The Edmonds Kiwanis Club announced Monday that it has named Teresa Wippel, My Edmonds News publisher and long-time Edmonds resident as its 2019 Citizen of the Year.
“We had a flood of nominations this year,” said Kiwanis member and past Citizen of the Year Frannie Cohen, who served on this year’s selection committee. “There’s a plethora of people doing fantastic things every day in our community, and was a real challenge narrowing it down. But as we sifted through the nominations, Teresa’s name kept rising to the top.
“Her dedication to our community is nothing short of awesome,” Cohen continued. “She puts in so many hours going to meetings, community events and forums so the rest of us don’t have to. She gleans the important information, and reports what she’s heard without bias. Politics can be so one-sided, but thanks to her dedication and integrity, what you read on My Edmonds News is the truth. Teresa walks down the middle and keeps her own opinions out of her reporting. She gives us objective, fact-based information so we can make our own informed opinions.”
A native of Ellensburg, Teresa’s dedication to journalism began early.
“I have always loved to write,” she says. “I remember putting together my own ‘magazines’ with paper and pencil when I was in elementary school and writing poetry and short stories. When I wrote my first news story as a freshman in high school — I’ll never forget it as it was a profile of the high school drama teacher — I was hooked. At Ellensburg High School, I was fortunate to have a high school journalism teacher (thanks Steve Rogers!) who saw something in me and encouraged me to keep at it.”
While in high school, she hit a critical fork in the road. She was following her love of writing on both the school newspaper and the yearbook, but she also found a passion for drama, acting in the school productions. Then Watergate hit. Awestruck by the work of Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, she found the inspiration to leave the stage behind, dedicate herself to journalism and in her words, “change the world.” But it was more than youthful enthusiasm; it set her firmly on the path of her life’s work.
“Thank goodness the movie The Post came out recently to remind people of that important time in the history of journalism and its role in our democracy,” she said. “My favorite line in that movie is when Katherine Graham says, ‘Journalism is a first draft of history.’”
Coming across the mountains to Seattle, she entered Seattle University as a journalism major with a minor in political science, working all four years on the school newspaper The Spectator, serving as editor in chief during her senior year. After graduation she worked for several community weeklies, a daily newspaper in Port Angeles, the UPI Seattle bureau, and stints in public sector communications including public information officer for the Seattle School District.
Married in 1982, she and her husband Matt Waldron moved to Edmonds’ Lake Ballinger neighborhood in 1987, where they raised their two children and where they still live.
“In the summer of 2009, I was between jobs and was trying to decide what to do next,” she explained. “My husband Matt has his chiropractic practice in Mountlake Terrace, and had been advertising in an online news website, MLTnews. He said — ‘I think you should start one in Edmonds because if you don’t, someone else will.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“When I started My Edmonds News in 2009, I felt I had come full circle, having started out in community journalism and now coming back to it,” she explained. “The difference though is that I now had deep roots in the community that I was reporting on. Our kids were raised here, went school here, and were involved in sports and other activities here.
“But despite my long-time interest in government and politics, I had never been to a City Council meeting until I started My Edmonds News. I was too busy working (mostly in Seattle) and being a parent,” she laughed. “So I figured that if I was going to start covering the community, I’d better start with city government. I went to my first city council meeting and introduced myself to then-Mayor Gary Haakenson and some of the councilmembers.”
And she’s been to practically every council meeting since, listening, taking notes and photographs and reporting back to her readers, who with rare exceptions see the coverage the next morning in My Edmonds News.
“I called it ‘MY’ Edmonds News for a reason,” she explains. “I want every reader to think of it as their personal place to come for news and commentary, to be a participant rather than a passive observer in their community. My mission has always been to cover stories in a way that moves the community forward, and I encourage those who work for me to do the same. That doesn’t mean we don’t cover negative stories, but I believe we go the extra mile to be fair to all sides.”
And in one of those curious twists of fate, in 2012 MLTnews– the original inspiration for My Edmonds News– was about to fold. And a year later the publisher of Lynnwood’s online news source, Lynnwood Today, also announced he was planning to shut it down. Wippel stepped up to the plate, agreeing to acquire both sites, only because “I knew that if I didn’t, those nearby communities — which had lost their print newspapers a few years earlier — would have NO news coverage.”
The three online sites now comprise the My Neighborhood News Network, dedicated to comprehensive coverage of important news in all three communities including all school board and city council meetings, even high school sports.
“We work really hard to communicate through both stories and photos all important news in the community,” she continued. “We strive to inform and inspire our readers to become involved citizens by covering key issues from start to finish, with context that can only come from being there every step of the way. In the end, I believe our approach to news gathering makes our communities stronger.
“I’m still amazed I get to do this work,” she added. “For me, it’s a dream come true. Using my writing and reporting skills to serve my community is the best job ever. It feeds my soul.”
Looking ahead, Wippel plans to continue covering the community for many years to come. A history buff (she just started her third term on the Edmonds Historical Museum board), she said that one her greatest joys running My Edmonds News has been working with long-time historian and writer Betty Gaeng. “I always say she is my role model for what I want to be when I grow up — still writing and very active at age 92,” she said.
The Citizen of Year program, started in 1994 with its first award to Stan and Valerie Dickison. Other winners have included city officials like Dave Earling (1995) and Laura Hall (1996), business owners like Rick Steves (2017) as well as organizations like the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club (2015) and the Edmonds Petanque Club (2016).
Wippel will be honored at the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, May 23 at Salt & Iron restaurant (open to the public, with registration available here) and as is customary for Citizens of the Year winners, will ride in the 2019 Edmonds Kind of 4th of July Parade.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel