After a three-and-a-half-year-stint as judicial secretary for Harlan Circuit Judge Ron Johnson, Debbie Caldwell, a veteran sports photographer and news reporter, replaces Kellee Edwards, who moved on to a job in Georgetown.
"We're excited to have Debbie back full-time at the Enterprise," said Managing Editor John Henson. "In addition to her photography skills and tireless work ethic, Debbie has a knack for finding stories of interest to Harlan Countians and getting to breaking news quicker than anyone I've ever seen."
Caldwell's earliest memories of working with the Enterprise can be traced back to when she was only 3, helping her father and mother, Levi and Maggie Saylor, deliver newspapers in Wallins.
"I would stand beside my dad in the car seat, and he would let me toss the newspapers out the window," she said.
After completing a course as dietary manager and managing food service operations at the University of Kentucky, Caldwell worked several years managing the dietary department at the Harlan Nursing Home. At that time, she began a hobby of taking sports photos of her own children. Her hobby eventually led her into a new career.
She began to work for the Enterprise in 1996 as a sports photo correspondent and covered a game between Cawood and Prestonsburg on her first day, the day she met Paintsville running back John Ortega, a name she'll never forget.
"Somebody in the stands yelled at me...," she said. "By the time I turned back around it was too late.... I got ran over."
With three cracked ribs and an arm broken in two places, Caldwell finished photographing the game, returned to the Enterprise to develop her film, and scanned her photos in for use the next day before going to the hospital.
Within a year she became part of the full-time staff as a reporter, specializing in the most serious of news.
"Usually the most brutal breaking news is what I covered, things that involved either fatal wrecks, murders, catastrophes and circuit court," she said. "Covering hard-core news is not for everybody, but it seemed to be my cup of tea."
During this time she especially became interested in the Harlan County Rescue Squad, eventually becoming their public affairs officer.
"I was around them a lot, and they were amazing people to me. I was shocked at what they could do and just not break down and fall to pieces," she said. "I admire that, and I wanted to be a part of their organization."
She worked six years full-time before taking a three-year break from news to work in the judicial system. She continued sports and feature photography.
Caldwell, was born in Norfolk, Va., but has lived at Wallins for 42 years. Her accomplishments include two national awards for photography, several awards through the Kentucky Press Association that included a series on the abuse of OxyContin, which drew national attention.
Her photos have been published in various magazines and can be seen on the covers of BellSouth phone books throughout the United States.
"Working at a newspaper, if it's what you really love to do, kind of gets in your blood and it never leaves you," she said.
She plans to use her experience to lead the newsroom to a higher standard of news reporting.
"It's my goal for the reporters to not miss anything of real news value that's going on in this county," she said. "Real news value to me does not mean all negative. There are a lot of positive, uplifting things happening in Harlan."