Associate editor Jeff Spiegel announces his departure from the Estacada News

In a truly bittersweet moment, it’s time for me to announce that tomorrow, Oct. 26, will be my final day as Associate Editor of the Estacada News.

I say it’s bittersweet because the decision was made with a number of factors in mind.

For starters, I’m set to get married in January and the long hours and dedication that reporting for this newspaper requires simply wouldn’t be feasible during my first year of marriage.

On the other hand, however, is the community of Estacada — one JEFF SPIEGELI’ve truly come to cherish during my time here.

It’s kind of a funny thing being the lone reporter in a small town like this, because in a sense you really, really get to know a community in a way almost no one else can.

I’ve met people who have told me stories that have made me laugh and stories that have made me hurt inside. At the end of the day, however, the impact made on me is one that won’t leave me as long as I’m alive.

When I came to Estacada, there were rumors and stereotypes that I had heard, but my status as an outsider allowed me to come in with an open mind.

Having grown up in California and attended the University of Oregon, my experience with the rural outskirts of Portland was limited.

I quickly realized how unfortunate that was.

The first thing that struck me about Estacada was the charm this city has from the outside. It’s the little shops on Main Street and Broadway, the kindness of the people and the easy access to the rivers and forest.

But then, I dove in deeper.

I was tasked with evaluating the schools, analyzing the city government and telling the stories that Estacadians from all walks of life had to tell.

In the schools, I learned how fortunate the people here really are.

There are plenty of detractors, both in Estacada and elsewhere, but for anyone who does their own research and puts statistics into the correct context, I think it’s hard to defend the claim that these schools are failing.

I spent time with administrators, teachers and coaches and can comfortably say the students and parents of this community are fortunate.

Over the past month I have also spent some time interviewing City Council and mayoral candidates for next month’s elections.

Once again, I came away confident that this city was headed in the right direction.

The candidates I spoke to all had ideas and passion about improving Estacada, and looking at where the city was 10 years ago and where it is today is simply a testament to everyone’s hard work and overwhelming sense of community pride.

And that brings me to my final Estacada experience and a story that I think not only defines this town, but is inspiring at its core.

About a month ago I heard the story of an 8-year-old girl named Josie Jett. By now, if you read the paper, I’m sure you’re familiar with her story. But, essentially, she spent weeks and weeks in the hospital before returning home without a diagnosis.

In the meantime, both of her parents were either unemployed or under-employed.

As we’re fortunate enough to do in this industry from time to time, this was a chance for our paper to step up and tell Josie’s story in the hope that in some little way we could make an impact in this girl’s life.

Turns out that telling her story made an extraordinary impact.

When the Estacada Fire Department caught wind of the story, they called me in for a meeting — a meeting that I wasn’t really briefed on before attending.

When I arrived, however, Fire Chief Bob Morrissey told me about his plan to host a pancake breakfast, with all benefits going to the Jett family.

When I walked out of the station, I was inspired by the chief’s compassion and thoughtfulness, but was ultimately skeptical about how successful it could be.

I clearly underestimated Estacada.

After getting everything from the food to the electric knife donated for the event, the entire community chipped in to make the event work and they raised an astonishing $6,300.

When the email came across my desk about the success of the event I was moved.

This community has never failed to amaze me, and this latest example is truly the one that will stay with me forever.

They say Estacada is more than just a rural community outside Portland, but that it’s a family. After a story like that, it’s really tough to argue.

So Estacada, as I leave this place and head toward the next chapter of my life, I wanted to thank each and every reader for giving me the opportunity to serve you.

This paper has a mission of being “intensely local” and that starts with each and every one of you, so thank you for everything you have done to make Estacada what it is today, and what I am sure it will soon become.

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