Moving forward, but fondly looking back

In February 2000 I traveled east down Highway 14, 27 years old and full of nerves and anticipation as I was on my way to an interview for a job in a little mill town nestled along the Columbia River.

Although I grew up nearby in Portland, it was the first time I could recall visiting Camas or Washougal.

It happened to be one of those fantastic Pacific Northwest winter days, when it’s cool and crisp but beautiful and sunny. The iconic image of Oregon’s Mt. Hood was in clear view in the distance.

As it turned out that moment was quite symbolic. I was headed away from Portland, and toward the cities that would end up becoming my new hometowns and the focal points of my life as the managing editor of the local weekly newspaper, the Post-Record.

In my mind at the time, this move from my temporary home on the Oregon Coast to Camas was a way to take another step in my journalism career. Maybe more importantly it would guide me a bit closer to Portland where I could once again be surrounded by family and friends.

Over time, however, life and those intentions changed. These two towns and this job, rather unexpectedly, became more than simply a way to mark time on my way to somewhere else.

I have spent these past years loving and being passionate about my job at the Post-Record. It has been a constant in my life, which on a personal level has seen many of the changes and milestones typical of someone navigating their late 20s, 30s and early 40s. Some of those changes have been incredible — marrying my supportive husband (a Washougal native) who always makes me laugh, becoming a stepmom to a wonderful daughter and then a mother to my charismatic son. Other experiences, the loss of my father to brain cancer, have been more traumatic and challenging.

But through it all, the Post-Record has always been there. It’s a position that has given me the chance to have incredible and unique experiences, allowed me to meet amazing, dynamic people, and helped shape me into the person I am today.

Tomorrow will be the final day I hold the title of “Post-Record managing editor.” As I move on, I will take what will be my first step outside of the community journalism world in nearly two decades. It’s an exciting time.

As I look back, there has been a great deal of learning, growing and changing, on several different levels, for me as well as for the daily and weekly newspaper business.

Without question, what I will remember most are the “newspaper people,” the reporters, editors and photographers, as well as the many others who work behind the scenes in this industry. They are some of the most talented and dedicated folks around.

These men and women prove time and again that they are tirelessly committed to their jobs and what it means to be a trusted reporter of the news. They are attending local events and activities, and city council and commission meetings; conducting countless interviews; poring over the minutia of court records and other government documents; posting updates on social media, and spending hours writing, re-writing and perfecting their articles — all while under the constant pressure of deadlines that would likely drive others mad.

For certain, “newspaper people” do not do this demanding job for money or recognition. They do it all, and more, with no agendas except to make sure citizens, their readers, are informed about what is happening — the good, the bad and the ugly — in their communities.

Friday will be a symbolic day for me, just as it was almost exactly 17 years ago. This time around though, I will have several things I didn’t have before: A strong foundation built on the experiences I have had and the people I have met while serving as the managing editor of the Post-Record, along with the incredible support of my family, and the stability of the communities of Camas and Washougal — the cities that I now, and will continue to, call home.

– Heather Acheson