You probably never knew that Molly Moorhead made Jon Stewart dance.
She did it from afar last year with her work as a PolitiFact reporter, separating truth from bluster in the debate over changes to the federal welfare-to-work requirements.
When former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain appeared as a guest on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Stewart used Molly's PolitiFact item to settle the matter with Cain — then did a happy little jig right there on the air.
That made us kick up our heels, too.
Molly went to PolitiFact nearly two years ago after wrapping up her prolific tenure as the Times' courts reporter in Pasco County. Her careful reporting, graceful writing and good cheer made her a hit with PolitiFact, just as she'd been in Pasco.
Now it's time for another celebratory dance: I'm delighted to announce Molly is returning to the Times' Pasco staff, this time as our local news editor.
Molly's arrival comes by way of my departure. After 13 years with the Times, including the last seven as a local news editor in Pasco, I have accepted a job with the Austin American-Statesman, a move that will get me closer to my ever-growing family in New Mexico (did I mention I've gained four nieces and a nephew in the past three years?).
It was a difficult decision to leave the company that helped me grow from cub reporter to bureau chief, and to leave the church and schools that have embraced our family as part of theirs. But the opportunities for us in Austin are good, and our children are still young enough that we can move without causing too much upheaval to their activities or social circles. Toby, 7, and Kaitlyn, 5, are ready to trade in their toy pirate garb for boots and cowboy hats.
As soon as my plans became clear, I knew Molly would be the natural choice to take the reins of the Pasco news operation, and it didn't take long for our bosses to make that pick.
Molly joined the Times in 2002, and we started our Pasco tenure together in the Dade City bureau, where she covered religion and the city of Zephyrhills. In time she moved to the crime and courts beats. She scrutinized then-Sheriff Bob White's policies allowing take-home cars for employees and honorary deputy badges for well-connected friends. She covered the trials of a neo-Nazi accused of stabbing his neighbors, and many heart-breaking cases of murder and abuse. She also wrote one of my all-time favorite Times stories, chronicling a Wesley Chapel couple's efforts to provide a new life for a niece who had known only tumult and neglect in her short life with a drug-addicted mother. The girl's new guardians gave her a fresh start and a new name: Georgia.
Molly is one of those rare creatures known as a native Floridian, and journalism runs in the family. Her parents, Jim and Sharon Moorhead, met at the Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper at the University of Florida. They raised Molly and her older sister in St. Petersburg, where Jim was an entertainment critic and columnist for the Evening Independent, and Sharon worked in real estate.
Molly also graduated from UF, naturally, and worked as a copy editor in news and sports at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and as a copy editor at the paper in Columbus, Ga., before landing at the Times. She and her husband, John Sessa, who works with competitive cycling teams and owns a local bicycle repair shop, make their home in beautiful San Antonio.
Molly has been a good friend and colleague for more than a decade. Having seen her smart, thoughtful approach as a journalist, I know the Pasco news operation will be in great hands. We'll work alongside each other this week, leading up to my last day on Friday.
Then the next dance is Molly's.
Reach Bridget Hall Grumet at [email protected]