The city is perhaps the most complicated beat for a community newspaper to cover.
News stories about local politics, city infrastructure projects, crime and fire services are among the most widely read and the subject of most readers’ interest.
Mike Maresh is Larson Newspapers’ city reporter, a beat that puts him at the heart of Sedona Red Rock News’ coverage. He also covers Sedona’s schools, police activity and the Sedona Fire District.
Over his nearly 15-year career Maresh has worked for several small-town newspapers, yet interviewed some big names: President George W. Bush, New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson, U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] and football star Joe Namath. He also interviewed future President Barack Obama as a candidate.
Maresh has covered Arizona politics extensively as well, interviewing current Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano when she was Arizona’s attorney general, and Gov. Jan Brewer, first when she was merely a Maricopa County supervisor.
“Every newspaper I’ve worked at I’ve taken something out of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t still be doing this after 15 years if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing.”
Maresh was born in Pico Rivera, Calif., in 1970, the fourth of five children. His family moved to Arizona when he was 6 years old.
Maresh attended Cactus High School in Glendale and played basketball. Although he stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, he has an arm span of about 7 feet 2 inches.
After graduating in 1988, Maresh said he followed his two older brothers’ lead and went to work at a grocery store.
Around age 21, Maresh said he was on his knees stocking shelves and glanced over to see another employee around age 50 doing the same job. Maresh said he decided then he didn’t want to stock shelves for the next 30 years.
Uncertain about what exactly he wanted to do, but knowing he was good with numbers, he enrolled at Paradise Valley Community College and later transferred to Arizona State University.
A sports reporter from The Arizona Republic visited one of Maresh’s classes and told the students about his job — watching and reporting on sports games.
“I get to go to sports events for free? That sounds like the job for me,” Maresh said.
Maresh worked for his high school newspaper and said he had been told by a teacher that he had a natural writing ability.
Maresh also calls himself a sports fanatic, having memorized vast statistics about basketball and football.
He strung sports articles for the college newspaper and earned his bachelor’s degree in August 1995.
Shortly after graduation, Maresh went to work for the Coolidge Examiner, a weekly paper in Pinal County, owned by the daily Casa Grande Dispatch. Maresh worked under Tom Martinez, a hard news-focused editor.
“He was good. Tough but fair. He taught me more than I ever learned in school,” Maresh said.
Maresh left to work on the Hobbs News-Sun, in Hobbs, the oil capital of New Mexico, located in the southeast corner of the state, near the Texas border. After three to four years, Maresh returned to Arizona and went to work for the Bisbee Review, a satellite newspaper of the daily Sierra Vista Herald.
He spent about four years in Bisbee, writing two or three stories daily. Maresh said he only met his editor a few times during his annual performance reviews.
He said he wanted to transfer to Sierra Vista to be around other reporters, but the editors kept him in Bisbee because he did a good job and needed very little oversight.
Maresh moved to Payson in 2004 to work for the Payson Roundup. He covered city, police, Gila County and school news and worked in the main newsroom.
Maresh wrote in-depth stories on methamphetamine in the Rim country and homelessness, both of which won state journalism awards.
After a brief stint with a group of Las Vegas suburban newspapers, Maresh found a new job with the Lahontan Valley News, a six-day daily paper in Fallon, Nev., a city centered on Naval Air Station Fallon and located 45 miles east of Reno. He covered education, cops and the courts.
“I liked that we were a small paper that put out a daily,” Maresh said.
The small staff consisted of Maresh, photojournalist Kim Lamb, a sports reporter and their editor.
Maresh got himself a Nikon camera and Lamb offered to teach him how to use it.
“I love taking photos,” Maresh said. He professionally shot weddings and in studios.
However, the climate and region took its toll. Located in the high desert of Nevada, winter temperatures hovered between 0 and 20 degrees, and without snowing, which at least would have made the cold bearable, he said.
“I always wanted to come back to Arizona, but didn’t think it was a possibility,” Maresh said.
In late 2009, Maresh had several job offers but chose the Sedona Red Rock News because it was in Arizona. Part of his move involved the desire to settle down and buy a home.
“I wanted to not just find a location, but somewhere I wanted to live and buy a home,” he said. “The choice was easy to make. Most of my family lives here and I’m 75 minutes from people I grew up with in Phoenix.”
Maresh’s brothers Martin, 49, and Morgan, 39, both live in Phoenix, as did his late sister Judy. His brother Miles, 48, lives in Houston.
“Nothing can replace family,” he said.
Maresh works out and runs about three miles a day, which gives him the opportunity to enjoy the Verde Valley every day after work.