I’ll never forget the first time I walked into The News-Dispatch.

I was a wide-eyed, 20-year-old kid trying to make it as a sports correspondent. I’d just returned from Morgan Township High School, where I covered Marquette’s girls basketball winning a sectional game against Washington Township.

As I made my way to my work station for the night, I remember looking around the newsroom and seeing faces I knew from reading their columns in the paper and being introduced to people whose names I knew from their bylines.

For me, a college journalism major still working toward his degree, it was the coolest thing. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I just needed to convince the powers that be that was the case.

Luckily, I was able to do that. I was hired as a full-time sports writer later that year and ever since, I’ve continued to think that working here has been the coolest thing.

As an impressionable youth, I once had someone tell me during some sort of career fair: “Figure out what you love to do and figure out a way to make a living doing it. Then, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For 17-plus years, this has rarely felt like work. Working at my hometown newspaper has been one of the great honors of my life.

But now, the time has come for me to move on. I’m leaving my job as Managing Editor here to start a media relations job with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

While I’m beyond excited about my new opportunity, I leave here with a range of emotions.

I’m sad that it’s over.

I’m happy that it happened.

I’m hopeful for the future.

I’m reassured by the fact that we have a great staff in place who will continue to carry the paper forward.

But mostly, I’m proud. I’m proud of the work we’ve done here.

To be sure, we’ve never been perfect. We’ve made mistakes. When we do, I’ve always been sure to own them as my own.

I also, however, take time to relish our successes.

I’ve worked here over the years with some really terrific people. Way too many to name, but I do want to point a few out here who had a special place on my path.

There was former Sports Editor Jim Hunsley, who gave that wide-eyed, 20-year-old kid a shot as a correspondent, despite having no real reason to do so.

There was Jim’s successor, Justin Breen, who went to bat to get me hired as a full-time staff member. Since then, he’s been an incredible colleague, friend and mentor.

There was former Managing Editor Dave Hawk, who hired me, at the age of 23, to be Sports Editor here. Once, he also gave me the best advice: “Take care of the little things. It’s the little things that will kill you.”

There’s my current boss, Publisher Bill Hackney, who took a shot on a career-long sports guy to lead the editorial department and is simply the best boss anybody could ask for.

I could list many, many others because, like in many other work places, co-workers here have been like family. Of course, we spend a tremendous amount of time together. We fight, we laugh. But at the end of the day, we’ve had each other’s back.

Leaving here is not easy for me. I’ve grown up here. Now at the age of 38, I’ve spent nearly half my life here. Since that first night, Feb. 16, 2001, I’ve gotten married, finished my college degree, became an uncle, became a father and now, it’s time for the next chapter.

So, to all the aforementioned people; to all the readers; to everybody who has cared even one iota about what we do here; I simply and sincerely say, thank you.

I’ll see you around.

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