Where’s Dave?

Libby and Dave Neuharth at one of the many conferences they attended over the years.

Quietly and without fanfare or accolades, Dave Neuharth, the association’s longtime leader, retired effective December 31, 2018.

While some of you may have only known Dave as the association’s executive director, I have had the privilege of working alongside him for over 18 years. I have a profound respect for the man Charlie Delatorre recently referred to as “The Legend.”

If you’ve ever wondered how Dave knows just about everything there is to know about publishing, I’m here to tell you it’s because his roots run deep in the industry.

He started his publishing career in Grass Valley, California, as a photographer and sports reporter for The Union, a daily newspaper near Sacramento. He was later named its managing editor. While at The Union, his article about a gold mine cave-in earned him top honors from the California Press Association.

After The Union was purchased by Scripps League Newspapers, he accepted a position as editor of the Skagit Valley Herald in Mount Vernon, Washington, and later became publisher of several daily newspapers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

During his tenure with daily newspapers, he won various awards for reporting and design of publications. In 1978 he was named an Associated Press managing editor citation winner, and was invited to serve on the Pulitzer Prize committee.

In the early 1980s he relocated to Florida where he served as general manager and sales manager of the Bradenton Shopping Guide, and as editor and publisher of the Bonita Banner and Collier Shopping Guide. Later, he and his wife, Libby, purchased and operated the Antique Shoppe, a statewide publication devoted to the antique business in Florida. He later sold that publication to Bruce and Debra Causey.

In Florida, Dave became active with the Free Community Papers of Florida, the forerunner to the Community Papers of Florida, serving on its board of directors. He assumed the role of president of the association in 1990, and was named executive director in 1992.

When he took the helm in 1992 the Florida association was struggling financially. Working from his kitchen table, he created the Florida association’s classified network which later grew into one of the strongest in the industry.

In 1996 he was named CPF’s representative to serve on the Association of Free Community Papers (AFCP) board of directors. In 1999 he was involved in the inception of the AFCP Industry Recognition Committee, which later became PaperChain. In 2000 he was asked to edit AFCP’s Free Paper INK magazine. 

Dave was instrumental in working toward having a joint CPF, AFCP and SAPA (Southeastern Advertising Publishers Association) conference at Daytona Beach in 2002, the first industry conference I had the privilege of attending. That conference set an attendance record for the free paper industry.

That’s Dave’s published pedigree. Here’s a glimpse into the man you may not know.

As illustrated by his quiet, unannounced retirement, Dave is not one to seek the spotlight. He is content working behind the scenes to achieve his objectives.

He is a deep thinker. Oftentimes when I asked him a question, he did not respond. I would peer over the desk to see if he’d heard me and see him just sitting there, thinking, pondering all the possible outcomes before giving me an answer.

Dave deeply loves his wife of 34 years, Libby. You can see it in the pictures of them together. But to me, the most touching evidence is Libby’s quilt room. 

When Libby discovered quilting several years ago, she was hooked! As she learned more and more about the craft, she gathered more and more fabric and equipment. She soon outgrew the spare bedroom that used to be Dave’s home office, but which had long since become overrun with sewing machines and fabric.

So Dave scheduled a vacation, secretly hired a contractor and took Libby away for a few days. Upon their return, he presented her with “Libby’s Quilt Room” – his former two-room garage and pool hall. Dave’s once prized pool table is now a cutting table for Libby’s quilt designs.

He loves to cook. I have very fond memories of the many Christmas parties he threw over the years, the invitations to which always said “bring nothing but the family.” He would spend days preparing the most delicious treats. My cookbook is stuffed with his recipes.

Dave loves to make people happy. One of the things he truly enjoyed was traveling to the different CPF member publications to personally hand-deliver checks to the reps who’d won the classified sales contests.

Perhaps it’s a holdover from his Antique Shoppe days, but in his free time Dave loves going to yard sales and antique stores and bargain-hunting with Libby. Living so close to The Villages, a large retirement community, is a goldmine for such a hobby.

He’s an animal lover with a long succession of four-legged friends. Mitzi the cat, along with Golden Retrievers Phoenix, Maggie, Cody and now Casper, would all attest to that.

He’s a wicked West Virginia fan. Enough said.

Dave graduated from Sierra College in Rocklin, California. He served seven years in the United States Navy, including four years in the Viet Nam war. Along life’s path his family grew to include four children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

I asked Dave for his thoughts on his retirement. He said, “What started as a part-time venture serving an association that was in debt turned into a successful enterprise. The classified network that started with little revenue later, during the good times, climbed to income of over $3 million a year. 

“With that kind of funding, the association’s board of directors provided benefits for our members that was unheard of in the free paper industry.

“Legal help, thousands of prize dollars dished out to the representatives who sold the network ads, CVC audits, scholarships and consulting services were all paid for by the association.

 “The training and costs of the conferences were also paid. This included rooms for the attendees, the meals and beverages – it was all part of the benefits provided. These benefits have changed in recent years as revenue for classified ads has gone south.

“I thank the members of the board for making this a great association. The funds were mostly provided by Dick Mandt and The Flyer, and Charlie Delatorre with Tower Publications in Gainesville. Over the years, each has contributed well over $1 million to the association. 

“A large thank you also goes to Barbara Holmes and Tiffany Clark, the association’s staff, who were instrumental in the overall success.

“A thank you to the board of directors whom I had the pleasure to work with. As publishers and general managers of free papers, they have a difficult job. Their success and talent led to the success of this association.”

Now Dave will have more time for some of the other thing he enjoys, like boating, fishing, traveling, reading and swimming in the pool with Casper.

by Barbara Holmes