The Northwest Florida Daily News will welcome a new executive editor later this month when Jason Blakeney comes on board.

Blakeney, a 38-year-old Gulf Coast native, replaces Bob Heist, who left at the end of March for another Gatehouse Media newspaper.

“Jason is a consummate journalist and leader with a strong commitment to community journalism and audience engagement,” Daily News Publisher Diane Winnemuller said. “His passion for the news business, coupled with our award-winning newsroom of outstanding journalists, will ensure our continued growth for many years to come.”

The promotion places Blakeney in the executive editor’s office for the first time, although he has 13 years of experience in the newspaper business.

“As someone who grew up on the Gulf Coast, I look forward to getting back to a community that I grew up in and love,” he said. “I’m excited about being someone our community can look to if our leadership goes astray.

“If we are not holding our local officials accountable, who is?” he added.

He is passionate about the environment, particularly local waterways and the crucial role they play in tourism. Blakeney said he also looks forward to learning more about the area’s strong military presence and highlighting their contributions.

His move will bring him closer to family, many of whom still live in the Mobile, Alabama, area.

From 2007 until 2015, he worked in various editor roles at a Pensacola newspaper. His experience also includes working for a newspaper in Kentucky and in a leadership capacity at the Gatehouse Media Center for News and Design.

“I am delighted to welcome Jason back to the Panhandle he loves so much,” Winnemuller said. “He's a great fit for the executive editor position and I know that he will significantly and positively impact our area.”

Blakeney’s first day at the Daily News will be April 16. He can be reached at jblakeney@gatehousemedia.com between now and then.

"Without our readers, the Daily News doesn't exist," Blakeney said. "I look forward to hearing from the community as we continue to shape our newsroom in ways that best serve them."