Parting, said the Bard, is such sweet sorrow.
The time has come for me once again to part with Bonney Lake and East Pierce County, an area that has become something of a second home to me over the past decade.
After many years covering the region for multiple papers, this will, once again, be my last issue with the Courier-Herald.
As of Monday I will be plying my trade at the other end of state Route 167 as the assistant editor for the Renton Reporter, one of the other weekly papers owned by our parent company, Sound Publishing.
And while I am very excited about the promotion and the opportunity to cover a larger city and beat, I certainly understand what Juliet was saying.
I began working in Bonney Lake back in 2003 with another local paper that no longer covers the city. At that time, during the height of the Bob Young era of massive growth in the city, there were three reporters at every council meeting: me, Rob from the Trib and Dennis Box of the Courier-Herald, a brand new paper dedicated to covering Bonney Lake.
In 2005, I parted ways with the other paper and made my way to Courier-Herald, working with Box to build the BLCH into the primary news source on the Plateau. In my first go-around with the city, I wrote mostly feature stories, getting to know the people and events that help make this area so special.
In 2007, I said my first round of goodbyes to Bonney Lake as I headed down the hill to work for the newly created Sumner Reporter. I was there for a year and then said another round of goodbyes to East Pierce County as I moved to Kent to work for that paper.
I was in Kent for about 18 months and then, through a lucky fluke of timing, found myself back at the Courier-Herald in early 2010, this time as the main news writer.
Thomas Wolfe said “You can’t go home again,” but I have to say I think he may be wrong.
By that time, Dennis had also moved on to another paper – though he too would eventually find his way home again to the Plateau, this time as editor – but much of the other staff was still there and many of the same players in Bonney Lake were still in the game.
Both the staff at the paper and the city welcomed me back and soon enough, East Pierce began to once again feel like home. Together with Daniel Nash, who joined the CH during my time in Kent, we worked to give the region the best paper we could and in 2012 the Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association recognized our little paper with a third-place General Excellence award.
As I begin the next phase of my career, I am thankful for the training ground that Bonney Lake has provided, both during the contentious political era and growth of the first part of the last decade, as well as the more collegial and functional recent part.
You are in good hands, Bonney Lake. The Bonney Lake city government operates like you’d hope a democracy would. They are very open and transparent and I have never felt that I am being given the run-around or that someone is trying to deceive me. Plus, the council actually discusses and debates things in open meetings.
That’s highly unusual, you should know.
But the real secret to this region, like any, is not the government, but the people. It’s the people of Bonney Lake I will miss the most.
People like Joan Rupp, whom I have mentioned multiple times. Joan is the barnstorming basketball player from the 50s and 60s whose grit, determination and self-described “ornery” nature inspires me every time I talk to her.
People like Connie Swarthout, the owner of CJ’s Carry-Out deli and a handful of other businesses in town. Not only does Connie make the best sandwiches in town, but despite what has been a terrible run of years during which she lost her father, her son and (just recently) her brother, Connie remains decidedly upbeat and a genuinely nice and good person. I admire not only her business acumen and dedication to her hometown, but also her ability to keep a good head on her shoulders, no matter what challenges and difficulties life throws at her.
People like Sue Hilberg, executive director of the senior center, who along with her staff works everyday to fill that little building with the energy and excitement that makes it one of the best and most fun senior centers in the entire region. I will miss that place.
People like Leota Musgrave, speaking of the senior center and all of the great regulars up there, who is just one of my favorite people around because of her welcoming smile, sharp sense of humor, unfiltered honesty and an energy that will outlast us all.
People like Lillian McGinness, the president of Beautify Bonney Lake, an annual cleanup event that began about 10 years ago and has grown into one of the great community service days in the region – perhaps the state – drawing hundreds of volunteers out on what is usually a rainy Saturday morning to rake, shovel, sweep and plant all around the city.
People like Jim Snyder, whom I just met this year as I did a story about the adopt-a-street program (run these days by Christy McQuillen, whom I will also miss). Jim is one of those local characters that every town seems to have. He has the city’s first adopt-a-street contract for Locust Avenue and when I told him I wanted to get a picture of him near his sign, Jim donned a tuxedo, reflective vest and posed picking up his certificate of recognition with a trash-picker. The rest of the interview was just as much fun as the photos.
And of course, there are the people that make up the city, from the mayor to the police and fire to the council to the city’s department heads and staff, all of them are fine folks who help give this town a great, home-y character and feel, despite it still being something of a bedroom community.
As I head up to Renton, where my new wife, Emily, and I live these days, I must admit looking forward to a shorter commute, though I will always have a special place in my heart for Bonney Lake.
Beginning this week, Daniel takes over the news beat and I think you are all in as good hands with him as he is with you. I wish him, and all of you, the absolute best.
Good luck, Bonney Lake. And thanks for everything.