Read all about it: Williams delivers
Anyone who shouts out "Stop the presses" will first have to get by Nick Williams.
Williams has rolled out miles of newsprint and is one of the behind-the-scenes stars of Mountain Times Publications, and he was recently recognized as the company's Employee of the Year.
Williams, a Watauga County native, was working construction after military service, but winter had slowed work down. Williams was a volunteer with the Foscoe Fire Department, and one of his fellow fire fighters, Cecil Aldridge, asked if he wanted to learn to run a printing press.
He started working for the Watauga Democrat in November 1976. "At that time, they were off-set printers," he said. "The six presses were in the basement (in the former office) uptown. We still processed plates by hand at that time. "
The large rolls of paper used to print newspapers were moved by hand, too.
"We'd roll them off the back of the truck and bounce them onto two truck tires, then roll them in," he said. "This was before we had a forklift to do it."
At the time, there were only two people working the presses.
"But when we had to mail, everybody came down to the basement," he said. "If we had inserts, we had to do them by hand, and we put the sections of the paper in by hand."
Williams grew up in the Shull's Mill Road area, and his father was caretaker at Camp Yonahlossee. He is a Marine Corps veteran, serving from 1965 to 1969.
Williams helped the Watauga Democrat move to the Watauga County Industrial Park in the late 1980s, with all the presses having to be hauled in on trucks and set up without missing a single edition. "I remember, because I worked 100 hours that week," he said.
He left the Watauga Democrat because he'd relocated, then came back in 2001 and rejoined the Democrat staff. He contacted press manager Bo Cornell when he was returning to North Carolina from Oregon, and a job was open.
That was shortly before the Watauga Democrat and Mountain Times merged into the Mountain Times Publications family. Williams helps produce three editions of the Watauga Democrat a week, as well as the weekly Blowing Rocket, Mountain Times, TV Times, Avery Journal-Times, Ashe Mountain Times and special inserts.
"No matter how long you run the presses, things can happen that have never happened before," he said. "You learn something new every day."
His hobbies include gardening, hiking and reading. He doesn't always have time to read the newspaper, though.
"I'm always reading Sunday school lessons, or history," he said. "I like history."
This is the first Employee of the Year award given by the company, but Williams could have deserved it in any year.
"Nick could be the employee of a lifetime," said Mountain Times Publications publisher Gene Fowler. "He is a caring person. He doesn't have to be asked to do something; he asks what he can do for you. He is the epitome of leadership."
Fowler also noted that the press operators were critical in the timely delivery of news and information, no matter the weather or situation.
"All the work we do is all for naught if we don't get it out there in a timely manner," he said. "There are times when staff is out sick and it has to be done. He will do it all by himself."