Those online maps are good ways to find your way around. They’re also virtual time machines.
I was hit by a twinge of nostalgia the other day, goofing on Google Earth. I zoomed down to the street level, and there was my old white jeep, parked on Snoqualmie’s Falls Avenue. It must have been a summer’s day in 2008 when the Google car with the fish-eye camera drove by to make that map. I had been editor here for eight months, and was just hitting my stride—putting out my first batch of summer festival guides, getting ready for the fall visitor’s guide, the Boeing Classic, the start of another school year, another prep sports season.
Next week, after eight years here, I’ll be rolling on to my next adventure, a writing job at my alma mater in Pullman, Wash. It’s a big change, and hard to say goodbye to what’s become a home for me and my wife, but change can be good, and it happens. I hope I leave the Record no worse than when I found it, and have been proud to helm our newsroom through its centennial year. Not many small-town paper editors can say they did that.
Of course, the Valley really doesn’t feel “small-town.” Between Snoqualmie, North Bend, Fall City, Carnation and Preston, there’s more happening here than towns twice our size can boast. Eight years has flown by for me here, because there’s just so much to see and experience. The fact of a weekly publication cycle means you’re always hurtling on to the next event, the next project, forever dabbling in the economic, academic, civic aspects of cities and neighborhoods. For community journalists, the fact that you’re always connected to the life of a community is both a blessing and a curse. It’s hard to have a life of your own when you’re constantly spending evenings and weekends experiencing the lives of your neighbors. But it’s also addictive, and it’s hard to bid farewell to this life after 15 years.
There’s a lot of Valley people I will miss, and a lot of sights, sounds and places.
I will miss walking across Falls Avenue and popping in the back door of Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory for a chat on the latest breaking story with Wes over a scoop of Rocky Road.
There’s Wendy Thomas, the hardware store owner whose passion for livening up downtown was so strong, we had a hard time keeping her next door. Or Mary and Yun at the Snoqualmie Post Office (Post offices are the real centers of the community, you meet everybody there.) Local historians Gloria McNeely and Dave Battey—invaluable for their connection to the past and their willingness to share. With them is Harley Brumbaugh, who does the same thing for music. Boosting the community through creativity, Dick and Sallie Burhans have spent decades enlivening the Valley, and made me feel so welcome. Then there’s the business owners. Who would go to a big theatre when Cindy Walker’s North Bend Theatre has so much personality, and is such a great deal? Ben Cockman at Mount Si Sports + Fitness, ever eager to talk about his latest recipe or Irish excursion. The folks at Si View, the various festival committees in North Bend, Fall City, Snoqualmie—those responsible for making life more than just work for the people of this Valley. Schools and athletics remain intertwined for me, and I thank all the coaches who took time to chat with a writer forever struggling to understand the rules of dozens of different contests, and the young athletes who weren’t afraid to talk about winning or losing.
And, I know it’s cliche, but the mountain itself. The years I lived by Mount Si, seeing that enormous cathedral of stone change color in the afternoons, were amazing. I can’t believe I never climbed it.
It’s been a pleasure covering the Snoqualmie City Council, because, by and large, they show the right way to run a small town. For eight years, this body has been a model for professionalism in small-city elected officials. In some small towns, reporters never know what kind of circus they’ll encounter at the council level. But, attending council in Snoqualmie, on any given night, I could always count on civility, respect for the public, and measured decisions by Bob Jeans, Charles Peterson, Bryan Holloway, Kingston Wall, Kathi Prewitt, and, now gone from the group, Maria Henriksen and Jeff MacNichols. Today, my former classmate Heather Munden is part of the team, as is Chelley Patterson. While no city is without its challenges, that whole Snoqualmie team is diligent, talented, and darn good.
City Clerk Jodi Warren has offered sage advice and help since my day one here. Mayor Matt Larson’s passion for making a better city is palpable. Listening to him stand his ground and argue for something he believes in, in front of a big crowd, many of them in opposition, is to witness leadership.
I never really covered North Bend City Council as a writer, but have always found Ken Hearing to be very approachable, a no-nonsense mayor. It’s hard to picture anyone else leading the city.
When I started here, as the online map shows, Snoqualmie had yet to go through its downtown renovation. Snoqualmie Casino had just started construction that cold February of 2007. Twin Falls Middle School was yet to open. Hundreds of homes on the Ridge had yet to be built. SMS was still SMS. The housing-bubble recession was a year out from breaking. Look how far we’ve come. A lot of flood water has flowed under the bridge.
Change happens. I’m not sure yet who will be taking my place. I hope that he or she will get to explore this place the same way I have, take time to tell the little stories with the big, and meet some of the above folks, and all the others who make a difference.
I thank you for letting me tell your stories.