegas is where we wanted to raise our family anymore. We decided we wanted to move back to Rochelle and take care of Linette’s father. But what was I going to do for a job? It was time to take another chance, hoping it would pay off once again.

Just prior to moving back, a friend of mine, Tom Cross, who was the publisher at the Rochelle News-Leader at the time, stopped at the casino to see me. He was in town because they were looking to buy another newspaper in Page, Arizona. He asked if I ever considered moving back to Rochelle, which I was considering. There was a position opening up to be a manager trainee for the Ogle County Life newspaper. I had zero experience in anything affiliated with newspapers. I said sure. Tom interviewed me. I hooked him up with a suite at the casino. We ordered some beers, and the interview started. Even though Tom was the publisher, he was leaving the hiring of me up to his general manager, John Shank. We did a couple of phone interviews but I wasn’t sure he was going to hire me. John didn’t know me from Adam and couldn’t understand why someone would move from Vegas to Rochelle.  But John took a chance on me, and it paid off.

Dec. 1, 1999 was the start of my time at the Rochelle News-Leader. I started out as a manager trainee for the Ogle County Life to then managing the Rochelle News-Leader as well. Then I became general manager/publisher. No college education. Just the willingness to do whatever was asked of me. John Shank took a chance on me. John will be forever my friend and my mentor. News Media Corporation has been very good to me for 24 years. Small town newspapers continue to strive. Many people have come and gone throughout my 24 years. Some fond memories for sure.

I take away the many life skills I learned from the people who took a chance on me. I believe I am a better husband, father and employee from my journey. It’s time to end my chapter at the Rochelle News-Leader and enjoy my “golden years” with my wife, Linette, two children Emily (Alex) Bueno and Jenna (Tim) McBride, and my precious grandchildren, Kyler, Preston, Zoey and Teagan. It’s time to be papa. Now get me a beach chair and a margarita. I’m out……

Mike Feltes is the general manager of the Rochelle News-Leader and Ogle County Life.