Erika Taylor

A few months ago, Pool & Spa News’ managing editor, Dan Schechner, informed me that he had been offered the top editorial position with another magazine. The publication was in Laguna Beach and serves the performance racing industry. It was a no-brainer.

OK, I thought. This isn’t ideal, but we can find someone else, and at least the rest of the staff is stable.

But then Ben Thomas, senior editor/ technical, left as well to pursue his dream of becoming — believe it or not — a full-time inventor.

That’s when I went into a low-grade panic.

The departure of nearly one-third of your staff is crippling under any circumstances, but to lose two such accomplished people was especially tough.

We all logged in many extra hours getting the magazine out while I scoured résumés looking for the right replacements. It seemed impossible. The managing editor is responsible for keeping the whole ship on course, and the position calls for someone who is extremely organized, fast, creative, decisive and can see and respond to tiny nuances and large issues simultaneously. In addition, the person needs enough leadership ability to enforce policy and stay on top of everyone’s deadlines, but they can’t be too “alpha” or we’ll just end up arguing all the time.

After an exhaustive search, I found someone who is a perfect fit. Joanne McClain comes from the luxury travel industry, where she wrote newsletters read by travel agents and consumers. She also handled itineraries for the most difficult clients, and as a result can get along with literally anyone on the planet. Joanne’s intelligence, work ethic and attention to detail round out her suitability for the job.

Next, I tackled the even more formidable task of finding a technical editor. In case you’re wondering, there aren’t very many people out there who have the kind of brain that can understand the Langelier Saturation Index and then write about it in a zippy way. Indeed, the position requires hard-core journalistic chops combined with strong technical ability, a mixture rarely seen in one person.

Rarely, but not never. Steve Straehley (pronounced Straylee) comes to us after a whopping 21 years with the Los Angeles Times. He spent a decade as a sports news editor before becoming a technical specialist, and while it’s sad that the newspaper’s downsizing is what put him on the market, the result was a great addition to our staff. In fact, after his first day on the job, Steve was already reaching out to the industry and pitching story ideas to me.

Please feel free to contact these wonderful new staff members with any suggestions or questions you might have.