Michael Gehring retires – – Mike Connor named new GM

Michael Gehring is retiring after 40 years of continuous employment with Eagle Newspapers, Inc., the record among current employees. His responsibilities as Eagle Web Press general manager are transferring to his co-worker of 36 years, Mike Connor, the plant manager since the two earned those titles in 1978.  Michael also is retiring from his position on the Eagle board of directors, a seat he has held since 1992. 

Michael made the announcement he was retiring to his staff Aug. 15. The same day, Eagle president and chief operating officer Tom Lanctot named Mike general manager, effective Sept. 1.  

Retirement for Michael means more time to fish. An avid bass fisherman since 1981, Michael says “I still love it and I plan to get a little more bass fishing in. Bass fishing presents challenges that take my mind off the rest of what’s going on in the world. It is very therapeutic.” He has several favorite spots in the Willamette River, Green Peter Reservoir and lakes on the coast and central Oregon. As far as travel in his retirement plans, previous trips to the Philippines impressed him so much that he hopes to make a return visit in November. “I have been there twice and love how friendly the people are and how inexpensive it is to enjoy many tropical adventures and pleasures.” 

A smooth transition at Eagle Web Press is a given with the close working relationship the two men have enjoyed for nearly four decades. Mike and Michael have worked side-by-side shepherding the plant’s growth from six employees and four units of press on what had been a used car lot with a trailer for an office in West Salem. It blossomed into the 65,000 sq. ft. plant at Eagle Industrial Park in north Salem, with more than 60 employees and a 10-fold increase in press units. The duo also entered the high-tech stage together, guiding the company to today’s state-of-the-art electronic prepress department. Mike, who started out as a cameraman jokes “I guess I am the camera man who has outlived the cameras.” 

Adding to the smooth managerial transition is the stable workforce and the longevity of other key employees. Sales manager Sharon Gustafson will begin her 38th year in September.  Six others have been with the company more than 25 years—Paul Wickham, since 1977; Brad Standing and Susan Schneider, 1979; Gene Bangert, 1982; Gary Ramsey, 1984, and Phil Murphy, 1985.   

Looking back at his accomplishments, Michael narrows it down to a personal favorite: his push to add UV printing to the press line. It has proved to be an added source of revenue since 2004. The most challenging times, Michael say, “have come in the past 10 years and brought on by the declining demand for printed products, the economic downturn and the changes that have come about in the work environment that have only served to hinder the effectiveness of management.”

The son of a web printer, Michael’s printing career began during his school days when he was a paper boy for the Oregonian. His father was a pressman, his mother was the bookkeeper, his brother had a paper route and his sister performed in the PR department as a baton twirler in parades and Oregonian-sponsored events. From delivering newspapers Michael moved to hand inserting sections of the Hillsboro Argus, did pressroom cleanup at the Santa Maria Times and worked as a press jogger at the Folsom River Telegraph. By the time he was approaching 20 he was working as a jogger and learning the entire press operation at the Community Press in Portland, advancing to top pressman on a Goss Urbanite, then moving over to Tualatin Yamhill Press and from there to Eagle Web Press at the age of 24. 

As he gets ready to do more bass fishing, Michael reflected on his 40 years and gave credit to the owner and CEO of the company. “It has been a pleasure to work for Eagle Newspapers and Denny Smith. Denny has been much more than an employer. He has become a good friend as well and I hope we will always be in touch. I have made many friends associated with my employment at Eagle, but none of us would have ever met without the main catalyst, Denny Smith.”