The Sun-Times wishes Publisher David Lee a happy retirement

Another page has turned in the history of The Sun-Times as our publisher, David Lee, bids us farewell.  David announced his retirement earlier this week with today being his last day in the position.  We dedicate this edition of The Sun-Times to a man that has been a pillar of the community since he took the helm in 2000 and, in the words of one community leader, “stepped it up a notch”

David began his career at the paper in 1992, moving here with his family from Banning, California.  He began in ads and sales, but was presented an opportunity to write by then publisher Ed Trainor and the late editor, Randy Kemp.  “It started as a joke,” said David.  “I was teasing them about how long it took to write stories and how late they were going in.” 

“Writing isn’t easy,” said Trainor

“Sure it is,” responded David

Trainor gave David the opportunity to write a column and within half an hour he had his first “Just Ask Dave” column written, which began running on a weekly basis in May of that year.  “I asked that it run next to the classified ads, because that’s what everyone read,” said David.  “I continued to write it. It became pretty popular and help integrate me into the community.”

He worked at The Sun-Times for about a year and was then hired to do advertising at the KAWW radio station.  He took the station from 3000 watts to 50,000 watts.  From there, he went to the newly formed Lake Tribune newspaper in Greers Ferry.  After that he was offered an opportunity to clean up a direct mail mess in Searcy, where he met representatives from the Lakeside Shopper.  He took over the helm at the Shopper and later what is now the Arkansas Weekly.  In 2000, he took the job of publisher at The Sun-Times and helped launch it to the successful business it is today.

In his first year as publisher, he was recognized for excellence at a regional publisher’s meeting in Wichita, Kansas.  The publishers announced that, in a year’s time, David had created the most dynamic change in a newspaper they had seen.  True to his character, rather than accepting the monetary award for himself, he asked them to divide the money and give it to his employees. 

David was an early supporter of the building of the Heber Springs Community Center and ASU-Beebe, two projects that have helped change the face of this county.

He also recognized early on, the importance that digital medium would play in the future of the newspaper industry.  He began introducing The Sun-Times to the electronic age years before other area newspapers with an e-edition and other ways to access the paper electronically.  When the print world really started to demand electronic media, The Sun-Times was ready due to his efforts. 

David will focus solely on his business, the Drasco Trading Post, next week. “All my employees are kind of like my kids. I always tried to watch out for them.  I’ll miss that a lot,” said David.  “I’ll miss the hustle and bustle of breaking news and all of the stuff that makes the newspaper business interesting.”

As a new chapter begins for The Sun-Times, David left some words of wisdom for whoever comes next. “Get to know your community and know your people.  Trust in the employees here. Be fair, be generous, and be honest.  Work for your customers, don’t expect your customers to work for you.  Never, ever lose sight of your readers.  At the end of the day we build a newspaper that people want to actually pick up and read.”

We’ve included a number of quotes from people in the community that have worked with David over the years.  I would like to add mine to that as well.  I moved here in 2011 and had difficulty finding a job during those recession years.  My degree didn’t mean much in a community with a scarcity of jobs and, being new, I wasn’t in the “loop”.  David gave me a chance to make a little extra cash by helping insert papers in the back.  In November of that year, he gave me an opportunity to write my first article.  It went well and I continued to write, eventually being taken on as a full-time member of the editorial staff.  Having a background in history, I was unfamiliar with the journalism field, but David had faith in my writing skills.  In the two years I have been writing for this paper, he has taught me, not only the business, but also about the community.  I have accomplished much since coming here and I owe that all to the inspiration he has given me and the respect I have for his talent, knowledge, and honesty.  As his son, I already knew he was the best father a person could ask for.  When I walked through the door of The Sun-Times, I was no longer his son, but his employee and, in that capacity, I learned that he is also the best employer anyone could ever hope to have.  I wish him the best in his retirement years and thank him from the bottom of my heart for helping make me the person I am today.


“It is rare that one finds a great friend in a colleague and mentor. Thanks for being that wonderful person who always was willing to extend his helping hand. You are more than a friend you are family! 

‘Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.’
                                       ~Dale Evans


Lots of Love,

Gina Slagley

Publisher, Newport Independent

“Dave is like a second father to me. He treats his employees like humans rather than machines. I am a better man after the eight years I have spent with Dave here at The Sun-Times. He was a great asset to the paper and I am very sad to see him go, although, I know he will be in good spirits, which is one of many things I admire about him. 

He stayed the course and persevered through many hard times while keeping a great attitude. I learned a lot from that."

Will Gilbert

Sports Editor, The Sun-Times

“Congratulations on your retirement!  I sincerely appreciate all that you have done for my business, The Sun Times and Heber Springs!  I will definitely miss working with you!”

 Pete Pallone

Pallone Financial Services, Inc.

“David has done a remarkable job!  When he took over the newspaper, he stepped it up a notch.  David has been a vital support to the hospital as well as the community and we appreciate his efforts.  He is a class act.  Truly a pleasure.”

Ed Lacey

Vice President and Administrator, Baptist Health Medical Center-Heber Springs

“Over the years, I found David Lee and his family to be very honest, trustworthy people with high character.  I have enjoyed doing business with David throughout the years.  Whatever we said we wanted was the way things were.  David does business the old-school way and that’s the way I enjoy doing business.”

Johnny Morgan

JR’s Portable Buildings

“I have known David for about 5 years now, but it seems like a lifetime.  I’ve never seen a person with a larger heart than he has.  I’ve seen him help so many people and never expect anything in return.  He uses his vast network of contacts to lead others in the right direction and after doing so, follows up with both sides.  He uses his time for others to help them before spending time on his needs.  I truly believe David to be one of the best people I know.  Most of the time I see David, he is only wearing pants because he has already given someone the shirt off his back.  I know I will miss seeing David in his role with the paper, but I know it will only give him more time to help others.  David, I wish you the best and I know you will be missed.”

Mike “Spanky” Cooper

Spanky’s Hot Rods & Customs

“I met David over 25 years ago when he was managing the Lakeside Shopper. I came in to place an ad and left with a sales job. We became fast friends and I was encouraged to see someone I knew personally become such a success.  He was always so much more than a boss. He was a mentor, a shoulder to cry on and a cheerleader. David has always encouraged me and told me I could do so much more than I gave myself credit for. David gave me yet another opportunity when he hired me at The Sun-Times and gave me a shot at writing a weekly column and he never knew what I was going to write about next! Now, I am a journalist and I still can't believe I am living my dream of being a writer and David played a part in making that happen and I am grateful to him. It just goes to show that success doesn't always take having faith in yourself if someone else has enough for the both of you.  God bless you David Lee! Enjoy your well-earned retirement!”

Donetta (Sterling) Hubbard

Bateseville Daily Guard

“I have worked with David Lee for 5 years now. I couldn't have asked for a better boss. He is a very kind and caring person. He has always looked out for our staff whenever needed. I feel like he is my second dad. I wish him the best in his retirement and life. He will be greatly missed.”

Alicia Chesser

Circulation Manager, The Sun-Times

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve with David on the board of the Sugarloaf Heritage Council. He knows how to focus on the most important improvements for the trails and how to share this progress with our members and the community. Many thanks for his time and talents in that role. Best wishes for a long and healthy retirement.”
Mark Johnson

Sugarloaf Heritage Council

“David Lee has been the kind of newspaper publisher that we need more of. He has been reasonable and fair with the public, very professional in business and compassionate and caring with his staff. However, when it came to David's principles, convictions and ethics, I don't think David would back down from the Devil himself.

I'm proud to have been a colleague of David's, and will miss our association, but would like to wish him and his family all the best in the future.”

Rusty Fraser

Publisher, Stone County Leader

“David lee was one if the greatest bosses I ever had. He was truly a compassionate and caring boss. While going through the loss of a family member he was so understanding and caring. That is unusual in today's work environment. He truly looked at us employees as his family. It was an honor to work with and for him.”

Hayley Cummins

U.S. Bank

"I got acquainted with David in the 1990s when he first came to Heber Springs.  We have been good friends since then.  He has done a great job with our local newspaper.  I am sorry to see him go, but I wish him the best."   

Jerry Holmes

Cleburne County Judge

“I've had the privilege of working with David on a number of newspaper projects over the years.  I remember when working on some of the early projects, I quickly took note of what a good newspaper publisher and businessman he is.  However, over time, what struck me even more is that he is consistently kind, genuine and positive. 

He will certainly be  missed in the newspaper industry, but we know he deserves, and will so enjoy, more time on his motorcycles and spending time with his family...especially in his proud role of Poppa.”

Ashley Wimberley
Arkansas Press Association

“David’s role at the SunTimes has proven to be very beneficial to the chamber and therefore, to Heber Springs over the years.  We will miss working with him and wish him a very happy retirement”.

Melisa Gardner

Executive Director, Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce

“Enjoy your retirement and your time with Beckye and the family.”

Debbie Verser

Composing, The Sun-Times

“I have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to work with David for the past 5 years in Heber Springs!  He has shown a love for this community, and he has been willing to be involved himself in making this a great place to live.   Good luck, David, on the next page of your life!  I hope to have the chance to visit with you in the future!”

Chris Boyett

Vice-Chancellor, ASU-Heber Springs

“David came with a warning label. Before I met David, a supervisor whom David and I shared had a conversation that went something like this. 

‘You should know that we really like David, but he may not be easy to get to know,’ she said. 

‘Really?’ I asked. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Well,” she said, followed by a bit of a pause as she searched for the right words. “He can be a bit crusty.’

‘Crusty?’ I asked, with my eyebrows a bit furrowed as I tried to figure out what that really meant. 

‘Yes, crusty,’ she said. ‘Some say a bit of a curmudgeon.’

‘Well, this should be fun,’ I replied. 

Indeed it was fun. I quickly grew to treasure David and the contribution he brought to The Sun Times. I frequently bounced ideas and new initiatives off of him long before I rolled out the plan to the region. I found David full of wise counsel, and he quickly became someone I respected and appreciated. 

Yes, he could be a bit crusty. However, what most people call crusty is what I call someone who just tells the truth. His words weren't nuanced or sugar coated. David was never afraid to speak candidly about how he felt, and I could see that some people might find in this day and time the truth to be off-putting. I found it refreshing and immensely valuable. 

David has been passionate defender of his staff and community. The community seldom sees the significant amount of hours he and the staff put in to make the newspaper the best they can possibly make it. David is an accomplished leader who endeavored to operate The Sun Times in a way that made the community proud of its newspaper. 

I’m grateful our paths crossed, and I wish you well, my friend, on the grand adventures ahead of you. “

Mitch Bettis

Former regional publisher for Arkansas and northern Louisiana with GateHouse Media

“I've enjoyed working with David on my few visits to the office in Heber Springs, and on the occasional telephone conversations we've had. David always offers an interesting perspective on things, and brought a refreshing approach to managing a newspaper. I always found him to be very knowledgeable about the business, bringing a common sense approach to the day-to-day operations. Operating a newspaper in a small community can be very challenging, but in my observation David has handled the myriad challenges very professionally. His approach always made it look easy, but having done it for several years in my life, I can assure you it is not.”

Tom Larimer

Executive Director, Arkansas Press Association

“David Lee will be missed at the sun times. He did a good job of keeping the county informed of all things going on , the good and the  bad.  He did a wonderful job of promoting our area and all we have to offer. As an elected official, Dave and I didn’t always agree, but I feel he always was fair in his reporting . I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Jackie McPherson

Mayor, Heber Springs

Congratulations and Good Luck in the future! Thank you for all that you have done.  Enjoy the freedom and the time you have to ride as much as you can.

Jonathan Peters