Goodbye to the South’s best county

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My opinion of the Shelby County Reporter was minimal when I first saw a copy in the Calera Walmart eight years ago. Little did I know what was going on behind the scenes. Tim Prince was new on the job as publisher and editor of the paper and a bright future was ahead — one I am proud to say I have been a part of for the past 32 months.

My time at the Reporter comes to a close this week, but it is a chapter in my life that carries great value and will never be forgotten.

I am proud to have been a part of an award-winning newspaper that is now the best community paper in Alabama, if not the Southeast.

In November 2006, I was offered the job as sports editor at the Reporter. It was hard to leave behind a wonderful staff at Martin Methodist College, where I was serving as director of athletic communications, but the move felt right. After all, Shelby County is one of the best places to live in the South.

Leaving behind the NAIA national champion women’s soccer team and a host of TranSouth Conference champions was hard, but my hopes of seeing at least one state title a year was blown away, as I was overwhelmed with the success of this county’s teams and the talent of its athletes.

I also knew the move would be a homecoming of sorts, but little did I know how much of an understatement that would be.

Not only did I get a chance to live, hang out and worship with some of my best friends for life, but I was blessed with the opportunity to reunite friendships from the past and cultivate new lasting friendships for the future.

The transition gave me a chance to revisit those who were vital to writing my journalism story.

It was in the boy’s locker room of Clay-Chalkville High School that my first sports writing began. A conversation with Tommy Youngblood, Oak Mountain baseball coach and former CCHS coach, helped produce my first piece — an e-mail to my dad that read like a season preview. A few years later, the first playoff appearance for Jeff Mauldin, now Pelham’s baseball head coach, became my first professional sports writing gig as a stringer for The Birmingham News.

More than a dozen former teachers have re-entered my life over the past two and a half years, including my first journalism teacher, Libby Shaw, who likes to play tennis in Pelham.

I’d need a year’s worth of columns to thank the many people who I have worked with, written about and listened to comments from — both good and bad.

There’s never a good time to leave a job you enjoy and place that you love, but the opportunity to return to college athletics feels right for the next chapter in my life, which begins by getting married next week. After the honeymoon, I will serve as sports information director at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

I look forward to keeping up with your stories through the pages of this great publication. I also will enjoy contributing to its pages, as I will help keep Pelham informed of former offensive linemen A.J. and Chris Brown. And I have a good feeling they will not be the only Shelby County natives to one day play for CU.