Some know the story of how I arrived at the Bugle, two days before Christmas 2004; some don’t.
For the record, I had been a salesman for nearly 20 years when the company I was working for became part of an industry wide roll up. Within three years the new nationwide company was in bankruptcy. When it finally closed its doors it took with it the opportunity to, like my father, retire in my 50s.
Realizing I would work longer than planned I decided I would do something I had always dreamed of doing -- writing -- preferably as a small town journalist.
It must have been meant to happen. Shortly after enrolling in Old Dominion University’s bachelor’s degree program at Yavapai College I got a job writing for the county, following a chance meeting with County Supervisor Chip Davis in a parking lot at the Cottonwood Safeway, in which he ran off with my bottle of whisky… but that’s a whole ‘nother story, as they say.
Working for the county opened the door at Verde Valley Newspapers, leading to that December morning in which Editor Dan Engler showed me my computer, gave me my password and said, “Newspapering is the greatest job in the world. Have fun.”
He was right. My eight years with the Bugle have been more rewarding than I ever dreamed possible. And, following his instruction, I have had fun -- a lot of fun.
They say if you work at a job you love, you will never work another day in your life. It took me a while to realize it, but I actually retired that day, at 49 years old.
From day one I viewed the job as a privilege few are given. And like every other privilege it came with responsibilities, not the least of which was to serve those who spent their hard-earned money every week to buy the newspaper.
Every week, every day, every minute, the challenge has been to find stories that not only inform but also made us think and feel and better understand the community in which we live.
I like to think I have acted in a responsible manner, getting off my butt and finding compelling stories, taking the extra time to tell them in a ways that kept your interest, making you laugh and cry and ultimately understand not only the who, what and where, but most importantly, the why.
I have reported on tragedy and folly, scoundrels and fakes and a few unspeakable things that make us all question our species.
But I have learned over the years that those sorts of stories should never define us as a community. They are unavoidable distractions.
When given the opportunity, I have deliberately chosen stories that I feel define our community for what it is -- the greatest place on the planet to live, inhabited by thousands of points of light.
I have written time and again about history because knowing where we came from gives us a glimpse into the future.
I have written about the natural wonders that surround us because I don’t want us to forget they are there as we go wherever it is we are headed.
And I have written about the individuals whose lives, quietly or otherwise, have displayed the best of the human spirit because I believe they are the examples that should guide us on our journey.
In a couple of weeks I will come out of retirement to take on the challenge of helping what I consider the most beautiful community in the state live up to its potential, on its own terms.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank the newspaper staff I have worked with all these years -- to Pam Miller and Dan Engler for taking a chance on an untested commodity, to Raquel Hendrickson for her guidance and professionalism, and most of all to the our readers for the chance to be a part of your lives.
It’s been the ride of a lifetime.