Samantha Johnston knows it sounds cliché, but said it’s truly how she feels about leaving Craig and moving on to a new challenge.
Johnston, 35, chief of organizational excellence for The Memorial Hospital, has been hired as the executive director of Colorado Press Association in Denver. She begins Sept. 13 and replaces current director Ed Otte, who is retiring.
“Leaving this community is incredibly sad,” said Johnston. “I’m leaving so many great experiences and great people. It’s shaped who I am. So leaving all of that is really hard.”
But that loss is tempered, Johnston said, by the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues from her past.
Johnston, who is originally from Steamboat Springs, spent eight years with the WorldWest Limited Liability Company, which owns the Craig Daily Press, Steamboat Pilot & Today and Hayden Valley Press, which is no longer in publication. During her tenure, she served as the publisher of the Daily Press and the regional director of advertising for the three newspapers.
“Professionally, it’s an opportunity to be in a position where I will network with people in an industry I am really passionate about,” Johnston said.
During her time in Craig, Johnston was instrumental in the passing of both the Craig Rural Fire Protection District mill levy and The Memorial Hospital’s $42.6 million construction measure.
She also served six years for Craig Fire/Rescue, leaving now as a lieutenant, and was a board member for the Boys & Girls Club of Craig. Johnston is a past president of Craig Rotary Club and Moffat County United Way and was a crisis counselor for Moffat County Victims Assistance, among other volunteer positions.
She also raced in Hayden Speedway competitions for three years, winning the street stock category her first year and the super street championship her second year.
Resigning from TMH, where she’s worked for three years, is about as hard as leaving behind those memories and small-town experiences Johnston said she’s enjoyed.
“I really learned to love health care and particularly hospitals,” Johnston said. “That is a very rewarding thing, and I’m certainly better because of it.”
Johnston’s final day with the hospital is Sept. 10, and hospital staff has begun advertising the position. Now, Johnston said she’s returning to an industry that she believes is equally as important in a community’s infrastructure, an idea she hopes to foster in her work at CPA.
She plans to assist CPA’s member agencies learning to reach their readers in new, innovative ways in this time of much uncertainty for the industry.
“It’s to help newspapers not be scared of healthy change,” she said.
And she’s just the person for the job, said Dean Lehman, chairman of the Colorado Press Association board.
Lehman said Johnston, who was selected from a pool of 30 candidates, has the enthusiasm, experience and education to move CPA forward.
“I think she impressed our committee by her interest in accomplishing positive goals,” Lehman said. “I think that was a strong point in her favor that she seemed to be action-oriented and willing to really look into areas of possible opportunity.”
But even as Johnston moves on to Denver, where she said she is excited to make a name for herself, she’ll be looking back, too.
With her mother in Milner and numerous friends in Northwest Colorado, Johnston said she won’t be a stranger.
“I’m going to miss the people for sure,” Johnston said. But, “I’m really excited to come back and finally participate in the really fun things instead of planning the really fun things.”