It doesn't seem possible that I am writing a column about my retirement from Crain Communications Inc., my employer for more than three decades.
I don't feel old and still have the same enthusiasm, joy and wonder I had when I joined the company nearly 35 years ago as chief copy editor of Rubber & Plastics News, moving a few months later to a fledgling tabloid called Tire Business, where I've spent a good part of my career.
What a ride it's been, starting the first two years working for my dad, Ernie Zielasko, who co-founded Rubber & Plastics News, founded Tire Business for Crain and acquired European Rubber Journal, the three publications I have had the honor to lead.
Dad was my mentor and an outstanding editor and publisher. He taught me how to write and report, the importance of retaining one's ethics, how hard work pays off and the value of keeping costs to a minimum and quality high. I was blessed to have him as a father.
What I didn't know at the time was Crain Communications had that same journalism philosophy: A focus on news, where the reader comes first, solid ethics, care for its employees. This was the foundation established by company founder G.D. Crain. It's why Crain, in my opinion, continues to this day as one of the world's premier publishing and media companies.
Thanks to RPN, Tire Business and ERJ, I've gotten to know and understand two vital and vibrant industries on different continents. I've met more amazing people than I can remember, seen the world and written and reported for publications that I believe our readers truly appreciate.
Throughout this journey, I've worked with amazing colleagues starting with Chuck Slaybaugh. Chuck was a seasoned tire and rubber industry journalist when my dad hired him at Tire Business as he prepared to retire in 1987. He wanted Chuck to provide leadership and guide Tire Business' young reporting staff, me included.
It was a smart move. As executive editor he helped us understand what was important to our tire dealer readers. He gave our reporting perspective that only someone with years of industry experience could provide. Chuck is one of the finest men I have ever met: hardworking, talented, funny and a great story teller. He retired a number of years ago, and I am honored to call him my friend.
One of my vivid memories at Tire Business was in 1986 when corporate raider Sir James Goldsmith made an unfriendly attempt to take over Goodyear, a move that captured the attention of the tire industry. Goodyear ultimately agreed to purchase Mr. Goldsmith's 11.5-percent stake in the company, but at a huge cost, forcing the tire maker to depart from its previous diversification course. The story broke just as we were finishing the Nov. 24, 1986, issue.
Recognizing its significance to Tire Business' readers, we ripped up the front page and rewrote several stories, while Chuck penned an analysis piece. We finished sending the pages to the printer after midnight, well after the deadline. But it was worth the effort and exciting to provide our readers with in-depth news coverage just as quickly as the daily newspapers.
Other colleagues have worked with me for years at Crain, including Bruce Davis, Tire Business special projects reporter, whom I consider the finest tire journalist in the world. Another is Miles Moore, senior Washington reporter, who is a smart, talented and prolific writer covering tire and rubber industry news from the nation's capital. Bruce has spent 39 years at Crain; Miles' tenure spans more than four decades.
Then there's Kathy McCarron, who has worked full time, part time and as a freelance reporter at Tire Business for 27 years. During this time, she somehow managed to raise a family, take care of her father and still write more stories than most full-time reporters do on a weekly basis.
Don Detore, who replaced me two-and-a-half years ago as editor of Tire Business, is another. A veteran journalist, he joined Crain from the Canton Repository daily newspaper where he rose to become the top editor during his 27 years there. At Tire Business, Don has taken hold of the editorial product and become an important voice in the tire industry as well as the Akron office.
Another 31-year Crain veteran is RPN Editor Bruce Meyer, whose knowledge of the rubber industry and reporting and editing skills have kept the publication vibrant, vital and the leader in its field. This year RPN was named a finalist twice in the Neal Awards competition, the trade-press equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
On the sales side, RPN is led by Brent Weaver, one of the scrappiest, motivated and talented sales managers I know. Brent worked his way up from the production department, to classified sales rep, to sales manager in his 24 years at Crain. Brent sets goals and goes after them with a tenacity I envy.
Tire Business' sales manager is Christine Zernick, who in her seven years at Crain has become a student of the tire industry. She loves brainstorming new ideas and, like Brent, is relentless in her efforts to develop and work with advertisers to help them achieve their business objectives.
Another longtime colleague is Lori DiFrancesco, our office administrative assistant, sales assistant, conference coordinator and helper with anything else that needs done in our Akron office. In the 24 years I have worked with her, I have never seen her upset or say no to anyone who needed help. She's the type of person every office needs, someone who pitches in and keep things running smoothly. The office would not operate as well, nor be as much fun, without her ever-present smile and positive attitude.
I can go on. ERJ Editor Patrick Raleigh has kept that 135-year-old publication a must-read among tire and rubber industry readers in Europe. He dreams of turning the magazine's annual Future Tire Conference into a Davos-type event for the tire industry.
Sarah Arnold, events and marketing manager for all three publications, has taught me the ins and outs of putting on world-class conferences and trade shows, while my boss, Brennan Lafferty, has provided the perfect touch of leadership, support, guidance, humanity and humor.
As I write this, it's the people, my colleagues and the many tire dealer and industry friends I have met who are most important to me. It would not have been nearly as meaningful of a career without them, which is why I have decided that rather than stop working, I am moving to a new opportunity in the industry that came up unexpectedly as I was contemplating retirement in the next few years.
Starting July 8, I am joining the Tire Industry Association (TIA) as vice president of marketing and communications. What a blessing that is: A challenging new position in an industry that I love, especially as TIA gets ready to celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2020, and still working with independent tire dealers.
One chapter ends, another begins. The ride continues.