By Jim Denton
June 6, 2023

Impact on Edmond: Ray Hibbard

Edmond Life & Leisure's success comes from great people, work-family culture, and leaps of faith.
Ray Hibbard, publisher of Edmond Life and Leisure(Photo: Brent Fuchs)

“I will tell you; honestly, I am the worst at hiring people out of anybody on this earth! So, the good people I’ve hired, anything positive is pure luck.”

That declaration was Ray Hibbard’s humble assessment of his apparent abilities to attract and retain quality personnel at Edmond Life & Leisure. The weekly paper is a popular periodical that he started in May of 2000. It’s distributed on a complimentary basis throughout the Edmond city limits.

He went on to say that his company has neither an employee handbook nor a written sick leave policy.

“Our policy is if you get sick, then you go get well.”

Ray shared an example of a valued employee needing heart surgery and time off. Ray responded, “We’ll keep paying you until you come back.” He elaborated that this valued employee came back and worked several years after retirement age.

Edmond Life & Leisure has five full-time employees and has had as many as seven. The team works in the office two days a week and remotely Tuesday through Thursday weekly. This schedule lets the staff meet their Friday deadline for printing next week’s edition. On Mondays, the team works on layouts, and it is essential to have the group together working on site.

The publisher talked about the importance of being a work-family.

“We are family here. The most successful people here are happily engaged outside of work. Some people get all their intimacy in life from their work – those are the ones that struggle.”

A great idea

Edmond Life & Leisure is modeled from Leland and Vicki Gourley’s Nichols Hills paper known as OKC FRIDAY.

Hibbard worked for the Gourley’s for 14 years while taking his accounting classes so he could have a fallback career.

He spent five years at The Edmond Sun (formerly the city’s daily newspaper). After working at the Sun, he was drawn back to the once-a-week reporting cycle.

Before jumping in, Hibbard called Gourley and asked if it was okay to steal his ideas.

“Without hesitating, Leland said, “Go right ahead!” “Leland wanted 1,000 names and 100 pictures in every issue of OKC FRIDAY. At least that was his goal,”

Ray recalled about modeling his paper with Gourley’s publication. One difference noted was that Hibbard strived not to have a Society section but instead named it a Family section containing news about Edmond’s family happenings.

“People still want to get a paper and read about themselves,” Ray explained.

Hibbard graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in journalism. Between his time with Gourley and The Edmond Sun, Ray worked for Ben Blackstock in his last years at the Oklahoma Press Association, saying, “I had a wonderful two years working for Ben and learned a lot.”

Referring to Edmond Life & Leisure, the publisher said, “We were lucky we started in the year 2000, which was the beginning of the digital age.”

Ray stated that he would love not to have to print a copy of the newspaper. But many people still want the actual paper, and it is a part of their weekly ritual.

Ray enjoyed his five-year stint with Ed Livermore and the Livermore family at The Edmond Sun. “I was a miserable failure as a corporate guy!” Ray recalled as he elaborated about an out-of-state company purchasing the Sun in late 1999. “They (The Edmond Sun) were happy to see me go. But they were not happy that I started Edmond Life and Leisure in May 2000.”

In March 2020, The Edmond Sun merged with The Norman Transcript. That came with an obligation for Edmond Life & Leisure to add more hard news.

“We’ve never shirked our duty in journalism. If there is a skunk under the house, we’ll get it out,” stated Hibbard.

The weekly paper now reports the police blotters, public happenings, announcements, and stories about city council news and civic concerns.

Edmond is unique

Quizzing Ray about his view of why Edmond is special, he reflexively responded that “the diversity of our economy is a differentiator.”

He explained that we have wealthy people and folks with more moderate incomes in the same places in town. Money flowing from all aspects of our economy in Edmond generates sales tax, and with that, things get better.

“People talk about the traffic. Try living somewhere without much traffic – there’s no economy!”

He elaborated that the folks in Edmond spend a lot of their money supporting Edmond businesses, creating sales tax for our city.

He also acknowledged the civic leaders in the past for setting us up for the success we are now experiencing.

“I think of Ed Livermore, Charles Lamb, and Randel Shadid. They all set incredible groundwork.”

It all got going 50 years ago. Hibbard recalled Edmond’s LibertyFest as an example of an annual event that has grown beyond what was ever imagined.

The secret sauce

The success of Edmond Life & Leisure is obviously due to Hibbard’s steady hand in leadership. Inquiring about his secret sauce for that success, he replied with three simple words, leaps of faith.

Like most business leaders, Hibbard will be in a meeting and wonder why he is there. Years may pass, but the time invested comes back around.

He recalled an instance when a gentleman strolled into his office and started a conversation with, “You don’t remember me do you?” Hibbard paused and replied that he did not. The friendly stranger explained that he had been a manager at a country club in northwest Oklahoma City almost 20 years ago.

At that time, Edmond Life & Leisure was offering advertisement space featuring wedding venues. Due to budget constraints beyond the manager’s control, the country club’s boss turned the paper down. The club manager asked Ray to put something about the club anyway. Hibbard kindly worked up a summary of the club’s services and included it in the issue. Hibbard faintly recalled the favor.

The friendly stranger said he was currently the Club Coordinator at Oak Tree Country Club and is now a Regional Vice President. He’s also in charge of advertising and pulled out his company credit card to purchase a series of half-page promotional ads from Edmond Life & Leisure for several months running.

Small leaps of faith sometimes pay off. “The key is not to expect anything in return for what you do for people. It’s not networking so much as it is helping each other,” Hibbard concluded.

Also, having a sense of humor is key to survival in these times. Hibbard commented, “I tried to find a clean Irish joke to put in my column for St. Patrick’s Day, but I couldn’t find one!”

Above all, kindness is key. Hibbard advised being a ‘gentlemanly competitor’ quipping, saying, “People don’t like it when businesses are bad-mouthing each other.”

Family matters

Asking about the most important thing, the publisher’s immediate response was “family.” He’s married to Lisa, who was his 7th-grade crush. “It was not a straight path.” They have seven grown children between them.

Hibbard relishes raising five grandchildren – three girls and two boys. Recently, he enjoyed spending time with his grandson Sunny, who is four years old. Hibbard and Sunny were playing with trucks out in the dirt, and Hibbard was acting like a four-year-old, like other grandads I know. Sunny looks up and says, “Pappa Ray, I love playing trucks with you!” Ray recalled, “That melts me.”

Subscribe to Email Updates


Get Edmond Business news in your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

About Jim Denton

Jim Denton, CPA/PFS, CGMA is Partner Emeritus of Arledge & Associates, PC where he is responsible for providing leadership to the firm’s Wealth Management firm, Summit Capital Advisors, LLC. Mr. Denton empowers his clients, so they may live their best life. He may be reached by email at

Securities offered through Avantax Investment ServicesSM. Member FINRA, SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Avantax Advisory ServicesSM. Insurance services offered through an Avantax affiliated insurance agency.