A veteran newspaper executive with strong ties to Colorado will help guide the next era of The Pueblo Chieftain.

Gatehouse Media this week named Lee Bachlet the publisher of The Chieftain. He also will serve as senior group publisher overseeing all of the company's Colorado publications, including the Pueblo West View, the La Junta Tribune Democrat, the Bent County Democrat, the Fowler Tribune and the La Junta-based Ag Journal.

Bachlet, 53, most recently served for two years as senior group publisher of the company's Louisiana publications, including the Houma Courier and Thibodaux Daily Comet daily newspapers. Prior to that, he served as a group publisher in Kansas and as a top advertising and marketing executive for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Earlier in his career, Bachlet spent more than 10 years as an advertising executive with The Denver Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency, which provides advertising services for The Post and the former Rocky Mountain News.

A Wyoming native, he is a graduate of the University of Wyoming. While in college and early in his career, he was a news and sports writer for daily newspapers in Cheyenne and Laramie.

"Lee’s experience in this industry, successes with GateHouse, and familiarity with the region will be key in helping The Chieftain maintain strong local coverage while steering the paper through the challenges facing traditional media," Gatehouse regional vice president Jesse Shockley said in a statement.

Bachlet, who began his duties on Monday, said he holds the newspaper business in the same high regard as when he was a high school student in Cheyenne, poring over his own daily subscription to The Denver Post and dreaming of becoming the next Bob Woodward.

He feels especially honored by the opportunity to succeed the Rawlings family and the late Robert H. Rawlings as publisher of The Chieftain, the state's oldest daily newspaper, he said. Newspapers such as The Chieftain are a vital part of their communities, he said.

"We're the purveyors of news and information important to people's lives, if we do our jobs right. And, in markets like this, we are the only purveyors of that information. And that means something and I've always kept that with me.

"I've been in this business my whole life and I've never dreamed of doing anything else. I believe so strongly in the importance of what we do, the difference we can make in our communities and the support we can bring to organizations in those communities."

Gatehouse shares a similar view of newspapers, he said. Focused primarily on small and mid-sized markets, the company is committed to helping local newspapers thrive through their print and online channels.

"What I love about Gatehouse is Gatehouse isn't focused on big markets. Gatehouse is focused on small markets... There's a lot of news deserts in this country today and Gatehouse is a committed organization to keep that from happening," he said.

Gatehouse purchased the Chieftain from the Rawlings family this past summer.

Bachlet is married with two sons: Shawn, who is studying for a master's degree at the University of Colorado-Denver, and 10-year-old Quilan.

He and his wife Laura view their return to Colorado as a homecoming given their many ties to the area, he said. Laura is a Colorado Springs native whose parents still live in the area. His mother lives in Denver.

"We love Colorado. We love the mountains. We love skiing and mountain biking and hiking," he said.

He's also an admitted superfan of the Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies and the state's other sports teams who now looks forward to watching Colorado State University-Pueblo teams in action.

He's generally familiar with the Pueblo area and is a past visitor to the Colorado State Fair. In coming weeks, he plans to reach out to various groups and civic leaders with a message that The Chieftain will continue to be an active supporter of the community.

One of his goals as publisher is drawing on his experience to aid the newspaper's ongoing transition to multichannel formats, including online and digital services, he said.

News "consumers today can get their news however and whenever they want and we have to be there waiting for them. And they have to know we are the trusted source for information. And, as long as we remain that trusted source, they'll keep reading us, interacting with us. ... We have to look at everything we're doing on a constant basis and make sure we are evolving with our readers and that's the real key," he said.

ddarrow@chieftain.com