LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Rufus M. Friday, Tri-City Herald president and publisher, soon will be trading Mid-Columbia sagebrush for Kentucky bluegrass, the McClatchy Co. announced Thursday.
Friday will take over for Timothy M. Kelly as president and publisher ofthe Lexington Herald-Leader, the company announced Thursday.
Kelly, 63, is retiring effective June 3 after a career that began when he was 17 years old, including 15 years as the Leader-Herald's publisher.
Friday takes over as the newspaper's chief June 6.
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"Rufus is a thoughtful, seasoned newspaper executive who will build upon the Herald-Leader traditions of journalism excellence and community service," said Gary Pruitt, McClatchy's chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.
McClatchy owns the Herald and the Herald-Leader.
Friday said his departure from the Tri-Cities is bittersweet.
"When I reflect back on my stay at the Herald, I just can't begin to say enough about how blessed I was to work with such a dedicated, driven and determined group who achieved so much," he said.
He noted the newspaper has weathered tough economic times in recent years, but he believes the Herald has continued to provide quality journalism and remain relevant to the community.
"I'm proud the Herald is recognized in the community as the dominant news and information source, and has had online and print audience growth," he said.
Although circulation numbers have declined, studies have shown overall newspaper readership is on the rise.
McClatchy expects to name a successor in the coming weeks, said Bob Weil, a McClatchy vice president of operations.
"We expect to have several good candidates who share our values and commitment to public service and the important work being done here at the Tri-City Herald," Weil said. "We're confident our new publisher will follow in that tradition."
Friday, 50, became president and publisher of McClatchy's Tri-City Herald in 2005. Prior to that, he worked for two years as vice president of circulation at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., another McClatchy newspaper. He also spent 11 years directing circulation at several Gannett Co. newspapers.
Since coming to the Tri-Cities, Friday has become involved in the fundraising campaign for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, the Washington State University Tri-Cities Advisory Council, and the boards for the Tri-City Development Council and United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties.
Consensus among community leaders Thursday was that Friday's departure is a loss to the Tri-Cities.
"We're very sad," said Kimberly Camp, interpretive center CEO. "We're happy for Rufus, but we're sad because he's just been an invaluable asset to this project. ... He always comes through and has always maintained the highest level of professionalism and integrity."
WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Vicky Carwein said Friday was the first person, other than members of a search committee, that she met in the Tri-Cities when she arrived in 2006.
"He was literally the first person I connected with in the community," she said.
Friday recruited Carwein for TRIDEC, and she in turn recruited him for the WSU Tri-Cities Advisory Council.
"He was such an advocate for education, and higher ed in particular," Carwein said. "His work on behalf of our campus has been invaluable. He will be sorely missed."
TRIDEC president Carl Adrian said Friday has been a strong community leader.
"From TRIDEC's standpoint, he was a very valued member," Adrian said. "He was always very thoughtful. He was somebody we went to a lot and asked for advice."
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; email@example.com