Sarah Sez: News reporter delivers difficult goodbye
It is with a heavy, yet overwhelmingly excited heart, that I write my final Sarah Sez column for the New Richmond News. My heart is heavy because I’m leaving behind the News, my coworkers and the community contacts I have made; but I’m thrilled to undertake a new challenge and an incredible opportunity by becoming the editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth.
You may remember from past columns that I was born and raised in Pierce County, in the Town of River Falls on a hobby farm. I grew up literally sitting at my grandfather’s knee, watching him page through the Herald. It’s one of my earliest memories. I remember I even wrote my own little kid newspaper when I was around 8 years old. My grandpa read that one too, cover to cover. I vowed one day that he would be reading my stories in the Herald.
While he did not live long enough to see my stories in the Herald, he was able to read my scintillating (I write that word with a giggle) coverage of town board meetings for the River Falls Journal, where I was a staff correspondent for five years. I was hired as a full-time reporter here at the News in October 2013 about two months after his death. I wish I could show him all I’ve done.
I have always loved to write and becoming an editor is now something I can check off my bucket list. While I hope it’s not as terrifying as my last bucket list item (checked off by skydiving with Paulette Anderson, Kristy Olson, Kayla Boyd and Jo Fenstermaker for the Hammond Arts Alliance), I can’t believe my dream is coming true. In a way, starting my new job in Ellsworth will be a homecoming. I have a lot of family scattered around Pierce County, and many friends too.
What doesn’t make this transition easy is all of the friends I have made here in St. Croix County. When I started at the News, I never expected to make the friends I have, nor to become so invested in the communities I covered. It’s been one of the most interesting 16 months of my life to say the least.
I am actually writing this column from a hotel room in Santa Fe, N.M. Before I was offered my new job, I had a trip planned with my daughter and best friend to visit my aunt and uncle in sunny Phoenix. We are now on the way home from that visit. It worked out well to take a trip to rest and rejuvenate in between transitioning jobs. I have been working 70 hours a week between two jobs for more than a year without a break. When I return I will spend a few days finishing up things in New Richmond before heading down Highway 65 to Ellsworth for my new adventure.
This trip opened my eyes in so many ways that I don’t have the room to go into here. Spending time with members of my dad’s family helped me learn a lot about myself and my dad, who died suddenly when I was 3. I spent nearly 4,000 miles talking, reconnecting and laughing with my best friend. I spent seven nonstop glorious days with my daughter, which I haven’t done since my maternity leave. In other words, this week has been just what I needed before taking on my next career adventure and challenge. I’m ready and raring to go.
But I hate goodbyes. They are usually terribly sad for me. I’m going to miss so many things: the chit chat back and forth between Jordan Willi and me, and the silly moods when we would laugh until we’d cry (well, I would cry); Sharisse Germain Derby running to my desk to tell me interesting tidbits and again, laughing until I cried (I do that a lot); Vernice Evans’ incredible knowledge of New Richmond and all the people who stop in to visit her; Dave Newman’s wisdom, advice and inspiring work ethic; Cindy Croes’ kindred spirit of all things sisu, county fair and 4-H; Tom Lindfors’ wacky sense of humor and amazing talent to weave a story with photos; Judy Monette’s penchant for coffee and her lively demeanor; and Micheal Foley’s ability to push me out of my comfort zone and encouragement to pursue new challenges.
Pierce County is only a hop, skip and a jump away. If you’re ever in Ellsworth, stop into the little office on Chestnut Street and say hi.