As I reflect back on my first impressions of Woodburn, I think of how much I have gained from my time here.

First impressions go beyond what most people think of Woodburn – home of the outlet malls. Comments like, “I didn’t know there was a downtown” basically capture what I knew about Woodburn before I came here in March.

I had never really considered the unique aspects of this community until I came across the mountains from Central Oregon for my interview with Publisher Nikki DeBuse and Editor Lindsay Keefer.

What I came away with was a strong desire for the job and the opportunity to write about stories reflecting such a diverse community.

As I explored downtown Woodburn, I saw a place like no other in Oregon. The largely Hispanic influences are a unique aspect of this place that, if developed, could become a key tourism driver.

My first story as a reporter was the city’s plan to redevelop the Association Building downtown. Ironically enough, the person I interviewed for the story, Jim Hendryx, had been a key player and source of mine in the redevelopment of Redmond, a city north of Bend that is similar in many ways to Woodburn.

I look at Redmond now and I see the same potential for Woodburn. Of course, the challenge will always be financial, but if the city uses its small pot of urban renewal dollars appropriately, we could see a very different Woodburn in five years or sooner.

Like Redmond, Woodburn also has a major highway project that will transform the look and feel of the community.

Businesses, residents and motorists alike will feel the headaches of construction over the next three years, but eventually community leaders will be heralding a new age for Woodburn. Give it time.

What I love about journalism is that I get to create meaningful work that has an impact on people.

Fortunately, there are key community groups who are passionately trying to create a vision for Woodburn and surrounding communities.

There are folks making community gardens from the Historic Woodburn Neighborhoods Association, people painting murals at the CAPACES Leadership Institute, and people celebrating the region’s bountiful harvest at the St. Paul Hops Fest.

I have enjoyed working with all these folks throughout my time here.

As I move on to my next station in life, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have made covering these communities a joy and privilege.

My thanks to my coworkers at the Independent for accepting my sometimes quirky mannerisms.

I have always enjoyed the camaraderie of the newsroom with my two closest colleagues, Phil Hawkins and Lindsay Keefer.

Nikki DeBuse has always been a supporter and confidante. Karen Lang has always had my back. And Susan Vetter, who has been here at the Independent longer than any of us, has a good ear and heart of gold.

Don’t let me forget anyone else at the paper — Grigoriy, who always fixed things, and the carriers who come to our building every Tuesday: Keep up the often unsung work that you do.

And our readers, who have had so many nice comments to make about the paper, and some not so nice ones, I will forever treasure this opportunity to share my voice in your lives.

From the first story to the last, I have been thrilled to have been a part of this small community newspaper.

I am moving on, but Woodburn is not to be forgotten.

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