Star Search: Kansas City Star Features Head Mary Lou Nolan to Step Down

This one’s personal…

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m out of town and flying low, so I don’t have the time to give this one a lot of thought right now, other than to do the basic reporting.

Which is…

My old boss Mary Lou Nolan announced today that she will retire on Friday February 24th.

I’ll "revisit" this, as Mary Lou might say in the near future.

But I will say that she’ll be missed. Maybe not universally, but by and large Mary Lou did a good job during some very difficult times. She certainly was never what one would call cutting edge, but hey, she put up with me for 10 or more years.

And largely was very supportive.

I remember her voice mail the first workday of January in 2009 asking me to come in so I could work out the details of continuing my column in the FYI section. All Mary Lou could guarantee was $300 per column freelance and the number of columns per week would have to be budgeted and determined. But she wanted me back right away as I’d only been gone a little over a month. And I generally took a couple weeks off during the holidays anyway.

Unfortunately, for tax purposes, I’d opted to take my six months severance money in 2009, and parent company McClatchy stuck to its guns that no laid off employees could work for any of its subsidaries that calendar year if they’d taken the money that year.

The rest is history.

I soon faced the difficult choice of whether to cover the historic downfall of the Star and newspapers in general that year. Had I opted to be a good little boy and not write about it, chances are my column would have returned for so-many-cents-on-the-dollar in January 2010. Since I didn’t, choosing instead to report the news here as it unfolded, that ship pretty much sailed.

Stories readers would have totally missed include the time columnist Mike Hendricks got converted to parttime, took a one third pay cut and benefits loss, then lashed out against his editors and the Star on Facebook. Hendricks even petitioned Facebook friends to help him find a higher paying job.

It was classic.

And who wouldn’t have wanted to learn of editor Mike Fannin’s twin DUIs, assault conviction and slam time?

I digress.

OK, one short Mary Lou Nolan anecdote (you know I’ve got a million of ’em).

I was doing a column a handful of years back where I asked locals of note what they given or received for Christmas, and what their New Year’s Resolutions were.

In the case of fiery, local pol Carol Coe, her daughter Ailey had asked for an iPod but money being tight, Coe’d gotten her a Chia Pet instead. It was a short item and all about the brief, punchy quote Coe had given me.

However Mary Lou being dutifully anal, wanted to make certain each and every Star reader in the universe knew exactly what Coe was talking about and wanted me to break up the quote and tediously explain what a Chia Pet was.

Everyone knows what a Chia Pet is, I argued.

"I don’t," Mary Lou shot back.

Whereupon ensued a friendly debate over the subject with me prevailing when junior editor Keith Robison and others in FYI that I solicited took my side

Which speaks to Mary Lou’s fairness and willingness to keep an open mind. Something quite helpful when it came to editing my column at times.

The next Christmas I gave Mary Lou a Chia Pet.

Which if you don’t know what that is, I’d be more than happy now to explain it to you now so you can catch up to Mary Lou. Courtesy of Wikipedia, a source that Mary Lou frowned on and was skeptical of in the early going.

"Chia Pets are American styled terracotta figurines used to sprout chia, where the chia sprouts grow within a couple of weeks to resemble the animal’s fur or hair. Moistened seeds of chia (Salvia hispanica) are applied to the grooved terra cotta figurine body."

Hey, have fun Mary Lou! And enjoy that heated, tile bathroom floor you put in a few years back.

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