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New faces welcomed to Wauneta Breeze staff PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:27

By Lori Pankonin

Johnson Publications, Inc.


Wauneta Breeze staff includes some new faces these days with the addition of Sheri Hink, Amy Straub and Diane Stamm.

Hink began training for the managing editor position a month ago, thrilled with the opportunity to move back “home” to Chase County, having grown up in Champion. Straub came on board in November as a staff reporter. Stamm began covering sports in December, following Carl Williams who filled in with fall sports coverage.

Co-publishers Russ and Lori Pankonin have appreciated Tina Kitt’s commitment with managing editor responsibilities despite her desire to back down from that position.

Kitt, who started at the Breeze in 1997 when the Pankonins moved from Wauneta, said she had the ideal job covering school and community activities while her kids, Kyle, Ashley and John, were in school. Once they were gone from home, she was ready for more time to help her husband, Keenan, on the farm and to focus on her extended family, many of whom live outside the area.

She moved to part time reporting and layout when Josh Sumner served as editor for a year and has remained dedicated to keeping the Breeze alive until another editor could be found. Kitt’s name is familiar in newspaper circles across the state from the award success garnered by the Breeze each year.


Sheri Hink

Hink is excited to get reacquainted with the people of Wauneta and to serve the community in her new role.


Before returning, Hink worked for the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) in Lincoln. Lori Pankonin serves on the NCF state board and it was by chance that she learned that Hink had an interest in moving back to southwest Nebraska.

Ironically, Hink has fond childhood memories of Wauneta where she spent her summers. Her mother, Elaine Hink, was Heritage of Wauneta administrator for 17-plus years. Sheri helped with resident activities in the mornings and went to the pool in the afternoon, recalling how the high dive made it the preferred pool in the area for her.

After graduating from Chase County High School in 1995, she obtained her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska in Kearney with a major in sociology and minor in women’s studies.

She served 20 counties in southwest Nebraska in the Green Thumb program, now known as Experience Works. Thinking she wanted to get out of Nebraska, she went to Illinois to graduate school. She soon learned that she is a true Nebraskan and was happy when a fellowship program within her education took her to NCF in Lincoln.

Upon completing her fellowship she was hired by NCF, eventually finishing her thesis and obtaining her master’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in community and economic development.

Although Hink’s background is not in newspapers, Pankonin has witnessed her leadership roles at NCF where she had a positive outlook and great way of connecting with people. She served as the webmaster and graphic designer, created the newsletter, organized events and training sessions, and took on the multitude of challenges that came her way.

Hink brings family to Wauneta. She and her fiancé, Brad Wagner who is a Lincoln native, are raising his 2-year-old grandson, Ty Wagner, and they have a 3-month-old son, Leo Hink-Wagner. Wagner works at Regier Equipment in Madrid.

After a month on the job, Hink said, “I am ecstatic about it.” She realizes how much she has missed rural life and the sense of community where you know people and people know you. She realizes she’s on the learning curve again, which is a change from more recently being considered the go-to person.

She has aspirations of getting involved with the Wauneta Chamber and possibly the Wauneta Community Foundation Fund, which is an affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation.


Amy Straub

Straub currently covers news stories across the community, especially those concerning the school.

Straub and her husband of 19 years, Robert, and four sons, Kaleb, Billy, Seth and Kaden, moved to Wauneta from Wyoming three years ago and currently live in Palisade. Along with his brother, Robert (a McCook native) inherited the farm of his aunt and uncle, Norma and Gerold Bodeman, which brought them here. He also drives truck for Seeker Farms out of Trenton.

Straub grew up in Buffalo, Wyo. Besides raising the boys, she served as a para educator for eight years in the resource room in a K-12 school in Kaycee, Wyo., also doing some substitute teaching.

After moving, she attended classes in McCook and Imperial, obtaining an associate of arts degree from McCook Community College.

Newspaper work is also new to her, but she is enjoying the challenges and said she is continually learning. Her reporting role includes photography and she is involved in page layout.


Diane Stamm

Stamm shoots pictures and writes sports coverage at various Wauneta-Palisade sporting events.


Stamm actually wrote sports for a month for Wauneta-Palisade when she was expecting their 6-year-old and has stayed home to raise their daughter and son. Rather than finding her in the office, she’s more likely to be seen at ball games and submits stories and photos from home south of Imperial.

She realizes how much she has missed sports involvement, declaring herself a sports nut, and is finding herself getting attached to the kids and teams.

As Diane Harding, she was on the Cambridge state basketball champion team her senior year in 1993, the first of three consecutive years that Cambridge girls earned that honor.

After high school, she attended college in Chadron, then transferred to Kearney where she earned her bachelor’s degree in fitness & leisure management.

She worked for Cornhusker State Games in Lincoln before moving to McCook as the program director of the YMCA. She also wrote sports stories for the McCook Daily Gazette.

She and her husband, Jed, a Benkelman native, have two children, Katelyn and Caleb. She also works as an aide at Rainbow Promise Preschool in Imperial where their son attends. Jed works at Ag Business Specialists in Imperial where he and his partner provide commodity trading and crop insurance services to area farmers.

The Pankonins are happy with staff progress at the Breeze and also continue to appreciate Susan Jones and Berneta Steinert who have remained loyal since the Breeze was purchased by Johnson Publications in 1982.

Kitt has helped with staff transition but will be moving out of the weekly newspaper schedule to focus on a special edition recognizing the Breeze’s 125th anniversary.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:32