By: Benjamin Treviño
Since 1959 The Monitor has been a member of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce with many serving on the Board of Directors throughout the decades.
Stephan Wingert’s journey up the ladder from paper routes to following in his father’s footsteps as publisher at The Monitor has now landed him at the helm of the McAllen Chamber.
“I really believe you have to give back to the community that you live in,” Wingert said. “As a member of a community, we need to be mindful of helping to build that community through either volunteerism or just by spending your money in the community that you live in. There are lots of things to complain about in the world, but what is your role in giving back, and participating in your community to make it better?”
His career at The Monitor began in 1987, when his father Larry was the newspaper’s publisher under Freedom Communications. He started out doing odd jobs – everything from filling up the soda machines, running newspaper routes, to cleaning up after company picnics all while attending UT-Pan American in Edinburg where he earned a degree in computer information systems.
“I didn’t think I was going to stay in the newspaper business,” Wingert recalled. “I thought I was going to be a computer programmer but ultimately I was hired as The Monitor’s IT guy, then the production guy, and the general manager after that.”
In 2004, Wingert landed in California to manage a group of Freedom newspapers while overseeing construction of The Monitor’s current building. He eventually returned to McAllen in 2012.
Not only did Wingert become publisher of The Monitor but also The Brownsville Herald and The Valley Morning Star as all are owned by McAllen-based AIM Media Texas, LLC.
“My goal after Freedom Newspapers was to run the paper that my father ran, in a building that I built,” Wingert said. “So, I did get my goal right. I’m running the paper that my father ran in the building that I built.”
Wingert’s tenure with the McAllen chamber is the latest in what has been a long-running dedication to public service.
For over a decade he’s been a part of the Boy Scout Troop 68 and a Scout Master for the last five years. Wingert, an Eagle Scout, also serves on the board of the Rio Grande Council Boy Scouts of America, Museum of South Texas History and Futuro RGV.
Wingert said his main goal as McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board Chair is to foster the ongoing cooperative efforts between the chamber, the City of McAllen, the McAllen Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau. He added that cooperation was vital to McAllen overcoming the dual challenges of COVID-19 and the border immigration crisis.
“I think the chamber really stepped up during COVID in trying to help businesses manage through it,” Wingert said. “And we’re in the news a lot for the border issues, but that doesn’t speak to our community. By pooling our money and resources together, we can fight some of those negative assumptions made about our city. (Cooperation) has a bigger impact and sends out in a larger way the messages that we’re trying to send out about our community.”
Wingert also sees the board’s role as one that sets policy, but then gives the CEO wide berth in implementing that policy. His vision is aligned with recently appointed McAllen Chamber President & CEO Josh Mejia who assumed the reins on June 29.
As the chair Wingert sits on the EDC Board which has a long working history with the McAllen Chamber.
“I think we’re now talking about taking that a little further,” he said. ‘Maybe develop programs where we can assist with the EDC goals in our community. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but one of the things that excites me is our new CEO Josh Mejia who has a very strong EDC background. In fact, he was playing that role in Brownsville. So, I’m excited.”
Wingert was born in Brownsville. His family moved to McAllen when he was in second grade. He attended Wilson Elementary School, Lamar Junior High and graduated from McAllen Memorial High School.
He lives in McAllen with his wife, Eryn. Their son, Jackson, is currently a senior at Texas A&M University in College Station.