Ceci Partridge (nee Cecilia Stevenson) was a college freshman in 2005 doing college-freshman things—specifically, she says cheekily, staying “with a new friend”—in Lafayette, La. That’s when Katrina, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated the Gulf states, hit. They knew it was coming, but as the British comedy troupe Monty Python penned, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”
Everything was down—phones, electricity, roads—and she searched for friends and family at homes and at shelters, lending a hand wherever she went. She tells me about the local station that never stopped broadcasting—live coverage 24/7, their lifeline. Without them, she says, their community would have been in an information blackout.
Prior to Katrina, Partridge’s biggest dilemma was whether she was going to play clarinet, oboe or French horn in whatever piece her high school band was performing, or if she’d be behind the camera or in front of it in her high school A/V club.
When it came time to choose a major, it wasn’t music or mass media; Partridge picked marketing—and instantly regretted it. What was with all the math? While music and math are often the best of friends in the brain world, in Partridge’s brain, they barely even waved.
“I mean, I can count,” she tells me with a laugh before explaining that anything more complicated ended in complete thought paralysis. She switched to mass communications, because she figured she could handle one statistics course. “It took three times,” she says, grinning.
When she was a senior in college, she took a test. When the results came back, she was unexpectedly expecting. Twins.
Being pregnant for the first time and going to school while working is on my bucket list said no one, ever. But after one conversation with Partridge, you may envision her as I did: as a heavily pregnant, wildly determined badass of a girl, trying unsuccessfully to get out of her seat post-lecture, leading to tears of laughter.
Pizza Hut put her through school, and she stayed on after earning her degree. Entry-level jobs in her field paid nothing, but her managerial position at Pizza Hut paid the bills. She felt stuck, but then her best friend called: There’s an opening for a production assistant at my station.
The morning news shift started at 3 a.m. Partridge juggled both jobs, and the twins, until she was making a living as a producer on the morning news.
Somewhere within this time, Partridge’s parents divorced; Dad remarried, upping Partridge’s sibling count from one brother to five bonus sisters. She also realized the twins’ dad was not her life partner, and their romantic relationship ended.
Although she’d lived through Katrina, it was the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 that changed everything for Partridge. Many people in her community worked on or had family who worked on the oil platform, and Partridge realized the breadth of responsibility she had—just like the station that stayed on the air in 2005.
Partridge soon met the man whose last name she would take; when the twins were 6, she gave birth to a baby girl. Two years later, they moved to the Coachella Valley for his job, and Partridge took a position at NBC affiliate KMIR. She’s been there for six years and is currently an assignment editor/assistant news director. (Assignment editors identify newsworthy stories and send out teams/people to cover them.)
This is the first time Partridge has lived away from the rich profusion of cultures that is Louisiana—meaning it’s also the first time, despite our sun-drenched valley, she’s lived in a place with a lack of melanin. I asked what it’s like to live where there are few faces like hers, because, seriously, how comfortable would I feel if I were the only white face in a non-white community?
“That’s the only issue,” Partridge says, thoughtfully adding, “and I don’t know if that’s even an issue. That’s like a personal feeling, right? It’s really great (here), really welcoming. My kids have friends. I feel accepted.”
I press a little further.
“We have family in the Perris and Moreno Valley areas. There are more black people there,” she says. “So when we go, there’s a different vibe. And you’re a little bit more—I don’t want to say comfortable, but you’re a little more relaxed. Not to say that I’ve been discriminated against here or that we’ve been treated differently; there’s nothing like that. It’s just, you don’t have that sense of community.”
Something else was new here: “There’s a deeper line between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ here,” Partridge says. “We do stories about the situations in Thermal or Mecca—people who literally have nothing and are living in trailers without water or electricity, or they’re using one person’s generator and it’s five trailers with an extension cord. These people have problems.”
That does not negate issues experienced by those who live larger.
“The haves,” she continues, “who you believe shouldn’t have any problems, also face things that they can’t fix with their money and their influence. We’re all the same, more or less, and we all have problems and need help.”
Despite the seriousness of her job, Partridge has this mischievous twinkle in her eye that promises and delivers a delightful sense of humor, which is the reason, she says, she doesn’t want to be in front of the camera—too much temptation. Man, would it love her.
She also has a way with words, which is something of a requirement for a writer, but we’re not always as eloquent without the writing to hide behind. But Partridge has made a meal out of both, so I’ll let her tell you what she aspires to in her job.
“I want you to know what’s happening in the community. I want you to be informed and make a decision at your next council meeting. And I want you to go to your city council meeting so you can do it. But … I don’t want to tell you how to vote.”
Hers is Sgt. Friday’s catchphrase, “Just the facts, ma’am.” And she’s good at it.
So if you happen upon this super-girl in the wild, maybe stop and tell her our little Gotham says, “Thank you. You’re doing a great job, Ceci.”
This is an amazing article and Ceci is an even more amazing person. Bravo, we’ll done. 👏 👏
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