By Rick Cohler
Alyssa Skiba’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Sievert, told her mother that Alyssa would likely grow up to be a writer. “That was it,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.” Alyssa was named editor of the Door County Living magazine in July 2017 after serving as the publication’s arts, entertainment and literature editor since 2014. Her brother, Justin, who is in his ninth year as a third grade teacher at Sevastopol school also contributes to the publication, writing about Door County businesses, high school sports and a Green Bay Packers column during the football season.
It has been an interesting journey for both Alyssa and Justin from Seymour to their current positions which both see as being exactly where they want to be.
Justin graduated from Seymour Community High School in 2004 and UWGB four years later. When he applied for a position at Sevastopol School, a footnote at the bottom of his resume caught their attention. “I added that I had been featured in National Geographic for Kids doing the Ketchup Slide at Burger Fest in Seymour,” he recalled. “So, the Ketchup Slide helped me get the job.”
Along with teaching third grade, Justin began coaching football; first as an assistant varsity coach, then JV and finally as head varsity coach for the 2013-2015 seasons, capping it off with taking his team to the 8-man Jamboree and being named Coach of the Year. “I stepped down after 2015 to spend more time with my family,” Justin said. He credits coach Curt Jefson with mentoring him in Seymour and inspiring him to coach.
After graduating from UW-Whitewater in 2011, Alyssa worked for newspapers in Waterloo and Sun Prairie before joining Peninsula Publishing & Distribution, which publishes Door County Living and the Peninsula Pulse, a weekly newspaper covering community events and features.
Justin said he knew Door County was a place made for his sister. “The Pulse is in the heart of Door County – it’s perfect for her, theater, art and all that,” Justin said. “It’s a perfect fit for her and she’s brought out the best in it.”
There are several publications reaching out to the thousands of visitors the county sees each year, but Alyssa said that while others reach out to tourists, Door County Living, provides a look into the culture of one of Wisconsin’s most iconic locations. “We focus on the people who make Door County what it is today,” she said. “The artists, musicians, actors, historians and all the people working together with others to make things happen up here. In Door County Living you’re seeing the people behind the things that locals and tourists are able to enjoy. People come up in the summer and enjoy the nature, the galleries and the museums. What we’re trying to do is show them who is responsible for all of that and to pay tribute to the people who came before us. We also share many different recipes, we highlight all of the areas on the peninsula, do a little bit of history and we might pick out a feature on the maritime industry or one of the cherry orchards. Right now, we’re working on a series about some of the small airports.
“We try to cater to the people who live here because sometimes they can be forgotten about when it comes to the high tourist season. Everyone’s trying to cater to the tourist and that’s great because them being here is the reason we’re able to be here; but we’re trying to make sure those people putting in 80-hour work weeks to keep the restaurants, music and theaters running are recognized, too.”
Alyssa’s main goal for Door County Living is to showcase more diversity in the magazine. “I think there are a lot of great and very talented young people in Door County who are making great things happen and sometimes it’s easy to get the mindset that only people who have been in their field 30 or 40 years are worthy of recognition, but I think we are shifting the focus and featuring these young people who are doing a lot for the county. There’s an amazing group of young artists in Baileys Harbor who I’ve been covering for a couple years because I think they’re not always recognized because their artwork isn’t selling for $2,000. There are people starting organic farms and restaurants up here so we’re trying to diversify who we are featuring in the magazine.”
When it comes to choosing people to feature, Alyssa said she wants to recognize people who may live elsewhere during the off season, but contribute powerfully to some of the key events and attractions in the county. “One particular example is the Peninsula Music Festival; this incredible music organization that has a time frame of three weeks in August and their longtime conductor is Victor Yampolsky,” she explained. “He’s Russian-born and this year they are celebrating the centennial of American composer Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein, with the help of Sen. Teddy Kennedy, brought Yampolsky to America. Just realizing you have these people in Door County from other countries and all over who come here and make this their home in the summertime with tireless energy working to promote Door County even though it’s not their year-round home, is why I want to tell their interesting stories.”
Brother Justin isn’t surprised by his sister’s success. As for himself, he didn’t think much about journalism until he became interested in sports and began to develop his writing skills. “When the offer to write came up I was excited about writing for them but I certainly had a lot of questions for Alyssa.” Alyssa said Justin is a great conversationalist and “the way he writes is like you’re sitting there talking with him which is something that I always admire. He’s a very good writer and he needs little editing.”
Not only has Alyssa recently received the promotion to editor, she was married in January to Brad Beno of Milwaukee. Justin and his wife, Stephanie, have two children; Delaney, nearly 8 and Amelia, 1.
There’s an old saying that if you love your job you will never have to work a day in your life so it looks like Alyssa and Justin are two of the fortunate ones. “I have found my niche,” Alyssa said. “I have always been interested in interesting people. In Door County there is a plethora of entertainers, artists and fascinating people.”
Visit doorcountypulse.com to view the latest editions of the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living.
Alyssa Skiba, right, is the editor of Door County Living, a feature magazine, while her brother, Justin, contributes to the magazine and is a third grade teacher at Sevastopol School. – Photo courtesy of Alyssa Skiba
By Rick Cohler