Joe Merlihan has been keeping the books in order for two decades. He took charge of advertising sales and all of the fancy paperwork that successful enterprises require to grow and stay in business in the Observer’s infancy. The Observer had people that could write and create but neither of those skills keep a newspaper afloat.
University of Waterloo churned out another graduate with an Economics Degree but few jobs available when it was time to enter the workforce. He had a brief stint at Lazy-Boy working the line before that business went south, literally, which had Merlihan pink-slipped. Taking advantage of his unemployment he upgraded his skills with government-paid-for sales training. It must have been fate. Merlihan had acquired the two most important skills for becoming a Publisher and didn’t even know it.
Married to his high-school sweetheart, a kid on the way and few prospects for meaningful employment, his kid brother reached out for some help with a new venture. The Observer fresh out of the gates was a work in progress. The community was ready for another voice, but they’ve seen others come and go, they were skeptical. Merlihan put a business plan in motion — the ABC’s — Always be Selling! Book keeping, dealing with official government types, making sure The Observer gets paid are all in a days work. There was a light at the end of the tunnel after each week we published. The rest, as they say, is history.
Early on Merlihan developed a reputation for big thinking ideas. He was invited to be a delegate for then Jean Chretien’s Prime Minister’s task force on entrepreneurship. He made his presentation to various Senators and beauracrats, including the “Big M” Frank Mahovlich. Mahovlich was impressed enough with Merlihan’s presentation that he invited himself down to see The Observer in full swing.
The big thinking doesn’t stop either. Early in 1996 The Observer adopted a slogan saying “We’ve only just begun.” Two decades later it feels like that slogan is as relevant today as it was when The Observer published its first newspaper. Continually re-inventing, pushing for better, re-thinking how to do business better… we’ve only just begun.
Donna Rudy grew up in Elmira, did her schooling here, and continues to work here. She has never been afraid of a little hard work. Her summers were often spent on dairy and pig farms doing chores – real work. One of four siblings, including 2 burly brothers, Donna learned early to fight for things. She brings that determination to the office to ensure that our clients are getting the most out of our services.
Donna joined the Observer in 1998 without any previous advertising or sales training. As noted earlier — she’s not afraid of a little hard work. She quickly became the voice of the Observer to business clients all over Waterloo Region. Quick to strike up a conversation — (Donna has a large extended family so this comes naturally) — Donna has become the go-to advertising sales person in the Region.
Donna is a cowgirl at heart. Her main four-legged love for twelve and a half years was a quarter horse/draft cross named Krash. Krash is gone, but will never be forgotten. Donna continues to get her horse fix by doing chores at the barn where he was boarded.
2015 ushered in a new opportunity for Donna. She was selected to design cards for a Canadian stamp company called High Hopes Rubber Stamps. In the same year, she had one of her card designs published in the Summer 2015 edition of Canadian Scrapbooker magazine. This girl has skills! She looks forward to more of her work being published.
Donna lives with her cowboy, Mark, in Drayton. In the summer of 2014 they adopted the world’s cutest dog named Moe. (Patrick Merlihan contests this claim however.)
Steve Kannon has been a newspaper Editor for more than two decades. He holds the top post at the Observer for the past fifteen years. In that time he has mentored upwards of a hundred journalists.
Kannon has crafted a winning formula of editorial columnists, cartoonists and journalists over the years. Under his tenure The Observer has earned more industry awards then any other newspaper in Waterloo Region. Some years the awards earned were more than any other newspaper in the province.
His own writing and opinions have earned numerous nods at the provincial and federal levels as well. Most recently Kannon won first place in Canada for Best National Editorial as well as a third place for Best Editorial Pages.
Patrick Merlihan has led the design side of The Observer since inception. He has more than two decades of experience on the software and creative side of effective newspaper and advertising design earning provincial and national accolades year-after-year.
He has mentored some of the top talent in Canada and recently reunited with his student newspaper Imprint, at the University of Waterloo. In 2015 Merlihan was voted the first outside voting member of the Board of Directors of Imprint. Merlihan found his calling in the newspaper industry at Imprint. His time at Imprint had him fill posts as Photo Editor, Arts Editor, Production Assistant and President of the Board of Directors. The experience was unmatched. It was the groundwork that led to the creation of The Observer in 1996. In fact, the first edition was produced at Imprint.
As a life-long resident of Elmira Merlihan launched the Observer in his hometown with a collective group in March of 1996. The first edition was published March 26, 1996 in honour of The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. Joe Merlihan joined the paper soon after as the newspaper’s Publisher. A lot happened in between 1996 and today. Merlihan is married to the super beautiful/intellectual woman he met at Imprint, has two kids, is a certified basketball coach, is a Township of Woolwich Councillor and has one of the cutest dogs that ever lived. Life has been busy, but good. There’s only more good stuff to come.
Liz Bevan is a journalist from Toronto. After working in community newspapers in Alberta and British Columbia, she has made her way home to Ontario. She earned a print journalism degree at Sheridan College in Oakville in 2012 and has since had stories and photographs published across the country in The Globe and Mail, The Edmonton Journal and more.
She is new to Elmira, but hopes to become a part of the community for a change from the pace of city life.
Whitney Neilson is a reporter at the Woolwich Observer in Elmira. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism from St. Thomas University in 2013 and was the news editor of her school paper.
Her previous reporting gigs took her to Campbellton, New Brunswick, and Collingwood, Ontario. She writes news, business, human interest, and sports stories in Woolwich and Wellesley Townships. You can find her at the market on Saturday or at @WhitneyNeilson on Twitter.
Jake Stallard is a perfect fit for the Observer. The day he interviewed for the position the server crashed and files were lost, havoc ran amok, and really bad words were said. He saw first-hand the perils of the newspaper business. Since his employ he’s experienced the joys — and thankfully there’s been way more of those then the other. He likes it that way.
Jake was born and raised in Kitchener — he’s a local boy. Did all of his schooling in K-town including earning an Advertising Diploma at Conestoga College.
After college he joined a large office supply conglomerate working 6 years putting together catalogues, in-store promotions and doing too much data configuration gobledygook….yawn! He got tired of the corporate grind. Enter the Observer in the summer of 2013. Jake has been putting that Advertising Diploma into overdrive. He spends most of his day pumping out award-winning ads and editorial layouts — this boy can design!
His creativity extends outside the office too. Jake likes to slap the bass in a local band, whose name would make most people blush, and plays occasional gigs in and around KW. He likes to record, write music and listen to other fantastic bands perform at clubs. His lovely wife has got to be the best cook around — you should see this guy’s lunches! In the summer he is a full-time baseball dad to his son.