Jeff Hibbs liked being in charge.
Whether it was with the editorial staff of the News Journal or at the radio station on Nelson Avenue, Hibbs made both media outlets better when he was running the show.
To say not everyone can be a great leader is an understatement. Some folks are just better followers and that’s OK.
Not Jeff, who passed away Sunday evening. He was 61.
Leadership positions can vary in expectations. Some are leaders who appoint others to get things done. Some are leaders who jump in the middle of the situation and get things done. Both can be effective.
Jeff was not a paper shuffler. He was the kind of guy who’d rub elbows with his people, roll up his sleeves and go to work.
While at the News Journal, when we needed a reporter, Jeff always posted a help wanted job description for the vacant position that included the phrase “fast-paced” newsroom.
That was putting it mildly.
Jeff worked at a frenetic pace. He wanted others to do the same. Most did, in their own way. Or they moved on.
Jeff had numerous jobs, never seemingly able to find his true niche. He worked on the Delta Queen riverboat. He mixed drinks behind the bar at different locations.
He was a showman regardless of his position. Jeff liked to be center stage. Don’t confuse that with wanting everyone to look at him. He just knew that was the best way for things to get done.
He was one of the hardest working people I’ve sat in the newsroom with in more than 30 years in the business. And he was good at what he did. He also was equally comfortable interviewing a high-profile politician or a local farmer or a teen-ager in sports.
When I first met him, you might say we were rivals — he covered sports at the radio station and I was covering sports at the News Journal.
Jeff made me better at my job because he pushed me — without knowing he was pushing me. Competition breeds success.
When he joined the News Journal full time, he remained competitive … but from within. Again, he made all of us better by pushing us.
He also realized you had to live life with a smile on your face. Jeff was a bit of a rascal, to be honest. I can remember many times Jeff calling from his office to fellow staffer Gary Huffenberger pretending to be someone who had a tip or missed their paper.
Soon I could hear Jeff’s unmistakable laugh coming from the office as the prank had been completed.
Jeff was best, in my opinion, with a microphone in his hand. Now, Jeff was a talented writer to be sure, a wordsmith able to craft a story that enabled the reader to really know about the subject of the article. But we’ve had numerous talented writers with the News Journal over the years.
However, when Jeff sat court-side at a basketball game, or in the press-box at a football game, magic happened. Jeff wasn’t always about the big games, though. He could be found at a midweek volleyball match working just as hard as he would at the high-profile game on Friday night.
People listened to the radio the next day to hear what Jeff had put together for the morning local sports report. He was can’t-miss media.
He was the best play-by-play broadcaster at a small town radio station I’ve ever heard or worked with or sat next to and easily could have gone on to a bigger market had he decided to do so.
But Jeff remained here because he liked Wilmington and Clinton County.
And most of Wilmington and Clinton County liked Jeff.
His presence will be missed. But I’ll never lose the memories of working with him or the friendship we had.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports