In August of 1997, I walked into the newsroom at The Republican Journal for the first time.

I was 20 years old then, and was working at the former Harborside Graphics as a way to pay for the correspondence classes I had determined to take to learn more about writing and journalism.

One day, not long after I finished my courses, I decided to pitch my resume to both local newspapers — at that time, the Journal and The Waldo Independent were fierce competitors, which made the Waldo County news scene all that much more appealing to me.

I didn’t really think anything would come of it, and so I was quite surprised to get paged away from my silk-screening duties to take a phone call from then-Journal Editor Tom Groening.

He asked me if I would be interested in covering the Searsport selectmen’s meetings on a freelance basis. Once I got over the initial shock that my writing samples were good enough to earn me this gig, I took him up on the offer.

For the next several months, I continued my full-time work at Harborside, and every other Tuesday evening, I would attend the selectmen’s meetings at Union Hall. I would stay up late writing my stories, and after a little sleep, I would deliver my account to Tom on a floppy disk by 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. I had to be at my regular job by 7 a.m.

While my friends would often question my sanity, I couldn’t have been happier — I was being paid to write.

A short time later, a part-time position opened up at the Journal. I thought it was my shot to join the staff.

I came into the office for my job interview, and almost immediately, Tom set me up in front of a computer and asked me to type up some copy. It was a test to see how quickly I could type, and I failed it — big time.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

But I kept covering the happenings in the town of Searsport, and soon, I experienced the exhilaration of having one of my stories grace the front page. The town had just hired Jerry Storey as its new town manager.

The story would have been page one material no matter who wrote it, but at the time, I was on top of the world. I became a hopeless addict, started sniffing around for more stories to write, and also started meeting more people in the process.

Eventually, my typing and writing skills had improved to the point that Tom hired me as a part-timer, and it wasn’t long before I became a full-time Journal staffer.

I will always be eternally grateful for the patience Tom exhibited during my first year, and his willingness to give me the time I needed to learn the trade, and learn it well. Back then I worked with fine people like Murray Carpenter, Page McLain, Corinne Vaccaro and Beth Staples, who I would work for years later both as the editor of the Journal and the Waldo County Citizen. I was also introduced to then-Journal photographers Jennifer Thorburn and Tina Shute, and after many years of having the privilege of working at their sides, they, along with Beth, have since become more than coworkers to me— they are dear friends.

During my first years, I was also afforded the chance to pen this column, which proved to be an interesting and amusing way to share my observations of the places, people and events around me. It was so freeing, being able to write about anything from my trip to Ozzfest in 1999 to the frustration I felt when perusing the endless toothbrush aisle one day.

I still smile each time I read those columns, particularly the ones I wrote about my pending motherhood. My son is almost 5 now, and when he wants to know what life was like before he was born, I will have those writings to share with him.

As time went on, I had the chance to work with people who I consider among the best in the local news business — the thoughtful Lorie Costigan, the late but never forgotten Dave Piszcz, Belfast’s resident historian, Jay Davis, and the ever-observant Andy Kekacs were among them. Even our competitors, back when we had them, had rosters of reporters who I developed a great deal of respect for — Toni Mailloux, Peter Taber, Glenn Montgomery, and of course, the recently retired Walter Griffin, just to name a few.

Most recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the current Journal staff, and I will miss them all. I know this paper will be in good hands under the leadership of my friend Steve Fuller, and that few errors, no matter the nature, will get by the keen eyes of Sarah Reynolds. I know that Ethan Andrews will continue to both inform and entertain with his light but descriptive approach to covering our community, and I look forward to reading his work. And with the amazing sales department that which is Pam Schultz and Chum Berry, this paper will survive this economic downturn, as it has survived other adversities since the first issue was published in 1829.

As I write this column Tuesday, Jan. 26, I am reminded that this is the last time I will be a part of the constant activity that is unique to working at a paper. It will mark my final week of visiting my usual places, be it the local police departments, the courthouses or the local schools.

I’m moving on to begin a new chapter in my professional life at City Hall in Belfast. While there, I hope to continue to serve the community, and I’m looking forward to meeting more of the people who keep this city operating on a daily basis.

After nearly 13 years, it’s not easy to step away. I’ve had the time of my life, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.

Thank you all for joining me on this wild and unpredictable ride, and for the joys I’ve found in getting to know many of you. I couldn’t be prouder to call Waldo County home, and that is because of all of you.