TUPELO – When Billy Crews becomes chief operating officer of the Tupelo Public School District in January, it will mark the end of a 32-year career as a Journal Inc. employee and chief executive.
Crews, 54, plans to resign as CEO of the company and become an employee of the school district, effective Jan. 1. He will remain chairman of the Journal Board of Directors, but in a non-employee role.
On Tuesday, the Journal board elected President and Publisher Clay Foster, 44, to succeed Crews as the company’s CEO in January. Foster has been with the Journal in a variety of roles since 1992, working closely with Crews in recent years as the company’s chief operating officer.
Crews said leaving employment at the Journal wasn’t an easy decision.
“I have had the most amazing, satisfying and challenging career with one company since I moved to Tupelo in 1978,” he said. “I worked for a visionary leader, George McLean, my first four years and then was given a leadership opportunity to build community and improve the quality of life in Northeast Mississippi through a unique private-sector company at a young age.
“We have grown, improved and enhanced our region and business during the past 32 years because of our employees, readers, advertisers and our partnership with leaders throughout Northeast Mississippi.”
Crews came to work for the Daily Journal in 1978 in a community service role after graduation from the University of Mississippi, hired and mentored by McLean, the newspaper’s longtime owner.
After McLean’s death in 1983, Crews took on increasingly responsible leadership roles in the company, becoming publisher in 1989 and chief executive officer in 1992. He assumed the additional duties of chairman of the board in 1998.
Under Crews’ leadership, the company has grown and diversified from a daily newspaper with leased warehouse space to a company with a daily, seven weekly newspapers, 10 web sites and a real estate logistics operation. It has grown print circulation in seven of the last nine years.
Crews, meanwhile, has been instrumental in maintaining and expanding the Journal’s leadership in local and regional development initiatives while serving in numerous community leadership roles, including a variety of education-related efforts. He is past chairman of CREATE Foundation’s Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi and currently serves as Community Development Foundation chairman.
The nine-member Journal board has consisted in recent years of six external directors, all Northeast Mississippi business and civic leaders, and three management directors. With Crews’ change in status, the board will consist of seven outside directors and two internal management directors, new CEO Foster and Executive Editor Lloyd Gray.
External members of the board will be Crews, Hassell Franklin of Houston, H.L. “Sandy” Williams of Corinth, Tommy Tomlinson of Starkville, and Aubrey Patterson, Larry Kirk and Lewis Whitfield, all of Tupelo. Jack Reed Sr. of Tupelo is a board member emeritus.
All of the stock in Journal Inc. is owned by the CREATE Foundation, which George McLean established in 1972 to keep the Daily Journal locally owned and to encourage philanthropy in Northeast Mississippi.
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