I love Chicago Heights.
Honestly, I didn't know if I would when I first moved here nearly three years ago. My wife was being hired at the Chicago Heights Public Library and she needed to live in the city to work there, so we were looking for apartments.
We drove from the north to the south side and found ourselves asking, "Is this the same town?"
A real estate agent showed us a house for rent. We asked him if there was a lot of crime in the area. "I can't answer that," he said.
Eventually, we settled on an apartment just south of Joe Orr Road and moved in. Not long after, I started freelancing for Tinley Park Patch. About a month later, I was contacted by Patch Regional Editor (at the time) Dennis Robaugh, who told me the company was considering a site for Chicago Heights. He encouraged me to apply for the position.
Clearly, I got it.
Suddenly, Chicago Heights became much more to me than the mere location of my apartment.
Learning about the Heights was difficult. It's a city full of historic highs and lows. Sports legends. Political corruption. Industrial powerhouses. Economic deterioration. Beautiful landmarks. Major crime. All are important parts of Heights history.
After Chicago Heights Patch went live, it took on a life of its own. A lot of my coverage was guided by local complaints:
"Why don't you ever write about this?"
So I did (usually).
It took listening to Heights residents for me to realize which issues people cared about most, and I did my best to reflect that on the Heights Patch.
Now, more than two years after we launched, I am leaving Patch—not on bad terms—but I am leaving for new ventures.
Patch was my first full-time job out of journalism school, and it taught me a lot. I learned that my efforts to be a balanced and fair editor won't always leave everyone happy with my report. I learned that I'll never know as much as I think I do. I learned that being wrong is part of life and to acknowledge it and apologize.
Most of all, I learned my limitations and, in a few cases, my capabilities.
I've met people in the Heights that I hope to know for the rest of my life. I've also met people I hope I never have to see again. I'm now a full-fledged property-owning Chicago Heights resident. My youngest son was born at St. James Hospital and my oldest is learning to play piano at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. I'm a part of the community I have covered, and I truly do love it.
I'll miss being the Patch guy, but I welcome seeing my hometown as more than simply a job.
Thank you, Chicago Heights, for teaching me so much. You’ve helped me realize I’ve got a long way to go.
My official last day is March 1. If you want to reach out to me and keep in touch, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As I said two years ago in the ol' welcome video, I look forward to hearing from you.