A few parting thank-you notes

Today is my last day here at The Huntsville Item. As I clean out my desk that’s filled with more candy wrappers than six humans should consume in a single month, I want to take a few minutes to reflect and give thanks.

I could fill this entire edition and all of next month’s newspapers telling stories of the amazing experiences I’ve had over these last three years, but there’s more important copy to print.

However, I can say this: I’ve never held a job that’s helped me grow so much as an individual. And I really don’t think I ever will.

From freezing-cold high school soccer game photo assignments to meeting some of our state and nation’s highest-ranking public servants, every moment here has been an incredible journey. I’ve had a chance to learn something new every day.

More often than not, journalists and editors endure a thankless role. The sweet thank-you notes and emails we get are lifeblood, but they can sometimes be overshadowed by the criticism that often comes with this job.

So I’d like to dole out a few thank-you notes before I go.

To our city and education reporter, Marissa Nunez: There are few beats that offer drier subject matter to journalists, but they also happen to be some of the most important and Marissa, you make that known in your work. It’s been amazing to watch you carve out your niche as a writer while covering the most vital parts of our city. You have incredible talent as a journalist and I know that you’ll find success in every aspect of life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sitting next to you and sharing countless inside jokes that no one else will ever get. Thank you for friendship and the endless string of “Parks & Recreation” quotes. And, for the record, Kazakh-STAN!!

To our news editor, Cody Stark: I’ve never met someone who could be a friend to everyone like you are. There’s a reason we’ve always been on top of the cops-and-courts beats and breaking news. That’s because everyone who meets you knows you’re a person who can be trusted. You’ve been able to turn a wet-behind-the-ears photographer into a person who could handle almost any situation, no matter how crazy or unpredictable. I can’t thank you enough for the patience and knowledge you’ve shown me. I’ll miss your lectures via the stick most of all.

To our sports writers, JP McBride and Scott Stone: To the guys who travel the longest distances, covering every game from the first of the season to the bitter end of the playoffs, you all deserve the greatest of thanks. The press box is no piece of cake. You’re taking down every stat, every play, every score while live-Tweeting to our readers and cutting a story that puts us there in the stands. That’s a tough gig and you guys do stellar work. It’s been a blast palling around with you both as we cover our teams in triumph and defeat.

To our sports editor, Gene Schallenberg: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside you, even when we butt heads. You’re a tireless worker and a phenomenal writer who has a knack for being able to do everything at once. It’s been fun driving all over this great state to cover games with you. Your dedication to the job shows through every day. Even when it seemed like we didn’t have the resources or the manpower to cover a certain event, you always found a way to make sure our local athletes get the coverage they deserve. More often than not, it was because you went out of your way to make it happen. Thanks for everything, Gene, sincerely.

To Traci Gallin: You’re undoubtedly the backbone of this office and you’ve been a godsend to me nearly every day I’ve worked here. If I didn’t know how to do something, you did, and you knew how to do it well and teach it with patience. I’m convinced that if everyone at the paper was simultaneously incapacitated, we’d still have a paper tomorrow because you can literally do every job under the sun. Thank you for all that you do and for your friendship.

To our press and mailroom staff: We wouldn’t have a paper every day without your tireless work. I haven’t had the chance to work with many of you, but you all deserve our unending gratitude. Thank you for working the late, long and often unpredictable hours and taking the time to ensure that our readers wake up to a paper most every day of the week.

To our advertising reps, office staffers, classified gurus, business managers and everyone here at The Item: Every single person at this paper plays a vital role and I’ve been very blessed to be play my small part in it. Thank you for continuing to make this paper the trusted and reliable source that it is in our community. I will miss you all greatly.

To our publisher, Rita Haldeman: Yours is, by far, one of the most thankless roles in our industry. Thank you for your unwavering support of our newsroom and your belief in me from the start. This paper is and will continue to be successful because of your leadership.

To our managing editor, Tom Waddill: Sir, you are the true definition of a leader. More often than not, you’re the first one in the office every day and the last one to leave. You are always the first to jump on an assignment and show us the way to do the job right. You consistently give of yourself to make sure the news gets out every single day and you work tirelessly to make sure that we all don’t get burned out in the process. You lead by example and I’ve learned so much about how to be an effective leader, a good listener and a decent human being just by being your employee and your friend. Thank you for teaching me how to write, edit, interview and design pages effectively. Thank you for your patience in everything you do. I’ll miss you showing me up on the golf course, but most of all, I’ll miss being able to call you my boss.

To the people of Huntsville: You are truly what has made this job special. Getting the chance to travel this town and shine a light on all the wonderful people who make it great has been a blessing. As a journalist, I’ve had the chance to meet folks who are really making a difference in this world. Whether you’re volunteering on the weekends for the animal shelter, organizing a small church event, baking cookies for a fundraiser or simply raising your voice at a City Council meeting, being involved where you live is what truly makes a town special.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have seen and documented all that I could for the past three years.

Thank you.