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After 41 years, Hughes retires from the Times
Advertising Manager has watched the community, newspaper evolve year after year
Laura Hughes Retires
Laura Hughes Retiring after 41 years

MONROE — Fresh out of Monroe High School, Laura (Brooks) Hughes walked into the doors of Monroe Publishing at 4th Avenue West on the city’s far west side. It was the end of August in 1982, and she was looking for a job.

“I step through the door on Aug. 30, 1982, and I was under direction of the late Larry Lund and Jim Bruce,” Hughes said more than 41 years later. “When I started, I was a secretary and a classified order taker.”

Step by step, role by role, she learned the art of the advertising world and began building connections around the community. She was put on the advertising sales team in 1985, and in 2004 became the Advertising Manager at the Times. Now, more than four decades later, she’s turning in her tear sheet one final time. Her last scheduled day at the Monroe Times is Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.

“It’s been a great journey,” Hughes said. “What’s been nice about this journey is I’ve been able to work and learn in different departments — a lot of different departments. Lots of great people and great mentors. A lot of amazing people that taught me a lot of things. You just keep asking questions and explore. Every day you learn something new. If you just keep moving, you will grow.”

In those 40-plus years — the second-longest tenure in company history — she’s seen the newspaper change ownership twice — first from Monroe Publishing under Jim Bruce and Larry Lund to Bliss Communications in the late 1980s, and then again from Bliss to Morris Multimedia in 2017.

“Her knowledge and passion for the newspaper business has shown for many years. Her desire to put the community first in her everyday work habits is something to be very proud of,” said Lance Ray, who has been employed with the Times since 2017 and takes over as Advertising Manager. “She has been a great coworker and boss since I have started here. I wish her nothing but the best on her next adventures in life.”

Hughes not only partnered with local businesses for advertising, she eventually took over many of the accounts of regional and national brand agencies.

“From California to New York, they are from all over the United States. That was always fun because the East Coast and the West Coast have different opinions on how things should work, let alone the Midwest,” Hughes said, adding that dealing with advertisers big and small had one common denominator. “You just have to listen, that is the major thing. Listen to what the needs are. ‘What do I have that can help them be successful on their end and getting the word out to our readers?’”

Tai Ruegsegger has worked with Hughes for 23 years and wished her well in a very deserved retirement.

“Laura will certainly be missed around here,” Ruegsegger said. “She has given all of us guidance and pride in the changing of the times in the newspaper.”

Diane Albright, another Monroe Times sales rep, has known Hughes for several decades, going back long before they became coworkers. 

“I’ve known Laura for over 40 years and have worked with her for over 20 years, and it has been a pleasure to work with her,” Albright said. “It hasn’t always been 100% smooth sailing through the years — there has been a couple of small pebbles in the roadway — but I think that is to be expected between two coworkers.”

She’s won several individual awards through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA), and played a key role in the Times winning the state’s Newspaper of the Year in 2018, 2020 and 2021.

“It was always great to receive a Wisconsin Newspaper Award for your hard work — and I have several of them throughout,” she said.

Hughes was in the building when the first computers rolled around, changing the way everyone in house went about their job. No longer were typesetting and camera work used to build an advertisement, let alone an entire page of newsprint. Customers and bills could be taken care of by email instead of snail mail or fax machine. She was in the building when the printing press was used one final time, when the post office took over delivery instead of individual carriers and when the newspaper switched from publishing six days a week to just two. 

She remembers walking into the building and smelling the ink along with the murmurs and chatter of more than 100 employees. She’s worked directly with hundreds of people, and procured both business and personal relationships. There were deadlines every day for 41 years, she said, yet every day was different and there was never a dull moment.

“It was never a job. The people made it fun. You always saw smiles whenever you helped someone. It’s a great community with great businesses. I’ve made a lot of friends along the way — a lot of great friendships and great partnerships. It’s those things that made my success,” she said. “I’m all for the people, the team. Seeing them succeed and winning WNA awards to show the hard work paid off.”

She’s even found the time to volunteer her time year after year to numerous causes and organizations, from the booster club to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m glad I was able to give back. It’s great to be able to help the people. It’s great to support local — period,” Hughes said.

She said she could handle all of those tasks, as well as her role as wife and mother of two, because of the support she received from her husband, Terry, and her family as a whole.

“My family has been extremely supportive of me, and my husband has always been there for me throughout this,” Laura said. “I have to contribute a lot of this to people telling me to believe in myself. ‘You can do this; take the next step.’ And I’m glad they did, because I wouldn’t be here today doing this.”

And now, she said, it’s time for her to give more of her energy back to her family. She enjoys spending time with her mother, and wants to increase those opportunities. Her children are grown, and have kids of their own. Not only is Laura a grandmother to six grandchildren, but she has two more due to enter the world this year. She and Terry will celebrate 40 years of marriage this spring and plan to take some well-earned vacation time for just the two of them.

“Traveling with my husband is going to be important. I want to spend time with my family — my grandchildren and my mother,” she said.