After an absence of not quite a year, longtime visuals leader Bonita Burton is returning to daily newspapers.

Bo tells us:

I’ve accepted a position as executive editor of the Villages Daily Sun and vice president in its parent company, the Villages Media Group, effective Dec. 3.

The Villages, located about an hour north of Orlando, is the fastest growing small town in America (Forbes, 1/23/12). The Villages Daily Sun is the fastest growing print circulation newspaper in America — its peak print circulation topped 55,000 this year, and they expect it to exceed 80,000 within five years.

   

While I’ve loved my time in the non-profit world directing the communications strategy of Westminster Communities of Florida, the opportunity to lead a growing news operation and guide such a passionate crew was too special to resist. (And yes, we’ll be hiring… )

The Villages is Florida’s largest retirement community with more than 60,000 residents (!) so I’m thrilled that the path that led me into the world of senior living has now led me here. The kids have already picked out our golf cart.

Bonita earned an Associate’s Degree in journalism from Brigham Young University – Idaho in Rexburg in 1991…

Bo in 1991. Photo

by Lee Warnick.

…and then continued her studies at Utah State University in Logan while working first as bureau chief for the Salt Lake Tribune and then as an intern and then a full-time reporter for the Logan Herald-Journal.

After she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 1993, she moved to the Union-Democrat of Sonora, Calif., where she worked the courts and cops beat. She did a little page design work on the side, found she liked it and eventually moved into a full-time design spot.

In 1996, she moved to the Los Angeles Daily News, where she designed A1, local and biz fronts. In 1998, she was promoted to features design editor. Later that year, she moved over to the Orange County Register as business designer, winning SND awards for pages as well as her portfolio.

In 2000, Bonita became business design director for the San Jose Mercury News.

   

Three examples of Bo’s award-winning work at the Merc.

She served as part of the team that redesigned the paper, continued to win SND awards and taught news design and picture editing at San Jose State University.

Between 2001 and 2004, Bo served as a regional director for the Society for News Design and then as Quick Course Chair.

Bonita was named deputy managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel in 2004. In 2006, the Sentinel hosted the society’s annual workshop in Orlando.

At SND/Orlando in 2006. Photo by Martin Gee.

In 2008, she assumed her current title — visuals editor — becoming the Sentinel‘s third-ranking editor. In June of that year, Bonita led a major redesign of the Sentinel that was part of a companywide overhaul ordered by the new ownership team.

Bo and design editor Stephen Komives as

they prepare to launch the 2008 redesign.

Stephen is now executive director of the Society for News Design.

In December 2008, Bo was named to the Newspaper Association of America’s “20 under 40” list.

Bo was working in an office at the Sentinel — one night during an NBA playoff game in May 2009 — when she bumped into a credenza. A heavy hutch fell onto her, crushing her hand. Fingers were severed. Four colleagues led by David Collins applied pressure to the wound and cut off blood flow until paramedics arrived.

Bo posted this picture to Facebook after her accident

in 2009.

She has since recovered much of the use of her hand.

A month later, Bonita — as vice president of the Society for News Designer — stepped in as president after the elected president, her former San Jose colleague Matt Mansfield, resigned. After an extremely contentious summer for the entire society, Bo declined to run for president that fall for the 2010 year.

In December 2010, Tribune company laid off Tim Frank, deputy managing editor of the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and gave “design oversight for both Florida newsrooms” to Bonita. Shortly after, Tim signed on to run Gannett’s Asbury Park Design Studio.

In 2011, Bo wrote an opinion piece — “Why mothers like me are obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial” — and then appeared on both CNN and NBC’s Today show to talk about her article.

Bo on CNN Headline News in June 2011.

Also in 2011, Bonita completed work on a Master’s Degree from the University of Central Florida in management and human resources.

In October of that year, Bonita reunited several of the kids who had participated in “the intern” competition at SND/Orlando in 2006 for a panel at the St. Louis SND workshop.

Bonita and her former deputy, Stephen Komives (back

right) with several alumni from the 2006 “the Intern”

contest at SND/St. Louis in 2011.

In February, Bonita told us:

I’ve personally administered five [rounds of] layoffs in my seven years at the Sentinel (this is number six) to a tune of just over 40 people in my area alone.

But this time, she was on the list herself. She wrote:

Still, we did a lot of great work along the way, right up to the end, I’ve got a lot of memories I’ll always treasure. I’m very proud of what we accomplished, and very, very sad to see it come to an end.

She posted this as a goodbye to her staff.

Two months later, Bonita then took a position as director of communications for “the nation’s 8th-largest not-for-profit provider of communities for older adults and persons with special needs.”

Like she says, she begins her new duties three weeks from today.

Find Bo’s web site here. Find her Twitter feed here.