Mike Mathes, longtime Kiel publisher and WNA past president, dies at 68

Dec 1, 2021


Michael E. “Mike” Mathes, past president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and former longtime publisher of the (Kiel) Tri-County News, died Friday, Oct. 1, following a brief battle with brain cancer. He was 68.

Born Sept. 1, 1953, in Sheboygan, Mathes was the oldest child of Earl and Betty (Wendling) Mathes. He graduated in 1971 from Kiel High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from UW-La Crosse in 1975.

In 1980, Mike started at the Kiel Record — now the Tri-County News — where his father, Earl A. Mathes, had served as editor and publisher since 1962. Mike took over as publisher when Earl retired in 1986, running the paper alongside his brother, Joe.

Mike served as publisher for more than 30 years until selling the newspaper in September 2019 to O’Rourke Media Group. Since the sale, Joe has served as general manager of O’Rourke’s Wisconsin Media Group.

During his time as publisher, Mike was an active member of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. He served as WNA president in 1996 and was the longtime master of ceremonies of the annual WNA Trees Retreat in Eagle River.

In addition to his involvement with the newspaper industry, Mike was also a church and community leader, sports enthusiast, coach and musician.

Visitation was held Oct. 7 at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Kiel. A memorial service followed. The family had requested that all those attending wear a mask.