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It’s a cliché to say that someone was born with ink in his veins, but that doesn’t make it any less true in the case of Bob Vedder.
He began his career in the newspaper industry by following in the footsteps of his father, Byron Vedder, when he was a small boy in Illinois. Bob’s father was already a giant in the industry, and Bob ultimately achieved a similar status for himself as general manager and publisher of the Venice Gondolier Sun for 31 years.
Fittingly, it was Byron Vedder’s relationship with Sun Coast Media Group President Derek Dunn-Rankin that brought Bob to Florida.
In 1978, Dunn-Rankin told Byron Vedder, a Sun Coast Media Group board member, that he needed help running the Gondolier and asked what Vedder¹s son Bob was doing, as Bob had left a job as national production manager for the The Wall Street Journal. After learning that he was helping a friend at a paper in New York, Dunn-Rankin called and tried to lure him to Florida. Bob was reluctant, as he was contemplating taking a newspaper position in the Northeast. “I asked if he couldn’t come down and just help me for a few weeks,” Dunn-Rankin said.
He stayed for 31 years, retiring in January. During his tenure, as Dunn-Rankin recalls, “the Gondolier not only became Florida¹s best weekly paper, it tripled its paid circulation. It was the profits of the Gondolier that laid the basis for the launch of our daily in Charlotte County that now serves Charlotte, North Port, Englewood and DeSoto County.” Under Bob’s leadership, the Gondolier Sun was regularly recognized as one of the best weeklies in the state by the Florida Press Association, winning double-digit awards on an annual basis, and laying claim to the trophy as the best weekly in its circulation class 10 of the past 11 years. Its staff also claimed awards each year in the Florida Press Club and National Newspaper Association contests. Bob contributed to the paper editorially as well, writing a weekly – sometimes twice-weekly – column on local affairs that was one of the most popular features in the newspaper.
Bob is a past president of the FPA and a member of the Florida Press Foundation board of trustees. A frequent presenter at newspaper conferences, he is also a member of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Small Newspapers Committee.
As distinguished as Bob’s newspaper career has been, it has been matched by his commitment to his community, and his use of the newspaper as a force for civic improvement. A partial list of his civic involvement includes serving as president of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, the Sertoma Club of Venice, Volunteer Center South, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Rotary Futures Program, which he founded at Venice High School; serving on the boards or committees of the Kiwanis Expo, Sun Fiesta, Gulf Coast Marine Institute, Christmas Boat Parade, South County Resource Center, Boys & Girls Club of Venice and Venice Symphony; and chairing fundraising campaigns for the expansion of the Venice and Jacaranda libraries, United Way of South Sarasota County, Loveland, the chamber, the Venice Art Center and the Centennial Park Gazebo. His efforts have earned him numerous honors, including a lifetime achievement award from Venice Little League; life membership in the Venice Kiwanis Club; selection for the Sarasota County Video Hall of Fame; the Sam Walton Community Leader Award; the Elks Club Citizen of the Year Award; Venice-Nokomis Rotary Club “Doc” Matson Award; the South Venice Rotary Distinguished Community Service Award; recognition as the volunteer of the year by Sarasota Schools and state of Florida Libraries and a city of Venice Pillar of the Community.
Though retired from the paper, Vedder remains on the board of Sun Coast Media Group and is still active in the community.