One of the first things you learn after meeting Hugh McMillan — longtime Gateway contributor and local legend— is that you never say “goodbye” to the man.
“What a terrible thing to say!” He will roar in response, insisting instead on a nonchalant “See you later” or the even more casual “See ya.”
I’ve learned a lot from Hugh since starting at the Gateway more than two years ago (June 29, 2015, to be exact) and knowing how to give a heartfelt farewell without the finality of a goodbye is one of those lessons.
After two years as your community reporter, covering Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, it is time for me to begin on a new adventure. My last day as reporter is Friday (Sept. 22).
Never miss a local story.
But, keeping in mind the lesson Hugh taught me, I will not say “goodbye” but rather “see you later.”
I grew up in this community. My family first lived on a farm in Artondale and then moved to the Key Peninsula when I was still very young. I live on the Key Peninsula still.
My work at The Peninsula Gateway has combined my knowledge of these communities with my lifelong love of stories. Because that’s how I’ve always seen my job as a community journalist, telling your stories. The stories of your lives and your neighbors, your sorrows and celebrations.
It has been my privilege over these two years to tell these stories.
I’ve written about boats, birds, bees and bears. I wrote about our neighbors with brilliant hobbies and the generosity to share those skills with others; about lifelong friendships and acts of compassion from complete strangers.
I have attended every Gig Harbor City Council meeting during my entire tenure as reporter.
I introduced new police officers and also the new superintendent of Peninsula School District. I notified you when Mostly Books closed its doors and, more recently, when Kimball Espresso Café was forced to follow suit.
I’ve also written unpopular stories and have done my best to report them with clarity, integrity and a dedication to providing my readers with the information they need to be informed citizens.
Here’s a secret: My favorite stories to write are about your kids.
I have written about Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, kids who are homeschooled, public schooled and private schooled. From preschool to high school, I have written about the projects students have completed, the goals they are working toward and the ways they are giving back to our community.
I have shared the bravery of teens talking publicly about mental illness and suicide, the eye-opening experiences of the middle-school girls CAPE conference and the excitement of elementary school students already looking towards college. And many more.
This is an area where Hugh and I have frequently worked together. He showed me firsthand the importance of recognizing and supporting the kids in our community and has taught me one of my life’s mottos: “Give a damn!”
I have seen this motto in action in every Peninsula School District building I’ve entered. The passion and dedication of these teachers, staff and administrators has been demonstrated time and again as they reach out to me with the amazing things their students have done or the ways their colleagues are going above and beyond.
This motto is a challenge I will issue to you. Caring is scary and enthusiasm is frequently mocked. I encourage you get involved with your community, embrace your passions and engage with your neighbors.
I’ll also offer a few words of caution: be informed.
Rumors are rampant and false information spreads quickly and easily. Take some extra time and double-check your information. “Fake news” is a trendy topic but it is also a true one and those that spread misinformation do it using the emotion and passion of those of us who give a damn.
I hope the Gateway remains a source for trusted information. I hope it remains a place where you can read stories about your neighbors, friends and kids and get a positive news break in the midst of so much negative news.
Thank you for the time you have spent, both sharing with me and reading the stories about our neighbors. While I can only reference a few of these stories here, know that each has resonated with me and I remain grateful for your trust.
Until we meet again. See ya.