I’ve already written this column once, when I left the Leader after a brief seven-month stint in 2011 only to have fate bring me back at the new desk less than a year later. Now, after five years, like the title of one of my favorite Andrea Bocelli songs, it’s “Time to Say Goodbye.”
It was a tough decision. I have a private venture I initiated in September and had tried to balance both, dropping down to part-time with the newspaper back in September, but I was finding I could not properly give the attention that either one deserved as time went on.
Sometimes you have to be told it’s time to go, other times, such as in my case now, you just know the time is right.
So, after five glorious years in journalism – a field I never thought I’d enter, but grateful I had – I am leaving and moving on.
I am going to miss “my adopted hometown” of Oakdale and the many people I interacted with on a regular basis. Covering city government, police, and lately an occasional OID story, there are far too many names to mention and thank to make this last column within the word count limit I have.
When I look back, there were many fun stories I found myself getting into that will add to my life’s adventures; some of which got me called into various offices at 122 S. Third Ave. due to phone calls.
My demeanor for what it is, I always enjoyed a good investigative story or what was ‘hot’ at the moment.
There was the massage parlor story from April 2015 where I “posed” (with all my cash and prizes visible at one point) as a customer to expose prostitution activity. Another time in September 2012, I was doing a story on a pot farm right off F Street where a guy grew groves of “medicinal” marijuana only to have the cops raid him a week after the story ran.
There were the controversial stories regarding local government, certain individuals who made headlines, the airport, the homeless situation, OID, and other topics where sides were taken by readers, but what more could a reporter ask from his audience? – Certainly not universal admiration.
I learned from some well-known reporters that if you haven’t ticked someone off, you’re not doing your job and those that work in the front office knew when Rich was working something hot even before the edition came out.
The ironic thing about my time as a reporter is I seem to have gone full-circle in my story arena.
My first story when I came aboard was about the City of Riverbank using goats to clear vegetation and my last story here was about Oakdale Animal Control rescuing a goat – OK, it was a sheep once they dried the thing off.
I’m going to miss the Fridays where I got to bring my Bernese Mountain Dogs – Dante and Gino – to work as they plopped themselves around my desk as I wrote. During their afternoon walks around downtown I could count on at least three compliments about their beauty. Thank you to all that took the time to notice and talk to me.
For my replacement I hope the person has the same zest for the hot stories, striving to beat the Bee, and is balanced, getting all sides to a story.
As my former detective partner Craig Macho, who recruited me to The Leader told me to get me to take the position, “It’s just like cop work. You go out and interview everyone, ferret out the truth, and come back and write about it.”
There’s a lot of truth to that.
Which leads me to what I am going to miss most; the coworkers I’ve had for the last half-decade. The Leader staff has been some of the best colleagues I’ve had in over 35 years working. There’s a closeness I’ve rarely felt in other workplaces.
Over 26 years in my previous professional life in law enforcement, I worked with a number of individuals who had the ability to take away freedoms daily, or, if put in the situation, could legally take a life. I put the staff here parallel to the ones from the past.
Every goodbye is an ending. Many of those little endings are the close of something you value — something that brought meaning or pleasure to your life, and the last five years was exactly that.
Thanks for the ride.