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Feeling Minnesota with family en tow

There's a scene at the end of the acclaimed movie "Good Morning Vietnam" where Robin Williams is trying to make his way to the Saigon airport, but is held up by a convoy of troops. It's a tearful good-bye, made through laughs, as the radio personality he portrays cracks up members of the Army with his wit and humor.

While I doubt I'll get such a poignant moment as the one in that movie, it's just as hard for me to say farewell to the community I've grown to know and love over the last nine and a half years.

The Little Red-Haired Girl and I will be setting off for the big city. It's something we've wanted to do for some time, and we had the perfect opportunity. I will be taking over as the community editor in the suburb of Edina, effective Sept. 5.

It's truly the next step.

I thought, back in 1997, when I started here that this would be the proverbial stepping stone. I was a college graduate to-be. I was covering sports, and loving every minute of it.

It became a livelihood more than any stepping stone ever could. I lived and died with the kids those first couple of seasons. Most were pretty close to my age (yeah, I was only 22) and I actually enjoyed their company.

My first assignments, of course, were a girls' basketball tournament and a boys' football game. Thursday, I met Collette Folstad. Friday, I was introduced to Jay Gibson. That's a pretty good way to earn your stripes as a reporter.

Eventually, I broadened my horizons beyond sports, thanks to the guidance of Tom Jensen, who was our editor here until 2001. I took over for Tom, and Sept. 11, 2001 was my first press day. That should have been a clue. Karen Huber re-joined the Pioneer and the two of us, along with Dave Samson, did the best we could. We added the invaluable Forrest Adams just last year.

Over the past 10 years I've met and spoken frankly with some folks who are no longer with us. I distinctly remember the short period where we lost good people like Barb Kent, Jim Kirchen and Valerie Murch within literally days. And we wondered what could happen next. And Mike McLeod's sudden passing was a low

There have been state titles and state awards and presidential visits. There have been floods and fires and straight-line winds that have reminded us of tornados. And there have been new babies to bring a smile to everyone's face.

To leave this behind, without a doubt, is the hardest thing that I'll ever do.

I've been fortunate enough to witness the answer to Mr. McLeod's question, or statement, when he said "West Fargo needs to grow up and decide what it wants to be."

The answer, without a doubt, is a modern-day community that does a great job with keeping its original small-town wits about it. Sure, we have a Ruby Tuesdays and a Menard's. But we also have Sandy's and Ostrom's. If you want the big time, we got that. If you want small-town, mom-and-pop stores, we got that, too.

It's a place with great schools, great people and a great future. Some of the people I've been privileged to work with have made that possible.

I'd like to say thanks to a lot of people, but I know I would miss someone. The people over at the West Fargo School District, from the superintendents to the janitor, all deserve a special thank you. I've been honored to work as closely with you as I have.

To all the parents, fans and players over the past 10 years: It's been a great ride. I knew West Fargo loved its sports. I had no idea how much. I apologize for the mix-ups. I thank you for your accolades. Together, we've made a lot of memories.

To my Pioneer family: Thanks, first and foremost, to Dave Samson. You created the monster. Thanks for taking a chance. Karen Huber has been a great role model and my guidance counselor. And Sue Cwikla has been making me look good for years. To everyone there, I'll miss you very much.

The Little Red-Haired Girl and the new guy would like to bid you farewell, too. We'll always remember Fargo and West Fargo as our home, even as we make our new one in the Cities.

Take care, and I'll see you around. Who knows, I might even be on the sidelines.