Ron Horton, publisher of The Union Democrat, announced his retirement today after 35 years in the newspaper business.
Gary Piech will succeed Horton as publisher, effective next week. Piech, 56, has worked at The Union Democrat for more than 28 years. He has been the newspaper’s advertising director for the past 12 years.
Prior to coming to Sonora in January 2008, Horton was publisher of The Observer in La Grande, Ore. He has served on the Board of Directors of United Way of the Mother Lode and is a member of the Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club and the Tuolumne County Business Council.
Horton is planning a move to North Carolina later this year to be closer to family and friends in that region.
Piech has attended the prestigious American Press Institute in Reston, Va., for newspaper managers. For the past 12 years, he has been the general manager and coordinator of the popular Union Democrat “Home and Garden Show” held every spring at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. He is also active in the Kiwanis Club of Greater Sonora.
He and his wife, Shelley, live in Twain Harte, having moved there in 1984.
Shelley Piech is the assistant treasurer for Tuolumne County. They have three children — Renee, Steven and Michael. All three are graduates of Summerville High School.
Michael graduated this past May and is now enrolled at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz.
“Shelley and I put down roots in Tuolumne County 28 years ago. Together, while raising our three children, we forged relationships with friends, neighbors and people in the business community. These relationships remain very important to me,” Piech said.
Horton said he is “honored and grateful” to have closed out his newspaper career at The Union Democrat and Western Communications.
“This is a great place to publish a community newspaper,” he said. “Our readers care deeply about their neighborhoods, government, schools and quality of life. We strive to produce local news for them that is comprehensive, relevant and engaging.”
Gordon Black, president of Western Communications, the parent company of The Union Democrat said: “I want to thank Ron for his steady, effective leadership here at The Union Democrat and wish him well as he moves on to the next chapter of his life. I am excited to have longtime Union Democrat advertising executive Gary Piech take over the helm from Ron. Gary has been part of this proud journalistic tradition for 28 years and will help sustain it.”
Horton said he is confident that the paper’s managers and staff will support Piech in his new role.
“A very talented and creative newspaper team remains in place. Their good work will continue under Gary’s direction and leadership,” Horton said.
Piech said he looks forward to “continuing the newspaper’s tradition as an award-winning publication dedicated to good community journalism and good citizenship. I know that our readers and advertisers have been — and continue to be — essential to our success as a newspaper and a local business. All of us are grateful for that support.”