By DAVID LOPEZ
He is the eyes and ears of this newspaper. If these walls could talk, Rudy Peña could still tell you more than them.
Rudy Peña is a 45-year employee of the San Benito News, the longest employed at the company. His story is one of the American dream, as he began inserting newspapers at the age of 17 during the tenure of the NEWS’s original owner, Steve Elam, and eventually worked his way up to general manager.
A San Benito native who has lived here his entire life, Peña attended Frank Roberts Elementary and graduated from San Benito High.
In his early life, Peña found himself toiling in the fields.
“We would go up north, to Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, to pick whatever there was to pick: cotton, fruits, or vegetables,” recalled Peña.
Afterwards, while in ninth grade, he began working at the cotton gin. He continued working there until one day, while out swimming in the Resaca with his friends and brothers, Ricky Escobedo (then assistant circulation manager) asked Peña if he wanted a job at the San Benito News. Peña, then a junior at SBHS, agreed.
“So I went and he introduced me to James Stout, the circulation manager, and from there I worked part-time in circulation. From there, Dick Travis, the press manager, would switch me back and forth from circulation to press,” said Peña.
Upon graduation, Peña received a call from Travis, who offered him a full-time job offer as a press man. He accepted and worked between circulation and handing papers out to the paper boys and collecting the money they made.
Peña has always had a sharp curiosity for learning new skills, which led him to begin learning how to develop negatives in the dark room, as well as learning prints and film development, making him a jack of all trades.
In the 80s, Peña was still managing press, circulation, and inventory; however, he became general manager during the 90s, when he would also be in charge of managing the sales people.
“I wasn’t thinking ahead, like I’m gonna move up, I just wanted to learn more skills,” said Peña.
His intense search for learning the steps it takes to run a newspaper was Peña’s favorite part of working for the NEWS, as well as the connections he made along the way.
“Also I have enjoyed getting to know the people that worked there, which have been a lot.”
Lastly, Peña would like to express his gratitude for the five decades shared with the company.
“I met a lot of people all these years,” he said. “I give thanks to Mr. Steve Elam for hiring me at such a young age and to New Horizon Publishers for seeing me through into retirement.”
Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Jan. 3-9, 2020 issue of the NEWS.