Thanks, Shelby County

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, &uot;You’re not from around here, are you?&uot; in the last two years, I’d be a rich man.

When I came to the Shelby County Reporter almost two years ago, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I knew one thing, I wanted to write.

I graduated in 1998 with a journalism degree. However, I spent the next two years working in two of my family’s businesses &045; my dad’s farm in South Dakota and then my brother’s medical supply business in Birmingham. The latter is what brought me that 20 hour drive down south from my home state.

After almost two years of driving down just about every road in Shelby County, with a notebook in one hand and a camera in the other, I am saddened to say I am leaving the Shelby County Reporter.

Today is my last day at the Reporter. Next week I’ll be joining the staff of a daily newspaper, The Gadsden Times, as a general assignment reporter.

When I started at the Reporter I was thrown into the fire right off the bat by my former publisher, Kim Price. Two previous writers, the former managing editor Leada DeVaney and the former news editor Stephanie Hasbrouck, both left on the same day. That left no one to write the paper and a nervous publisher. Needless to say it all worked out, and I am a better man for those interesting couple of weeks back in 2000.

Some people might think bigger is always better when it comes to news, but I disagree. Weekly newspapers play a vital role in communities, and I’m glad I was a part of that. Someone needs to be there to cover your schools, your churches, your friends and neighbors.

Those are people, places and things that sometimes get ignored by the big boys, the 10 o’clock news or the morning paper. What makes a paper like this so great is the fact that Shelby County residents are guaranteed free news coverage, well at least on three of their most important days &045; their birth, their wedding and their funeral. Coverage like that only comes from a weekly, not The Birmingham News, that’s for sure.

From taking a picture of a man and his two chicken eggs the size of baseballs to just last week meeting a pastor who helped start a church from scratch in just a couple of months, my adventure has been a blast.

Shelby County is a great place and I will continue to call it home, though my commute will be a tad bit longer.

One of the favorite parts of my job the last two years is the great people I have met. I don’t know if all Pelham residents know it, but they have, in my opinion, one of the most dedicated and talented public servants around in Fire Chief Gary Waters. Oh yeah, he’s a heck of a nice guy, too.

Calera Mayor George Roy has been one of my favorite mayors to work with. He can make a heated exchange at a council meeting turn in to a lighthearted and laughing discussion with just one thought-provoking observation.

Although Montevallo City Council meetings typically last two to three hours, they are a not such a bad thing. They allow those in attendance a view into what a group of residents and city officials can accomplish by letting every detail of the city’s business be discussed in a truly democratic and open forum. From last month’s bills, one by one, to someone needing a stop sign, that city is not afraid to let the public be informed.

I want to thank everyone who has made these past two years one of the greatest times of my life. I wish y’all the best in the future, even though my accent remains unchanged