LISTOWEL – It would be a very rare occasion indeed if Bill Huether walked into a local restaurant, business, or even the pro shop of the Listowel Golf Club and not know 95 per cent of the people in the room. Perhaps even more rare, that he wouldn’t speak with every single one of them in some facet.
It’s really looking into an alternate universe, simply because it wouldn’t happen.
“You could never walk through town with Bill, even going out to lunch, without someone yelling out their car window or waving at him,” said Doug Rowe, Midwestern Newspapers Corp. regional general manager. “Or just him stopping to talk to somebody. He made a huge impression in the community.”
You could say that Huether’s business is talking, and it didn’t matter if it was in an advertising sales, managerial, or personal capacity. Throughout his 25 years in the newspaper industry, he always spoke with everyone with the same measured respect and honesty that he expected in return.
As the man himself puts it, in the media business, forging relationships is everything.
“I met a ton of great people,” said Huether, who has served as general manager of the Listowel Banner for the past 16 years. He also heads up both the Wingham Advance Times and Walkerton Herald-Times, as well as Midwestern Newspapers’ free regional weekly, the Independent Plus. “And that’s what I find even today, some of those relationships that we forged through business are still some of my best friends. It’s pretty amazing that 25 years later we’re still seeing each other, getting together, seeing your kids grow up together. I find that very fortunate.”
After 25 years in the community newspaper industry and a couple months shy of his 50th birthday, Huether is ready to embark on a new career path. As of Dec. 1, he will be joining DC Boertien Financial at Sun Life as a financial advisor.
“I had been thinking about this for numerous years,” said Huether, a lifelong Listowel resident. He added that his wife of 22 years, Angel, and daughter, Ashley, are behind him 100 per cent in the decision, and no doubt relieved that he can now talk of his love of spreadsheets and finances with people other than them. “(Doug Boertien) has been a mentor to me for two decades-plus. I’ve been a client, and along the way I’ve learned a lot about the business. I’m fascinated with the financial planning process. I think it’s an amazing thing. I’m really looking forward to working with clients in that capacity.”
Huether graduated from the graphic design and advertising program at London’s Fanshawe College in the mid-1990s. Not long after departing school, he landed his first newspaper gig with the Advance Times in 1996 before moving on to the St. Marys Journal Argus shortly after. His nine-year stint with the publication included three years as production manager under Eedy Publishing before moving into the position of general manager when Metroland Media Group bought the Journal Argus in 1999.
It was during his decade in St. Marys that Huether fully realized the importance of engraining one’s self into the community in which you were employed, an aspect especially vital in the newspaper business. He joined local service organizations such as the Kinsmen Club and the BIA.
It was also with the Journal Argus that Huether was able to indulge in his passion for sales, something he carried with him after taking on the general manager role at the Banner beginning in 2005.
Listowel’s Town and Country Decorating owner Harry Huberts first met Huether shortly after his arrival at the Banner, and said that he immediately made an impression with his professionalism.
“He and I just sort of connected and we created a friendship beyond the business,” commented Huberts. “It was the customer service aspect that intrigued me when we first got into business with him. The No. 1 thing was we were going to a number of different reps, and he was constantly checking up to make sure we were getting the proper service from the Banner. It went into a more personal level, having lunches together and just a lot of bantering back and forth about advertising and business in general.”
“I always loved the business, loved the customer aspect,” said Huether. “Being able to help clients with their advertising budgets or campaigns. Being able to work with all of those community organizations has been fantastic; that’s probably been my greatest reward, along with working with some great staff members along the way. Seeing some of them get their wings, grow, and fly. Some of them moved on to bigger and better things, which was amazing.
“I always considered myself to be a mentor. That’s pretty rewarding as a GM and as a boss.”
“Bill was always a great leader, and always brought that positive energy. He could always bring the team together.”
– Doug Rowe, Midwestern Newspapers Regional Manager
Huberts added that with any project he collaborated with Huether on, the man always had a pre-determined plan of action.
“We trust him; we’ve gone with him this long and we trust the next move,” said Huberts. “I wish him well in his next endeavours, he will do extremely well where he goes. He’s got the personality and the customer service background, he will do well.”
After relocating back to his hometown, Huether didn’t waste any time forming new relationships and solidifying old ones. He served as president of the Retail Merchants’ Association in the mid-2000s, helping to reignite the Listowel Sidewalk Sales campaign, even bringing a rollercoaster downtown as part of the event.
It was around this time that Huether and Rowe became friends and colleagues. Living up to his reputation of thinking big and making an impression while helping out the community, Huether approached his boss with an unusual request in 2008: Help foot the cost of bringing television star and renowned contractor Mike Holmes to Listowel District Secondary School to help launch the school’s new Tech Hall of Fame – via helicopter.
“Nothing we could put in print,” laughed Rowe, when asked how the conversation with Huether went following that request. “Bill was always a great leader, and always brought that positive energy. He could always bring the team together.”
Huether has seen his fair share of changes in the newspaper industry, and like every other business, the emergence of the internet as the globe’s primary communication platform altered how the Banner and its sister publications would operate going forward. He entered the industry straight out of college with a solid computer background, and was instrumental in aiding publications like the Journal Argus and Banner make that transition into the digital age.
“There’s been some huge changes along the way,” said Huether. “Information is so readily available, and one thing that we’re very proud of is that we’re the paper of record, and always the local source to go to. Some sources aren’t quite as reliable as others.”
He went on, “We’ve certainly gone through some turbulent waters. We’ve been able to steer the ship through those waves. We’ve gone through a difficult time with the emergence of the internet and the challenges it brings – ad leakage to the digital side. I think we’ve navigated successfully through those turbulent times, and I think that’s in large part to the connections we have to the community. That’s the key to our success, those relationships.”
In recognition of his 25-year commitment to the newspaper industry, Huether was awarded the Silver Quill earlier in 2021. The Silver Quill is presented to a nominated individual in the role of owner, executive officer, publisher or editor at a weekly publication, and is considered one of the most prestigious honours bestowed by the Canadian Community Newspapers Association.
“I just really want to say thanks to the community,” said Huether. “I met some absolutely amazing people along the way and they’ve become really good friends.”
Throughout his quarter-century in the industry, Huether has been at the helm as changes of ownership, content direction and the very way in which publications operate as a trusted vessel of relaying the news to the community they serve underwent countless transitions. He unsurprisingly learned many key lessons during that journey, lessons that he will utilize in no doubt making his second career path a successful one.
And while talking has always been one of his greatest strengths, Huether said that taking the time to listen is just as important.
“Stay in your lane, trust your gut, and know what’s in your heart. It’ll all work out,” he said. “Honesty is always the best policy – and listen. Listen to people, listen to staff, listen to friends, listen to your gut. Just listen.
“You’ll never go wrong.”