Through her childhood years, Emily Nipps lived the peripatetic life of an Army brat, never living in one place too long. Her family moved around to several cities around the United States, and the longest she lived anywhere was in West Germany in the 1980s.
But the Tampa Bay area, where her grandmother lived and still lives, always felt like home. Most of her family, including siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, reside in Tampa, where she herself moved as a teenager.
“I love the Tampa bay area,” she said. “And I’ve always loved coming into this airport.”
Now she gets to come to the airport she loves every day. A couple of months ago, she became the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority’s communications manager.
The job means she could work on anything involving words that come from the airport or the aviation authority, from letters and TV interviews to press releases and text on website.
She’s new the job, but not to a career in writing.
You’ve probably read her work, in fact. She spent more than a decade as a writer for The Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times (now called the Tampa Bay Times).
After she graduated from the University of South Florida, she spent a couple of years covering sports for the Tribune. But she spent most of her journalism career as a news reporter for the Times. She covered everything from sports to crime to local politics, and her coverage of a wild monkey on the loose in the Tampa Bay area landed her on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.
She left the newspaper business last year, curious to see what else she could do with her media connections, writing skills and experience as a former reporter.
“I really loved the Times newsroom and it was hard to make the decision to leave,” Nipps said. “I felt like I had a future there, but I wasn’t sure what my next step would be, or if I even wanted to take a next step. I realized I was ready to do something completely different.”
TPA wasn’t her first post-journalism stop, though. She spent about a year working in public relations at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg before she took her current job.
She knew she liked the airport, but after a few weeks of working at TPA, she said, she’s enjoying the work even more than she expected. She especially likes the friendly people who naturally gravitate to the airport, the history and the ever-growing role of the airport in the community.
“It’s a great working environment and I’m finding that the aviation industry is really fascinating,” she said. “I get to ask a lot of questions and learn a lot about the various departments so I can write for them, so it’s a natural fit for my skills.”
About six years ago, she started a band with Times colleagues Stephanie Hayes and Alex Zayas. Super Secret Best friends soon became a popular act at some of the best music venues in the area.
“I’ve always loved music but I didn’t start to pick up the guitar until I was in my late 20s,” she said. “We started this band as total beginners and all of sudden we were playing places like Skipper’s Smokehouse and New World Brewery. It was really exciting.”
The Super Secret Best Friends parted ways, but now Nipps plays guitar for a Pinellas-based called Doll Parts – another all-female band that was already well-known in local alt-rock circles before she joined. She’s also learning to play the drums for a new band.
Working at the airport and rocking at the clubs keep her plenty busy these days, but when she’s doing neither she’s usually in her St. Petersburg home, where she tends to her growing family of pets – a few cats, a potbellied pig named Penny. She recently added her first bird, a green cheek conure named Mr. Conyers, to her collection.
“I absolutely love animals,” Nipps said. “I’d have more, but I don’t want to turn into one of those crazy animal hoarders. It’s a real fear.”