June 7 will mark a first for The McDuffie Mirror. That issue will be the first one ever printed without my name appearing in it. My four-year ride in helping to build what I believe to be the best community newspaper in the state has come to an end.
Next month, I will start a new journey at my college alma mater, Augusta State University. I have accepted a position in the school's public relations department.
The decision to move on was an excruciating one filled with much advice, soul searching and prayer. It's probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. But as a wise pastor told me, "Sometimes it's just time for a change."
I've lived in McDuffie County all my life, and I want to see this wonderful hometown product continue to thrive. I know it will as I leave it in capable hands.
Over the past several years I've gotten a thrill from telling people I was the longest tenured employee of The Mirror. I was actually hired the day before Publisher Jason Smith was brought on board in June of 2003.
Now, I think it's appropriate that after four years of working here, the last event I will cover is a graduation. Thomson High School students will walk across the stage on May 26, and I will be there to take their picture, doing a little bit of graduating myself.
As I prepare to depart, I reminisce about the unique experience of the paper's first year. We formulated the direction for The Mirror based on McDuffie County's wants and needs, and judging by the public's reaction to our product, I think, together, we have written a success story.
I'll never forget working alongside Elwood Hamilton that first year. Even though I had been in the business longer, he taught me many important things that have made me a better reporter, and we continue to keep in touch even though he has also moved on.
Then came Jerrie MacIntire who never said a negative word about anyone. She handled features with such ease and cared deeply about everyone.
After Jerrie came Lynn Davidson, who just recently celebrated her second anniversary here. Lynn already had much experience writing but knew little about photography. Since then, she has worked hard to learn the camera.
There have been others that helped make The Mirror a success: all the correspondents I've worked with, Janet, Angela and the other ad reps along the way, but most importantly our sources, our readers and our advertisers. Without those last three groups, there would be no newspaper.
A personal thanks goes out to Charlie Newton, Don Norton, Bob Flanders, Bob Knox, Don Powers, Ed Grisham, Mark Petersen, Peggy Willis, Tommy Phelps, Kelly Evans, Logan Marshall, Ronnie Williamson, Gary Nicholson, John Hathaway, Scott Whittle, Luther Welsh, John Barnett, Danny Verdun Wheeler, Jasper and Casper Brinkley, Bobby Hodges and anybody else I've had to bug regularly for information over the years.
Last, but not least, I want to say that working for Jason was just as much fun the second time around. He was my editor at ASU's student newspaper back in the mid '90s, and even before he had been named editor of The Mirror, he pushed to get me hired. Without him, I might still be trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
I appreciate the invaluable journalistic advice Jason has provided for more than a decade now. Having Jason as a supervisor is more like working alongside a friend than working for a boss. That is something few employees can claim.
And for those few of you lamenting my departure, don't feel alone. I am as well. But for the majority celebrating my leaving, don't party too quickly. I'll still be around, keeping an ever-watchful eye on McDuffie County.
After all, that's exactly what ridin' the pine is all about.