MANKATO — Retired Free Press Publisher Jim Santori has been hired as Greater Mankato Growth's new director of business development.

He will be starting May 1, after completing his work with The Free Press Media and its parent company Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Santori also was presented Thursday with the first ever Distinguished Service Award by the chair of the GMG board, Todd Loosbrock. The award was created to recognize a board member who has demonstrated superb formal and informal leadership, spectrum and breadth of impact (across the organization) and longevity of service.

Santori has served on the GMG Board of Directors since its inception in 2007 (serving on its executive team from 2009-13) and previously served on the Greater Mankato Economic Development Corp. board of directors prior to the merger of the group with the Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce in 2007 to form GMG.

He has also served as the chair of GMG’s public affairs steering committee, moderated candidate forums, served on the planning committee for Greater Mankato at the Capitol, been a member of the Inter City Leadership Visit planning committee, was an original founder and continued supporter of greatermankatoevents.com, served as a Visit Mankato board member (2009-2015) and volunteered on the post office Reuse Taskforce for the City Center Partnership.

“Jim’s length and depth of passion and commitment for our organization and this community is unsurpassed,” Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of GMG, said in a statement. “He continues to amaze all who get the honor of working with him. This award is very well deserved.”

Santori has been publisher of newspapers in the Midwest over 23 years before announcing his retirement earlier this year and has been at The Free Press since 2007. He has served on boards of economic development in two of the five cities he has worked in.

He has also served as chair of the Mankato Area Health Foundation, vice president of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra and on the board of the Mankato Area Foundation.

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