Thank you. It's been an honor to be your publisher.
This, in all likelihood, marks the last time I will write something as publisher of the Central Oregonian.
As many of you already know, on Nov. 1, I will be stepping down as publisher so that I can accept a job at the Pamplin Media Group corporate office in Portland. Tony Ahern, publisher of the Madras Pioneer, will be assuming the role of publisher for both newspapers.
When I came to Prineville in 2002, I had no idea that I was moving to a place where I would spend more time than any other place I'd ever lived.
Portland, Corvallis, Laughlin (Nev.), John Day, Goldendale (Wash.), Astoria, Prosser (Wash.), Grangeville (Idaho), Dallas, Canby, Grangeville (again), Federal Way (Wash.), and then I came to Prineville. Now, after 11 years, the circle is closing and I'm moving back to Portland.
Now I'm sure that there are a few of you — maybe more than a few — that are ready for me to go. I'm okay with that. If we all agreed on everything, the world would be a remarkably boring place — as would your local newspaper.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about my time here in Crook County. I have good memories and bad, but I have to say that I wouldn't have stayed here as long as I did if I didn't feel that this is a special place. For some, it's the scenery, and for others it's the weather, but for me, it's the people.
Oh yes, the people — each and every one of them.
From the ones who wrote me rather terse letters to the editor, to the people who made me feel like Prineville was my home and not just another waypoint in my life.
Not long after I assumed the role as editor of the Central Oregonian in 2002, I re-designed the newspaper's look and content. Some of you weren't happy with the changes (and let me know about it), but one reader has been forever etched in my memory.
An elderly lady came in one day and asked to see the new editor. The Central Oregonian receptionist came in to my office and said, "There's a lady out here who wants to speak to the new editor."
Now I'll admit that after taking more than a few lumps for the decisions I'd made, I was bracing myself for another tongue lashing. Nonetheless, I went to the front desk and introduced myself.
"Hi, I'm Vance Tong."
"Are you the new editor?"
"Yes ma'am, I am."
And then she said something that caught me by complete surprise.
"Can I just say, God bless you?"
In all my years of newspapering, I had never had a reader say that to me.
She went on to tell me how pleased she was about the changes we had made at the newspaper.
Now, more than 11 years later, I cling to that memory and want to complete the circle.
Let me just say, God bless you Crook County. It's been an honor.