VMS publisher heading to El Paso

HARLINGEN — After nearly four years as publisher of the Valley Morning Star, Lilia Castillo Jones will be taking her skills to another Texas town.

Early next month, Jones will say farewell to Harlingen and the VMS and head to work for Gannett/USA Today Network as President of the El Paso Times & Texas/New Mexico Partnership, overseeing the company’s paper in El Paso and other properties in New Mexico.

Her final day in Harlingen will be Sept. 9.

“I will always treasure the four years I had in Harlingen,” she said yesterday. “The community is so welcoming and I made so many dear friends.”

Castillo Jones led the Valley Morning Star and the Coastal Current publications following the ownership transition from Freedom Communications in 2012 to AIM Media Texas. The publisher oversees all the operations at the communication company, including the editor, ad director, circulation director and other department heads.

“The staff I worked with and led are terrific and made my job so much easier with their support and teamwork,” Jones said. “I will miss the area and plan on visiting often.”

While leading the staff is an important duty, a significant role of the publisher is involvement in the community. Upon arriving in the Valley, Jones dove right in to the Harlingen social, philanthropic and organizational scene. She has been an active member of the Harlingen Rotary Club, a board member with the Harlingen Literacy Center, and involved with Valley Proud and Blue Sunday during the past nearly four years.

“These organizations make a difference every day in the lives of people in the city of Harlingen and throughout the Valley,” Jones said. “It was an amazing experience to be part of all that.”

During her time in the office at the VMS, she said she is proud of ensuring the company remained a voice of the community. Beyond that, she also led the change that increased local news content and focused on increasing small local retailers’ involvement in the newspaper. Other efforts include leading the VMS through the constantly-changing and adjusting digital age.

Gannett is the owner of USA Today and some of the nation’s top newspaper, including the Detroit Free Press, Des Moines Register, Florida Today and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Prior to arriving in Harlingen, Jones was the senior vice president of sales and marketing at the San Antonio Express News. Before that, she worked in several different roles at the Dallas Morning News for 25 years.

Brownsville Herald publisher Frank Escobedo will serve as the interim publisher at the VMS and Coastal Current as AIM Media Texas seeks a new publisher for the two publications.