Good Friends


One of the most wonderful parts of this crazy adventure Tim and I have started on is the opportunity to see friends and family we have not seen in awhile!

We started with catching up with our family as we spent six weeks in Florida. My sister Lori Elmer Riddlebarger and brother-in-law John Riddlebarger put up with us hanging in their tiki-bar back yard, then we met up with Michelle Schutte and Lon Schutte when we stayed near The Villages for a couple of weeks.

We are wrapping up our 10 days in the Hilton Head area and we got to spend some wonderful time with Jim Hooker and Susan P. Hooker. We played golf, had dinner and lunch at their clubs and they told us about the incredible Sunset Grille where we shared a wonderful meal and a gorgeous sunset!

So peaceful!

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Savannah Day Trip

May 17-18

One of the beautiful squares in Savannah

We took a break from RV life and checked ourselves into the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District for some much needed pampering and city sightseeing

The hotel is incredible. Yes, it’s pricey, but even if you don’t have a zillion Marriott points like we do, book yourself a stay if you are in the area.

The lobbies were created when they put roofs over the spaces between three beautiful old riverfront buildings. When we entered we were greeted by a life sized replica of a brontosaurus hanging above your head. It looks like it may be made of stainless steel. Its glimmering surface dances with colored lights that make it feel like it’s alive. As you make your way to registration you pass dozens of 6 to 8 foot tall geodes. Everywhere you look another stone bursts with color.

When Tim mentioned that we were living in our RV and I was craving a bath tub for just one night, the wonderful woman made sure we had the PERFECT ROOM! We were there only one night, but I managed to take two baths! 🙂

I made pact with myself that we will “treat” ourselves to a little luxury every couple of months while we are on the road. More about exploring Savannah in the next post!

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Kira 101

Delivered to Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce 2021

When Maggie asked me to speak to you today, she said that I might tell you all about how I got to the current place in my career. And I really had to think about that. How DID I get to become the publisher of the Milwaukee Business Journal? Which, by the way has been one of the coolest jobs you could have.

I’ll tell you the readers digest version of my 39 year and counting career and along the way I’ll share pieces of advice I wish I had when I started.

My senior year of college I talked myself into a copywriting job at WCIL in Carbondale Illinois. I was working on my Radio-Television degree and Journalism Minor and one day simply walked into the station office and asked if they had ANY jobs available. The Sales Manager at the time asked me if I could write commercials. And I said YES.
I had not actually ever written a radio commercial, but I had some classes on advertising and thought – how hard could it be? I was a writer. I pretty good writer. So I said yes. Then I picked up the local newspaper on my way home, cut out a few newspaper ads and wrote commercials from them. Went back the next day with my “portfolio”
I got the job.

Say Yes – even if you have never done it before.
That job led to working in the promotions department and running some remotes. I met the on air people, the administrative folks, the people who did the billing and of course I met the sales staff. They were the ones making all the money –

I started asking the sales manager to hire me in sales. I asked him and asked him. I interviewed and he said no. I asked again. And again. A friend of mine in the billing department told me that the sales manager told her I’d never, ever make it in sales and he was not going to hire me…. I asked him again. SO my next piece of advice is Ask for what you want.

Within a year I was the top revenue generator at WCIL AM-AM and I think it was because of my next piece of advice: be curious
When you are a salesperson at a tiny local radio station, you meet a ton of small business owners who are excellent at what they do – not so great at marketing. They need someone to help them tell their story to the public. I was that someone. I could write, I honestly and sincerely was curious about them and their business – instead of trying to sell them a “radio schedule” I asked about why they started their businesses, what made them the best at what they do, what their biggest challenges and opportunities were – and then I crafted their stories into compelling messages that introduced them to more customers. Instead of being “busy” when the sales-person came to their door, my clients pulled up a chair and a cup of coffee and they told me their stories. and the fact that I could then share their story with thousands of others – well that didn’t hurt.

I later came to WLIP and WIIL in Kenosha– and I worked as a sales executive, Sales Manager and General Manager as the company grew, I ended up running a seven-station group for Pride Communications.
When I started there, I was the youngest and greenest of account executives and the others were not lining up to mentor me. They had all the “good accounts” in Kenosha and Racine Counties. I was calling on the smallest of the small accounts – but did a pretty good job of growing them because I helped them tell their stories.
But I really succeeded when I learned my next lesson. I got uncomfortable. Just five miles or so from the radio station door was the Wisconsin Illinois State Line. Our FM station came in clearly in Lake County Illinois. And NONE of the other reps felt compelled to go there. I was the one to make the drive, ask the questions and tell the stories for the many, many MORE businesses that were down in Lake County Illinois. Within a year or so, I was the top rep at this group as well.
Get uncomfortable.

Over my time with these stations, I met a wonderful businessman named Jim Hooker. He purchased the stations that I was working at. And even though at that time, I had just had my two daughters and was working part-time, he hired me as his General Manager. Why on earth would he do that?

I was the one who really asked him about his business – his story. We talked about why he bought the stations and what he planned for their future. And even though at the time I was a part time sales rep, he wanted my thoughts on how we could get better.

I had been with this group of radio stations for quite some time. I knew the good, the bad and the ugly – and I shared with him ways I thought we could grow. I told him some uncomfortable things – things someone who just invested millions of dollars on a radio group may not be prepared to hear. But I brought these things to his attention along with SOLUTIONS and the desire to make things better.

He listened, and challenged me. And together with other leaders he developed along the way, we grew that business into a 54 million dollar group and he retired before his 60th birthday.

– Speak the hard truth, and come with solutions. And that goes both ways – listen to the hard truth – and be prepared to make changes.
When Jim sold the stations, I stayed with the purchasing company for a few more years. But after a few management changes, I realized I needed to take another step. And that leads me to another piece of advice. Know when it’s time to go. When you don’t believe in the vision of the company or the people you are reporting to any longer – Leave.
This one is a much longer story than we have time for today, but it started as the radio group that had the MOST female general managers per station of any in the US. When I left they had exactly zero. I’m sure you all can fill in the gaps here.

Next, I spent nearly the next 8 years working at Entercom as Sales Manager and then Director of Sales. I learned a ton, grew in my story telling ability and I would have worked there until the end of my career, but the corporate office hired a new General Manager. I’m not going to tell you his name, because I AM going to tell you why I left. He had worked for this company in another market and was let go under strange and sort of secretive circumstances…we soon found out why. In addition to being an overall lousy manager, More than once he was intimate with our clients. We told corporate the hard truth. They ignored it. It was time to go.

During my time at these stations I got to know the Milwaukee Business Journal. I got many, many great leads by following the paper and E Mail news blasts before any of my competitors did, and started attending the events and meeting Milwaukee area leaders there too. I was what I guess you might call a fan-girl of the Milwaukee Business Journal. When their Ad Director left to take on a publisher role in Phoenix, he told me about the job opening. This was right about the time my husband was putting in his retirement notice at his job. He is a bit older than I am and it was time for him.

I contemplated it and debated it. We had planned on me retiring with him and us doing some traveling. I knew I would work again, but I was also OK with taking some time off to see the country and the world.
But I knew that if I came on board at MBJ as Director of Advertising, I MIGHT have the opportunity to become Publisher when the publisher at the time retired.

Imagine the people I could meet. Imagine the questions I could ask.
Imagine the stories I could help tell.
So I took the job and much to my surprise Mark Sabljak the publisher prior to me retired less than two years into my gig with MBJ. And I got the job.

I started my Publisher role with 100 CEO visits in 100 days. It was an opportunity to not only challenge myself to meet as many people in our region as I could, but also to ask questions – to be curious – to be uncomfortable – and to tell stories. And to hold ourselves accountable for telling ALL the business stories.

Over my years as publisher I’m very proud to say that our team has changed the face and yes, the faces of the traditional Business Journal. We proudly tell the stories of ALL the business community. We have a wall when you walk into the office that is set to hold the last 52 weeks of covers. It is meant to remind us every day to tell all the business stories – those from every corner of the community, men, women, every race color and background. For many, many years most business journals, like most publications across the country were filled with stories about and pictures of successful, older, white men and while it had been getting slowly better for years, my team and I got serious about it. Once a quarter I’d review the covers, features and main stories we published and then I’d ask our editor if he THOUGHT what they covered was in proportion with the population and all the busineses out there. I’d ask him to guess what percentage of men and women they featured, how about the business leaders of color? He’d guess, I’d share with him the reality – and we’d all become more aware. There were no rewards or punishments for good or bad numbers, we simply held ourselves accountable for telling ALL the business stories in the market. That’s another lesson: Hold yourself accountable.

The next piece of advice – Mentor others. You will get more back than you give, I promise you thatI’ve been part of several organized mentorship programs and they have matched me with amazing young people. But also be open to those wonderful accidental mentorship opportunities. That young associate who looks lost in the hallway or the one whose great ideas are not being taken seriously in meetings. Ask them for coffee – share your experience. I’ve had the opportunity through my career to mentor many, many younger professionals. Some for a few days – some for years. It enriched my life and they tell me I helped them too.

Number one most powerful piece of advice? I’m going to ask you to practice it with me right now.

Imagine a problem you are struggling with right now. It can be in your career or your personal life. Picture it as clearly as you can.
Now close your eyes. There is a person sitting across from you that you know very well. It’s you – but it’s you ten years older than you are today. If you are 35, it’s your 45 year old self. Look that ten year older self in the eyes and tell her the problem you are struggling with. Ask her what does she wish you would do about this problem today? What could you do today to make her a stronger, better person? In my experience my ten-year older self is pretty darned smart. She’s helped me through some tough challenge.

#1 Say yes

#2 Ask

#3 Be Curious

#4 Get uncomfortable

#5 Tell the hard truth but come with solutions

#6 Know when it’s time to go

#7 Hold yourself -and your team accountable.

#8 Mentor others

#9 Ask your ten-year older self.

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Time for a new adventure

February 28th, 2022

This talk was delivered at the Milwaukee Business Journal Mentoring Monday event, my last public event before heading out on the road.

It has been nearly eight years since I started working at Milwaukee Business Journal. And although the skyline has changed drastically, much has remained the same.

Through those years, Milwaukee Business Journal has honored those who made that impact on our skyline during our Real Estate Awards programs. Through those stories you learned how talented engineers, designers, architects and construction professionals brought us the spectacular Northwestern Mutual and BMO towers and the Fiserv Forum where over 60,000 celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks making history. You also learned about a humble building where they do amazing healing work – The Sojourner Family Peace Center.

Milwaukee Business Journal brought you stories of the downtown renaissance, insight into the jobs gap that we started seeing long before the great resignation began. Our talented team gave you a look into the innovation that is occurring all along the I-94 corridor through our Innovate 94 series of stories.

But it wasn’t all good news. We covered the DNC convention that wasn’t, the pandemic that threatened every single part of our business and our lives, and the escalating crime that has leaders worried about the future of our city.

Lots of kids are not getting the education they deserve. Many of our citizens struggle to find affordable housing, health care and food.

And although we strive to make sure that we tell ALL the business stories and share the work of people in every generation, of every color, background and gender, inequity still exists.

It is not all sunshine and roses and awards.

Thank goodness for the goodness that is happening because wonderful people bring their whole selves to the table to work on solutions.

Over the past eight years more than 225 Women of Influence have been added to the nearly _ that have been honored by Milwaukee Business Journal through the years. Each award is representative of incredible work that the winners are putting into our community.

During that same time, 320 extraordinary young people have been added to the roles of our 40 Under 40 honorees.

And each of these incredible winners is representative of dozens of others who wake up each and every day working to make Milwaukee the best possible place it can be.

Leave you in good hands.

Headed out on the adventure to see what we might find out there in the US.

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Bluffton, SC

May 17th, 2022

We find the coolest places when we explore

Tim, Reba and I took a drive to downtown Bluffton. It is a quaint little town with cafes and shops and local art galleries all along the main drag.

Get closer to the water and you see several beautiful churches and we just happened to be there as a gospel choir was warming up for their upcoming concert. They were out on the dock singing out over the water. It was magnificent!

Incredible church on the water.

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Best stop so far

May 12th, 2022

Hilton Head National RV Park

We decided to book a “vacation” spot here and there at resort style RV parks. Hilton Head National RV Park was a great first vacation spot. (Can you have a vacation when you are retired?) The sites are HUGE, cement and level and come with all the amenities you could want. We have a beautiful picnic table, a huge fire pit, full hook-up right at our site and just a skip down the road is the best dog park we have found so far.

The park is surrounded by about two miles of well maintained pathways that take you buy the two pools. One is perfect for the kids with a Lazy River, playground and a bridge. One is an adult only quiet pool.

They have a bar and grill, an outstanding game room with ski-ball (I’ll be beating Tim at that someday this week) and an exercise room with all brand new equipment. They have a cute shop filled with all kinds of things I can’t buy because I don’t have any room for more stuff. 🙂

The people here are so friendly. Many of them are work-campers, meaning they live here and work here for a few months at a time.

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Amelia Island

May 19th 2022

Amelia Island beach on a blustery day

We stayed in a modest RV park in Kingsland, Georgia for a few days on our way to Hilton Head. It was a cute little family run place, but we should have opted for the KOA down the road. It was much better maintained.

We drove about 15 miles to to the coast and spent time on Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. The island is GORGEOUS and filled with magnificent homes and neighborhoods built for the wealthy who flock here during season. We were here just before things get busy, so it was wonderful to have wide open spaces all to ourselves.

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Mount Dora

May 4th, 2022

Lakeside Inn Mount Dora, FL

We explored Mount Dora a bit today. It was ridiculously hot, so once we found a parking place for the beast truck, we popped into the first covered porch/restaurant place we saw. Boy were we LUCKY to have found this one!!

This beautiful property that sits right on the lake was built in 1883.. It is the oldest hotel in continuous operation in the state of Florida. They have 90 guest rooms and we have put this on our list to visit once our US RV trip is in the books!

After a fabulous lunch in the shade of the magnificent Lakeside Inn porch, we did a quick tour of downtown Mount Dora. It is filled with cute little shops, restaurants and the obligatory candy/ice cream shops. It was so hot that we didn’t stay long, but we will definitely be back.

Lakefront of hotel

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Renewed Friendships

May 7th, 2022

Kira and Michelle Schutte at Eaton’s Beach

One of the many, many blessings of retirement is the time that it gives you to re-new old friendships.

Michell and I met when we were back door neighbors in Racine, Wisconsin. She quickly became my confidant, walking buddy and our families shared all the major holidays since neither of us had local family.

She is “Momma Michelle” to my two girls and to their good friend Jessica.

Nine years ago, Michelle and Lon retired to the Villages in central Florida and while I was working getting time to spend together was tough. My family also lives in Florida so trips down there were often consumed with family adventures.

When we were planning our time in Florida, a must was a couple of weeks nearby so we could plan some get togethers and even though I got mighty sick in the middle of our time there, we were able to get together three times.

We spent some time at her pool, at an executive golf course that is just my size (nothing over 100 yards and TWO holes you can shoot for, one the size of a small dinner plate – LOL).

Katie was able to join us at Michelle’s pool!

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Adventure in moving

May 9th, 2022

Something so small can cause such major issues!

Another adventure in moving yesterday. We are learning patience and how to help each other in an (sort of) emergency.

Lesson number one – follow the procedure. Do the fussy stuff the night before you are leaving even if you think you have PLENTY of time in the morning.

We didn’t do that this time.

The morning of our move, Tim dumped the tanks while I got the inside ready to go, then he decided to try out his new lug wrench. All the RV boys have one – 🙂 He was tightening up the tires on the rig and…..”SNAP – WHOOOOOSSSSHHHH” broke the TPMS monitor right off the rear right tire. And what’s connected to the TPMS monitor you might ask? The tiny little valve stem that is holding a tremendous amount of air pressure in our tire.

Tim was so mad at himself for the accident, but it was just an accident. I took the rest of the cap out of his shaking hands and got it on the tire and he got the chance to try out his other new toy, an air compressor!

Got the tire to pressure, but it was not holding air, so we made a call to Good Sam Roadside Assistance. If you are debating which roadside assistance to get – we can’t recommend Good Sam enough! They are calm and helpful and surprisingly fast.

They sent a tech out, he replaced our tire with our full-sized spare (always have a full sized spare) and we were on our way – slowly and carefully.

Tim is out getting the old tire repaired so we can have another full-sized spare and I’ll take the pup for a walk around our new campground.

Pics of the snapped valve stem, my improvised Mother’s Day Mimosa (I was not driving) and our beautiful drive to our new location in Kingsland, Georgia!

You don’t have OJ? CJ can do in a pinch.

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