Ron Smith, Executive Director
Ronshine comes to us after serving as the managing editor for news at USA TODAY. Before moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 2016, Ron was the deputy managing editor for daily news and production at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he oversaw the breaking news hub, production desks and was the key point person for print story selections and workflow.
He also has worked as an editor at The Oregonian, the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He is known for championing great journalism and the great journalists who produce great works. He “proceeds until apprehended’ and is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and help others — all while having fun along the way.
Deborah Heffner, Director of Development and Partnerships
Deborah Heffner is a nonprofit leader with over two decades of experience in development, grants administration and program evaluation. She specializes in advancing the mission of organizations and community-based coalitions by leading sustainability and growth-building efforts. Before joining the NNS team, Heffner served as the Strategy Director at Community Advocates, where she oversaw its housing stability programs.
O. Ricardo Pimentel, Managing Editor
O. Ricardo Pimentel, a veteran journalist with Milwaukee roots, comes to us after serving as the adviser to the MATC Times, a contributor to the Wisconsin Examiner and a COVID contract tracer for the state of Wisconsin. He also served as editorial page editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 2004 to 2011.
He has held a variety of editing and reporting positions for newspapers in California and Arizona, including appointments as the executive editor of the San Bernardino County Sun and the managing editor at the Tucson Citizen.
He is also the former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a former board member of the California Chicano News Media Association; the California Society of Newspaper Editors; and the Associated Press Managing Editors association. He was the UNITY Conference for Journalists of Color programming co-chairman in 2004. He also was on the faculty and directed the Minority Writers Workshop for the American Society of Newspaper Editors and has been a Pulitzer judge for journalism entries four times.
Dwayne Burtin, Deputy Editor Digital
Dwayne Burtin is the Ironman of digital media and interactive marketing. He possesses expert knowledge of the tools and technological resources necessary to develop creative and engaging content. His educational background in professional communication allows him to bring inspired storytelling and fresh interactive media together to reach diverse audiences. Dwayne has been working in digital media for 16 years. He is currently the deputy editor of digital news design for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and also an interactive marketing professional for Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Edgar Mendez, Senior Staff Reporter
Raised in a South Side neighborhood where he still lives, Edgar Mendez is a senior staff reporter for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. Mendez is a proud graduate of UW-Milwaukee, where he double majored in Journalism and Sociology, and of Marquette University, where he earned a master’s degree in Communication.
He won a 2018 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and 2014, 2017, and 2018 Milwaukee Press Club Awards for his reporting on taverns, marijuana law enforcement, and lead in water service lines. In 2008, he won a Society of Professional Journalists’ regional award for columns dealing with issues such as poverty, homelessness and racism. His writing has been published by the Associated Press, Reuters, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media. He has also co-authored three articles published in scholarly journals. He is a proud father of a five, eight, 14 and 16-year-old and is an avid fan of all Wisconsin sports teams. Go Pack Go!
Sam Woods, Staff Reporter
Sam Woods is a staff reporter for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, primarily covering education in Milwaukee. After moving to Milwaukee, Sam served as a City Year mentor at South Division, followed by a year with Public Allies at Ex Fabula. Sam also has a background in podcasting, and serves as the Director of Content at Bridge the City podcast.
Sam’s favorite part of his job is meeting new people and learning more about the city every day.
PrincessSafiya Byers, Report for America Staff Reporter
PrincessSafiya Byers was born and raised in Milwaukee, and is a 2020 graduate of Marquette University, majoring in Journalism and Africana Studies. Her commitment to her community has led her to nonprofit work with local youth and families. She’s also interned with the Milwaukee Community Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and joins Milwaukee NNS as a Report for America Staff Reporter looking to serve democracy by covering issues important to the community.
Devin Blake, Staff Reporter
Devin Blake started as a journalist at Patch, writing about the Southern California neighborhoods he grew up in. He focused on local business communities throughout the area and was drawn to stories about unemployment, worker resources, and businesses that were filling unmet needs in their communities.
Watching the homelessness crisis continue to deepen over those years, he began working as a resource and information coordinator for community groups and nonprofits so they could better serve populations without stable housing—populations that included the elderly, developmentally delayed and those with HIV/AIDs, among others.
Blake has contributed to a number of publications, including New York magazine, The Onion, and McSweeney’s. He loves spending time with his wife and negotiating with his 2-year-old son.
Sue Vliet, Photographer
Sue Vliet is a volunteer photographer for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. She has been a part of the organization almost since it’s inception in 2011. She is proud to be involved in a number of award winning stories including bronze award for a series “Poverty in Milwaukee “ in 2015.
Vliet works as a freelance photographer specializing in portraits,especially of children and families, locations and art.
She is excited to continue to illuminate and celebrate her home town of Milwaukee.
Cooking and baking, as well as gardening and canning remain favorite past times.