This month, the AAEC will be saying goodbye to two people who were key to keeping the association going for almost two decades.
Wanda Nicholson has the honor of being the longest serving General Manager in the 60+ years of the association. (Actually we’re not sure that’s an honor, but it was never dull.) Originally at Olson Management in Raleigh, NC, Wanda broke away in 2001 to start her own business and, as she said when she walked out the door, “And I’m taking the cartoonists with me!”
For Wanda knew what we didn’t at the time: that in the big-money world of convention planning, we were still the oddball misfits who were more trouble than we were worth, and would never get the level of personal care from profit-driven management firms. She understood cartoonists and, more importantly, liked hanging out with us. It didn’t hurt she was good at herding cats. too.
Wanda kept us going (and solvent!) until she went into early retirement in 2005, but still kept in touch with a lot of North Carolina cartoonists. So when she heard the convention was going to be in Durham, NC, she volunteered to help with the organizing, partially because she missed the hardball of negotiating with hotels, but mostly because she missed hanging with cartoonists. That lead to another stint as General Manager, which ends this spring. Many, many thanks, Wanda — come back anytime!
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Anita Austin was already a familiar presence at conventions, attending with her husband cartoonist Mike Keefe, when she was hired to create an all-new website for us in 2005. An ace programmer with her own web design company, Anita put in far more work on the massive project than we paid her for, and was a steady and patient constant in the messy process of bringing a bunch of luddites into the 21st century.
After the launch, she spent years as our web mistress, maintaining and refining the site, and pushing cartoonists to make the most of the powerful machine she had constructed. On accepting the Ink Bottle Award in 2010, her entire acceptance speech was “Thank you! USE YOUR KEYWORDS!”
Even after she officially retired and moved to Mexico, Anita continued to take care of our ailing server on a volunteer basis, and, when the new site failed to appear, continued keep the old one going pro bono. We couldn’t have done it without her. Literally.