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HAGEN: Hohbach's four decades at The Daily Republic

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Penny Hohbach

When you call The Daily Republic, she's often the first person to help.

She's also our longest-tenured employee and has seen the newspaper business go through sweeping changes over four decades.

That's right. For the longtime subscribers of The Daily Republic, our own Penny Hohbach has been working at our office for 40 years.

Well, 40 years and three days when this column is published in the print edition of Friday's paper.

As this is being written, Penny is at the front of our new office location on North Main Street assisting walk-in customers and sorting through phone calls. While some of those calls eventually filter through to the various departments of this office, Penny for so long has been the first voice our customers hear.

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"Every day is different," she said Thursday morning reflecting on her career. "You meet different people. You may have one person who calls up and is swearing, and the next person is just as nice as can be."

We're thankful for her invaluable experience during those irate calls. The Daily Republic has been around for 141 years, and Penny has helped with more than one-fourth of those editions. She's seen and heard almost everything.

Despite admitting she did not want to work at a newspaper back then, she applied for her job Dec. 6, 1979. Four days later, she walked into our old Lawler Street office location and has driven about 20 miles one way from her Letcher residence to Mitchell daily.

She's seen the evolution of technology make massive waves in our industry. When she started, her duties were to type legals (with a typewriter, of course) and schedule ads. Eventually, some of her work adjusted in the 1990s and a computer was put in front of her.

While changes have been made to the way we input content and advertisements, and more recently our office location has moved, the phone calls and customers, for the most part, have stayed the same.

Whether there's a news story that made someone mad, a reader not getting their paper on time or any other headache that may arise, if you've called The Daily Republic upset, Penny so graciously has taken the brunt hit before dispatching it to the correct department. And luckily, she understands better than most that people are just venting.

"We hear there's nothing in the paper anymore, but you guys are out every day putting it together," she said. "I don't think most people realize how much work goes into putting a paper out. We care about it. We have a good product."

Hearing from the public reminds us every day that we're relevant. Penny realizes that, and she has the stories to back it up.

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"Guess what? We know people are reading the paper," she said. "There was one classified ad a long time ago that someone typed in where the words were supposed to be 'man-hole cover' and we had a 'male-hole cover.' Oh, my. When they called up, I didn't know what to do. I just laughed and said, 'Well, people are reading the paper.' "

Thanks, Penny, for handling those types of situations. Forty years is a darn impressive feat.

And to anyone who reads this, perhaps it may be worth your time today drop a line and congratulate Penny for all that she's done for The Daily Republic. She'll happily take that call.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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