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DECATUR — Michelle Pazar is the new publisher of the Herald & Review and Central Illinois Group publisher for Lee Enterprises Inc. — positions she has held on an interim basis the past four months.

"T​o get to this point from where I started is just incredible for me," said Pazar, 35. "I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with such a tremendous team."

Pazar also will oversee The Pantagraph in Bloomington and Journal Gazette & Times-Courier in Mattoon/Charleston.

She succeeds Julie Bechtel, who left after five years in Central Illinois when she was named executive vice president of Berkshire Hathaway's newspaper division in August. At that time, Pazar was named interim publisher.

Pazar was selected following a nationwide search, said Chris White, a Lee Enterprise vice president and a group publisher.

"What I am proud to say is over the past four months, I think the right person to lead this team proved herself by the work she has done over the last quarter," said White. "We've had a tremendous quarter here in the Central Illinois group."

Pazar's "knowledge of the market, her passion and her vision for the future" made her stand out among the other candidates, said White.

In June, Berkshire Hathaway hired Lee to manage its portfolio of 30 newspapers operated through BH Media Group. Properties include the Omaha World-Herald, the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. Bechtel continues to report to Kevin Mowbray, president of Davenport, Iowa-based Lee, in her new role.

Pazar sees the upcoming year and beyond "as pivotal," she said on Wednesday. "As the media landscape continues to change, we are going to be at the forefront of that."

On the advertising side, one of the big projects for the Central Illinois Group newspapers in the coming year is expanding its digital product offerings to help local businesses grow, said Pazar.

"Content-wise, we will be looking at making sure watchdog journalism continues to be a No. 1 priority; that we are keeping our readers and businesses informed," she added.

Pazar began her career with Lee in August 2006 in The Pantagraph's advertising services department, working her way up to advertising director in 2015. Last year, she was promoted to regional advertising director, overseeing Lee's advertising operations in Bloomington, Decatur and Mattoon.

Pazar, a native of Cordova, moved to Normal in 2002 to pursue a business degree at Illinois State University, where she graduated in May 2006 with a marketing degree.

Pazar resides in Normal with her husband, Chris.​

COATES: Honoring a World War I veteran at Decatur's Fairlawn Cemetery

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Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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