Southern Newspapers Inc., the Houston-based media company that owns the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung and 11 other papers in Texas and Oklahoma, this week announced a major change among corporate officers.

Effective with the new year, Dolph Tillotson, company president since 2014, will become chairman of the board.

Galveston’s Daily News Publisher Leonard Woolsey will become president of the company.

Woolsey, 57, who joined The Daily News in 2014, will continue as Daily News publisher, company officials said.

“Dolph Tillotson has left an indelible mark on Southern Newspapers during his 32-year tenure,” company owner Lissa Walls Cribb said. “As publisher of The Galveston County Daily News from 1987 to 2011, he was recognized as a leader by his community and the newspaper industry. His leadership continued as president of Southern beginning in 2014.”

Tillotson, 70, led The Daily News in an expansion onto the mainland of Galveston County, from the mechanical into the digital age, during Hurricane Ike in 2008, the worst hurricane in 100 years, and to a reputation as one of the best small newspapers in the United States. He served as executive vice president of Southern from 2011 to 2014.

“I am deeply grateful for Dolph’s loyalty, hard work and commitment to Southern,” Cribb said. “It simply would not be the company it is today — financially stable, producing quality journalism and staffed by talented people — if not for his efforts. “He is my mentor, esteemed colleague and dear friend. I am delighted he will continue his work with Southern as chairman of its board.”

Woolsey joined The Daily News from the Times-Georgian in Carrollton, Georgia, where he served as president and group publisher for several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta market. He had worked for the Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Kentucky, since 1995. He has managed newspapers in a wide variety of markets, both large and small, and insists that each newspaper focus on its local communities first.

“Leonard Woolsey is uniquely qualified to serve as president of Southern Newspapers,” Cribb said. “His passion for community journalism, his creativity and enthusiasm, his commitment to his colleagues make him the ideal candidate to lead Southern.”

As board chairman, Tillotson will work with the company’s owners and board of directors and its executive team to set broad policies, priorities and goals to ensure quality and profit for the future.

“Working with Lissa Walls Cribb and Southern Newspapers has been for me a labor of love for more than 30 years,” Tillotson said. “The company has given me many wonderful opportunities, chief among them to work with smart, talented people who are dedicated to the mission of community newspapers. I’m very grateful to retain a role with the company as chairman of the board, and I look forward to being of service in that role.

“Leonard Woolsey and the executive team under him are committed to producing great journalism and great community service. I look forward to watching as they move ahead with creativity, energy and innovation for the future,” he said.

Commitment to community and community journalism would remain the focus at Southern and among its publications after the transition, Woolsey said.

“Our goal at Southern is to be a good citizen in the communities we serve,” he said. “Doing so means being highly engaged with issues that mean the most in the lives of our neighbors. I can assure you that behind the newsprint, or the digital screen, we are people first — local neighbors who want to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of the lives in our communities.”

Privately owned Southern Newspapers Inc. was founded in 1951 by B. Carmage Walls. Along with The Daily News, it operates community newspapers in Texas markets in and around Bay City, Baytown, Clute, Del Rio, Kerrville, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, New Braunfels, Paris and Seguin. The company most recently added the Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution to its portfolio.        

“I am honored to join a very short list of highly talented people to lead Southern Newspapers since its beginnings — and Dolph rewrote the book. Working with both him and Lissa Walls Cribb is, without a doubt, the highest honor one could wish for in this business,” Woolsey said.

“Southern represents a unique legacy — one of serving communities and employees in an enriching way. Through high standards, dedication to editorial excellence and a willingness to experiment with new business models, the company is known across the industry as one where many look for inspiration and ideas. I thank them both for their trust and confidence in making this decision.

“And I intend, along with the talented team at Southern Newspapers and The Daily News, to successfully carry forward this important tradition,” he said.

Woolsey and his wife, Maryrine, reside in Galveston.

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