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Spotlight >> The Powers Behind the Throne: Candace Spurny/The Kansas City Star

“I’d often assume someone was there to see me, but in reality he’d be there to see Candace.”

Spotlight feature photo
Candace Spurny, The Kansas City Star
Photo by REBECCA FRIEND-JIMENEZ/The Kansas City Star

When secretary Candace Spurny moved to the publisher’s office from the newsroom at The Kansas City Star, she felt like she “had been taken to the isolation ward.”

“It was quiet; there were no TVs, no reporters talking to each other,” she recalled. “Art [Brisbane] allowed me to have a long window cut out of the wall so I could at least see the people in the hallway.”

Brisbane, now senior vice president of Knight Ridder, had also been Spurny’s boss as editor of The Star. “In the newsroom, Candace was where the action was,” he said. When she moved along with him, the action figured out that it needed to come to her. “I’d look out of my office and there’d be a long line of people in the office talking to her, like she was a Mother Confessor,” Brisbane said. “I’d often assume someone was there to see me, but in reality he’d be there to see Candace.”

Her current boss, Mac Tully, agrees that Spurny’s connections both in the community and inside the building have been an advantage to him.

“She hears things that I don’t,” Tully said. “When I walk through the building, it’s not the same as when she walks through, and she feels comfortable telling me things she thinks I should know. It’s never like she’s ratting anybody out, but she sees things a little bit truer than I see them.”

After 24 years at The Star, Spurny also “knows all the movers and shakers and players” in town and at the paper, Tully said, and he relies on her to help him know the priority to place on various requests for his time.

For her part, Spurny has come to see that her spot in the publisher’s office isn’t the Siberian exile she once thought it was. “I can see other divisions’ points of view more easily,” she said. “Now, I can see, ‘This is how the various components fit together.’ But I think if I had come into this job initially, instead of working in the newsroom for so long first, I would not have known a lot of the lower-level key players that I know.”

She has also learned that everything lands in the publisher’s office. For several years, one of the major duties of The Star’s publisher has been to oversee construction of a $199 million production plant that takes up two city blocks. “I’m not involved with the building of the facility so much, but my executive is,” Spurny said, and she has watched as “glitches and scrambles” like contractors and vendors going bankrupt have had to be overcome.

Before becoming secretary to the publisher, Spurny had worked for four of The Star’s editors. “I used to say I was tough on them,” she joked. Brisbane also pointed out that she has received The Star’s top employee recognition, the William Rockhill Nelson Award.

“Candace not only played a support role for me, but on her own she got involved in a major way in one of the biggest events in Kansas City, the Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, which is a huge event,” Brisbane said. “Candace kind of floated her job description from being the person who sits behind the desk to being someone who also is more and more involved in her own right in the community.”

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