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Hewett says goodbye to The Tomahawk

Tomahawk advertising manager, Rita Hewett retires after 30 years in the newspaper business. Photo by Meg Dickens.

Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Rita Hewett, a longtime advertising manager for The Tomahawk, is retiring after 30 years in the business. Hewett’s last day will be March 31. Bill Thomas, the newspaper’s publisher, said that Hewett’s experience and expertise will be missed. 

“During my 30 years of being in the newspaper business, I have never experienced a more dedicated Advertising Manager,” said Thomas. “Rita Hewett has been focused, committed, and delivering results at the highest level for The Tomahawk since her first day of employment. She will be missed.”  

Hewett fondly recalls how she was drawn into the business. “I guess you could say newspaper ink has been in my blood since I was about eleven or twelve years old,” said Hewett. “I took over my brother’s newspaper route for the Dayton Daily News when I was growing up in Vandalia, Ohio. Hewett recalls it being a “tough job,” pulling the newspapers around in a little red wagon.”

After graduating from high school, Hewett worked in retail, eventually becoming the buyer’s assistant for a chain of pharmacies. “I took over the duties of creating and putting together their quarterly sales flier, which was an eight-page tabloid full of a product he would buy on closeout and have a big quarterly sale at his pharmacies.” It was in this capacity Hewett worked closely with the sales rep at the St. Petersburg Times, who let her know of an opening in the advertising department.

“I started to drive people crazy until I got the position,” said Hewett, “and that was 30 years ago this year that I started my career in newspaper advertising sales.” Hewett eventually worked her way up to handling major national account sales. 

“I was handling a lot of revenue and dealing with a lot of big accounts,” she recalls. “It was very stressful because I was surrounded by people with college degrees and several years of advertising experience.” 

She, however, started absorbing “every word, every syllable, and every statement that they said.  Due to her impeccable organizational skills, good work ethic, and morals she attributes to her parents, Hewett began rising in ranks within the advertising department of the Tampa Bay Times, when it was still known as the St. Petersburg Times, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper published in St. Petersburg, Florida.  She remained there until 2007 when the decision was made to move to the mountains of East Tennessee.

While driving through Atlanta headed towards Mountain City, where she and her husband had purchased property in 2002 and built a home in 2005, Hewett recalls receiving a call from Bill Thomas, publisher at The Tomahawk. “We worked something out,” said Hewett. “I don’t think it could have been a better situation for both of us.”

She recalls the initial struggle in “being accepted in this area as an outsider.” Still, as her mother’s family was from Kentucky and her father’s from the West Virginia coal mines, she was no stranger to rural living. Hewett encourages readers, businesses, and citizens to support the local paper by subscribing, advertising, and reading it.

“This newspaper is so much more important to this community than a lot of people realize,” said Hewett. “The Tomahawk newspaper will never, ever go away.”

Rick Wallace will be taking over the reins. Wallace, who was born and raised locally, attended Appalachian State University. “Rick Wallace quickly became our top candidate for Advertising Manager,” explained Thomas. “He knows everyone in our community.” Thomas relates he has complete confidence in Wallace. “He will be a huge asset as we move forward into The Tomahawk’s next chapter.”