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Column: A thank you to the people of Hastings

In late August 2006, I got my first assignment as a reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. Mick Humbert had just biked across the country to raise money for a church in Red Lake, Minn., and I went over to his house to talk about it.

Since then, the people of Hastings have consistently surprised and amazed me. It's with a heavy heart that I bid the citizens of this city farewell this week. I've taken a new job at a public relations company and will start there soon.

Beginning with my first story on Humbert's cross country ride, what's kept me interested is the knowledge that someone in Hastings is doing something newsworthy every day. An old journalism cliché is that everyone has a story to tell. This, too, might sound like a cliché, but I've found that to be true in Hastings.

The people are what make this job fun, I can say that without a doubt. I've had the pleasure of meeting some remarkable people in my time at the Star Gazette.

There was Arnie Cleveland, a man I met in Prescott on a freezing December day in 2006 to watch him wind surf in a small area of open water. He was perfectly happy trolling around the freezing water in front of an audience of one reporter, a flock of geese, and undoubtedly some confused passersby.

Over the course of two days in November 2007, I sat down with Mike Christle and talked about his time as a Japanese prisoner of war in WWII. He went through some horrifying experiences, and he told me his story from start to finish, which we printed in a two-part article. I was saddened to hear of Christle's passing recently, but honored when one of his nephews said the two stories I wrote about him were displayed at his wake. Apparently he told me things about his experience that he'd never told anyone in his family.

Another one of my favorite interviews was with downtown's Dick Reissner. We talked for hours about his family and the changes he's seen downtown. Reissner is one of those people that you meet and feel like you've known for years.

I've been amazed by the trust people have bestowed upon me. I've followed the Schultz family, Jim, Lori, Heidi, Andrew and Pete, over a couple years as Jim and Heidi (a father and daughter) deployed together to Iraq. They've opened their house to me on several occasions and I'll never forget their kindness and willingness to share.

Hastings is blessed with strong public safety departments. I'll miss my weekly stops at the Hastings Fire Department, and everyone I interact with there.

Being a part of the first Citizen Police Academy at the police department was a real treat, and many of the officers I met through that program, and my normal reporting duties, are incredibly committed and brave people.

I've covered two elections, and countless City Council meetings, open houses, Planning Commission meetings, and council committee meetings. I couldn't have done my job without the help I received from elected officials and city staff, and for that I'm thankful.

My time here hasn't been without sadness too. The hardest part of my job has been interviewing people who had recently lost someone they loved. I can only hope talking to me about their loved ones was somewhat therapeutic.

I've been consistently amazed by this community's generosity and willingness to help when someone is in need. Whether it's a fundraiser, benefit or the simple act of volunteering, Hastings takes care of its people.

The thing about mentioning people specifically is that you can't mention them all. Just because your name isn't in this column doesn't mean I won't remember you.

If I can leave the people of Hastings with one thought, it's that you made this job fun for me. Thank you.