Last Thursday was one of the hardest days of my life.
I sat in the conference room and faced my staff - some of the closest friends I have - and told them my time at The Mirror was limited. I watched the announcement that I would soon be joining the staff of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., register on their faces.
In the 45 minutes or so that we stayed behind closed doors, we laughed a little, planned a little and cried a lot. OK, I cried a lot.
The tears were not because I was leaving The Mirror. The newspaper will be just fine without me. I firmly believe the staff that is in place is - by far - the best in McDuffie County, and they are more than capable of handling the future of this newspaper. And they will do it the same way we've done it for the last six years: by putting accuracy, fairness and balance above sensationalism, by doing their jobs without disparaging others and by working in the community with humility and respect instead of arrogance and petulance.
I cried because I am leaving the people who work their rear ends off each week to make sure The Mirror happens. I consider Angela, Billy, James, Janet, and Lynn (along with newcomer Jeremy Callaway) my family members. I care deeply about each of them, and I will do all I can to support them and this newspaper even after I'm officially gone from The Mirror.
I love this newspaper. I love this community, and the people that call it home. I have spent every day of the last six years living a dream, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges, opportunities, failures and triumphs of The McDuffie Mirror.
But I am ready to move to the next phase of my life, and it is time.
Still, I will be part of this community. My home is here, and my new office will be just up the interstate in Augusta. I plan to continue the commitment I've made to involvement in this community. I will continue to support local businesses. I will, of course, continue eating at local restaurants.
And I will continue to believe in the promise I made in my first column six years ago:
"This is not my newspaper.
This is not a company's newspaper.
This is Thomson's newspaper.
This is Dearing's newspaper.
This is Boneville's newspaper.
This is Raysville's newspaper, and it belongs to all points in between."
It still does.
And it always will.
Thank you, McDuffie County, for your love, support and dedication. It means more to this hometown boy than you will ever know.