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The Galt Herald will join a new parent company on New Year’s Eve.

David Herburger, the president and CEO of Herburger Publications, sold his business in a private sale to Bonnie Rodriguez. She previously worked as his company’s managing editor as well as the Herald’s news editor.

Rodriguez named the new company Valley Oak Press, and it is opening for business on Jan. 3.

“I have an open-door policy, and I’m excited to meet community members and get more involved in the communities,” said Rodriguez, Valley Oak Press’s president and CEO.

Herburger’s staff and its core news publications, the Herald, The Elk Grove Citizen and The River Valley Times, will remain in operation.

There will be no changes to current Herald subscriptions and subscription rates, Rodriguez said.

Valley Oak Press will also still publish Herburger’s Sacramento area newspapers, Arden-Carmichael News, East Sacramento News, Land Park News and Pocket News.

The new company is headquartered in the former Herburger office on North Lincoln Way in Galt.

Rodriguez noted that her staff would remain committed to bringing local news home in nine Sacramento County communities.

“We’re here to keep our eyes on the city councils and the school boards and letting people know what’s going on,” she said.

Herburger Publications ended its 62 years of publishing community newspapers and outside publications. That company was founded by Herburger’s parents, Roy Herburger and Mary Lewis, when they purchased the Citizen and the Herald in 1959.

Roy soon made a name for himself when he heavily covered the 1959 campaign to unify several small school districts into the Elk Grove Unified School District. Elk Grove parks were later named after Roy and Mary, due to their decades long dedication to covering community news and events. Roy Herburger Elementary School opened in Elk Grove in 2004.

“We have huge shoes to fill; that’s the most overwhelming aspect of this,” Rodriguez said about carrying on the Herburger company’s legacy. “I’m hoping we can follow closely behind in that legacy and keep the trust of our readers and customers.”

Mary and Roy, respectively, passed away in 2017 and 2018. Mary never retired from her position as the Citizen’s copy editor before her death at age 84.

David worked as the president and CEO of Herburger Publications for more than 30 years. He led the company during the challenging times of competing with the Sacramento Bee’s now-defunct Neighbors section as well as steering through recessions and financial setbacks for the company.

The idea of selling the company to Rodriguez arose soon after the state ordered a temporary shutdown of “non-essential” businesses in March 2020 as an effort to stop the early spread of COVID-19. Those closures quickly impacted many of Herburger’s advertisers and commercial printing clients. The Citizen’s Wednesday edition was discontinued and its Old Town Elk Grove office was closed in June 2020.

“We were all very concerned and had no idea on what was going to happen with the pandemic,” Rodriguez recalled. “Many businesses and industries were hit.”

One day, she asked David a question about their company’s future.

“If you ever have to shut those doors, I want The Galt Herald,” Rodriguez said.

David then told her to close his office door. He proposed the idea of having her take over the company instead.

After pondering the change for three weeks, Rodriguez started collaborating with David on their company’s gradual transition to Valley Oak Press. She was promoted to their company’s managing editor this summer. David announced the company change to staff during the company Christmas party on Dec. 10, 2021.

“I couldn’t ask for any more cooperation from someone who cares about making sure that the company he is leaving is set to succeed,” Rodriguez said about David. “He is not stripping the company and running away, he is making sure that all of the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed so we can be successful.”

As for Valley Oak Press’s future, Rodriguez foresees technological upgrades. She wants to improve her company’s printing press as well as its production staff’s computer system. She also desires to have her news publications get more involved in community events.

“I want to make sure that we are a part of the communities,” Rodriguez said.

About Bonnie

Rodriguez is a Granite Bay native who got her first taste of publishing when she worked as the yearbook editor at Oakmont High School.

She later studied graphic communications at Brigham Young University until that program was canceled. Rodriguez later left college to help support her then-husband’s college studies and to work at the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah.

She spent nearly four years working in the production staff for that metro daily, which had a 60,000 print circulation and covered three major cities, a university, and 25 high schools. After working until 2 a.m. on many days, she vowed she would never work at a newspaper again.

“It was constant and it was draining on my young family,” Rodriguez said.

She noted that she was involved in the paper’s move to computer production during the 1990s, and she briefly worked at the Spectrum newspaper in St. George, Utah.

Rodriguez with her family returned to California to get a fresh start. She was later working as a yard duty and cafeteria cashier at Galt’s Valley Oaks Elementary School when she came across an advertisement for a production job opening at The Galt Herald. She figured that this job would not be as demanding as her Daily Herald days since it was a weekly community paper.

“I thought, ‘Eh, I’ll just put in my resume,’ and I didn’t hear anything for two years,” Rodriguez recalled while laughing.

David contacted her and brought her on board at his company in 2006 when they were starting up a new computer system for their production. Rodriguez built pages and advertisements for Herburger’s publications until she succeeded Rachel Ackerman as the news editor of The Galt Herald in 2012.

She noted that David and his father taught her a lot about what it takes to lead a publishing company.

“David is a great example of a businessman, and how to make things work and how to stretch a budget to make it work — he was phenomenal at that,” Rodriguez said. “Roy had the heart and soul to keep employees motivated and bring a quality product to the readers.”