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Meet the first woman to lead the Florida Times-Union newspaper

Mary Kelli Palka's career at the Florida Times-Union started in 2003 as a reporter before eventually taking on the role as executive editor.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First Coast News is recognizing Women's History Month by telling the stories of influential women on the First Coast. 

Mary Kelli Palka is the first woman and Jacksonville Native to lead the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

"Local journalism is essential to a strong community, every community deserves to have strong journalism," Palka said. 

Mary Kelli Palka's career at the Florida Times-Union started in 2003 as a reporter. In 2013, she became Investigative Editor, before eventually taking on the role as the newspaper's Executive Editor. 

"You have this opportunity to tell the stories of your community, that range from the things that are really important at a smaller scale to people in the moment, two things that affect the entire community and the entire city," Palka said. 

Palka says newspapers are the first draft of history. She spent nearly twenty years of her career at the Times-Union. She says the industry has drastically evolved and the value of journalism is more important than ever before. 

"When you talk about local news you're talking about holding people in power to account to make sure that you're really looking out for the taxpayers and the residents to see how their taxpayer money is being used and spent. To see what influences City Hall to see what's happening in school classrooms," Palka said. 

Palka recently retired as executive editor but says the newspaper's reporting on the attempted sale of JEA will be a story she will always remember telling. 

"It didn't matter what area of town that you lived in, you wanted to know the truth of what was happening. You want to know what's happening with your public utility. It was a Florida Times-Union that led on that coverage. That is because we had that experience to figure out how to dig for the truth when people were actively attempting to hide it," Palka explained. 

Following her career at the newspaper, Palka is continuing to use her skills to serve the community. 

She is now pursuing a new career as the owner of a consulting firm. 

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