PUNXSUTAWNEY – Just as the seasons are changing, and the landscape of Punxsutawney continues to undergo significant transformations with the construction of several new large buildings, The Punxsutawney Spirit and Jefferson County Neighbors are also undergoing major changes with the departure of publisher Mary Jude Troupe, who is retiring from the newspaper business to pursue other career opportunities.
Tracy L. Smith, a Spirit advertising representative for the past eight years, will take on the role of publisher.
A familiar face to the public through her 23-year career as a member of the newspaper staff, Troupe — affectionately known to her fellow staff members as "MJ" — has spent the past nine years as publisher. Prior to assuming the position, she was extensively involved with The Spirit's advertising department.
"But the years really flew by," she said, "and the process just evolved from one stage to another."
Commenting on her decision to retire, Troupe said, "I have been considering this change for more than a year now, and I concluded that the timing is right. I have accomplished what I intended to do. It's time for Tracy to continue a successful future for the paper."
Smith began her career at The Spirit by selling subscriptions prior to taking on advertising accounts in Indiana, and, for the last seven years, the Punxsy-area advertising territories.
She and her husband, Bryan, have two children: Daughter Morgan, a sophomore at Punxsutawney Area High School, and son Garrett, a sixth-grader at Punxsutawney Area Middle School.
"I'm excited about the new opportunity and feel comfortable in the fact that we will continue to provide the community with a quality product,” Smith said.
During her tenure as the head of The Spirit, Troupe is happy to point out that she oversaw many changes and improvements, including the addition of three new press units with a new electric brake system.
New newspaper machines, the upgrading of computers and office equipment, and a revitalized commitment to the printing business with the return of the job printing department are among the other milestones that took place under her leadership.
"The paper is in the very best shape it has been in for years," she commented.
For several years, Troupe has spearheaded the newspaper's annual "Punxsy Appreciation Day" — which recently introduced the popular "Punxsy's Got Talent" event — and, under her leadership, the Spirit Publishing Company was named the 2011 “Business of the Year” by the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce.
Noting that the paper employs 34 staff members and 11 independent carriers, Troupe pointed out, "Punxsutawney is very fortunate to have a daily newspaper. The success of The Spirit is due to its dedicated employees, loyal readers and supportive advertisers. Sometimes, I am not sure that the public realizes the work that is involved in producing a brand-new product from scratch each and every day. Yet, in the 138-year history of The Spirit, there has never been an issue missed."
One of the major insights Troupe gained on the job was learning that "working at the paper is a lifestyle, and not just a career. Work days can typically end up being 10-12 hours long. Most days, you can spend more time with the staff than you do your family."
The statement demonstrates why Troupe said that the one aspect of her career at the newspaper that she will miss most "is the staff. They are my extended family," she said.
"Although I made many friends over my 23 years at the paper, some of the best ones are those I worked with at The Spirit,” she said. “We have been through so much over the years together. I truly believe that the staff is the best one that the paper has had in many years. They are true professionals with outstanding dedication."
Troupe particularly praised editor Tom Chapin because of the close way he has worked with her in making certain that the newspaper each day offers readers a wide variety of news and information, and that The Spirit provides a medium in which businesses are happy to advertise.
Remarking that she feels "now is the right time for my change," Troupe concluded, "Change is good! It brings new ideas and fresh visions. I wish Tracy and the staff the very best of success, and I feel confident that The Spirit will be around for many, many years to come."
As for the future, in addition to establishing a new career for herself, Troupe looks forward to spending more time with her family, who have been extremely supportive throughout the years, especially her husband Joe, with whom she hopes to make more frequent visits to their children.
Son Joey is practicing dentistry in Pittsburgh, and daughter Sara works in New York City.
A Punxsutawney native and a lifelong community booster, Troupe also plans to enjoy spending time with her mother, Mrs. Cora Cardamone, and with her siblings and their extended families.