I was a senior in high school when I got my first chance to see my name in a daily newspaper. It came after a boys basketball game between, ironically, the Gig Harbor Tides and Port Angeles Roughriders. It was 1997.
Today is the last time I’ll see my name in print — on a regular basis, anyway.
For almost 17 years, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of contributing to community journalism. From the Peninsula Daily News in my hometown of Port Angeles, to the Gateway and the Puyallup Herald, The Olympian and even small roles with The (Spokane) Spokesman Review and The Associated Press, I’ve been in the Northwest with a focus on prep sports, community events and local politics — and many issues in between.
Now it’s time to move on.
This isn’t a typical I’m-leaving-your-town story, though. I’m staying right here, a place I’ve grown to love since I moved to the area when I took my first job at the Gateway in June 2003.
I loved it so much that, when I went to The Olympian in late 2005, I came back less than two years later.
Sure, it was to serve in a different role as the editor of the paper, but I couldn’t pass it up.
That was seven years ago, and it’s been quite a ride ever since.
My wife Stacie and I got married that summer. We bought a house at Palmer Lake the following July. We had our son, Mason, in May 2009.
We’re entrenched here, and I won’t be going far.
Starting Monday, I’ll start as the communications coordinator at Peninsula Light Company, which we’ve covered in these pages extensively because it’s the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas’ only utility provider.
While I’ve known folks there for years, they only approached me about a specific job opportunity a few weeks ago.
I’m looking forward to a singular focus with an organization that, like the Gateway and the Herald, likes to be involved in community-related events. You might actually see me at more of them.
But before I fade into the crowd, I’ve narrowed down some of my favorite memories to three. There are countless others; I’d be glad to share them sometime down the road.
• Behind the scenes: It was my first winter sports season here in 2003-04, and the Gig Harbor High School girls basketball team reached the Class 4A state tournament. The Tides were the only local team left standing at that point, and I approached head coach Bob Boback with an idea of an all-access pass during the team’s state run.
I asked if it would be OK if a photographer and I followed them everywhere, from practice to games, including locker room talks pregame, at halftime and immediately afterward.
I wasn’t sure he’d go for it.
A day or two later, he told me part of his job was to help promote his program, and he approved.
It took a little convincing of the WIAA officials who didn’t want us to follow the coach and his players into the locker room at the Tacoma Dome, but it provided a unique perspective during the week, and the Tides eventually placed eighth. They’ve been back to state twice since then, but they haven’t won another trophy.
The following Wednesday, I had two different long-form stories: game recaps from all four of the Tides’ games, plus the insider’s perspective about the game plans, the halftime adjustments and how it all played out.
• Race for a Soldier: I got to know Leslie Mayne during that same time, through her connection with Boback and the girls basketball team, although it was several years later when I really got to know the founder of Gig Harbor’s only half-marathon.
Mayne’s son was in the Army and struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Unfortunately, he committed suicide soon after he was released.
That drove Mayne to find a way to help fund alternative forms of therapy for soldiers who return from war-torn areas overseas.
In 2011, the Race for a Soldier was born. I wanted to help, and one of the best ways I knew how was to promote it in the newspaper.
I was out of shape, but I convinced myself to commit to running in the event and writing a column about it once a month to track my training progress.
From late May through the race in October that year, I worked my way up to the 13.1-mile distance. I lost 30 pounds along the way — something I wouldn’t have done without the drive I felt for the cause, and the public accountability I put on myself to update my progression.
• Students of Distinction: For the past 11 years, the Gateway has hosted an annual community banquet to honor more than 30 graduating high school seniors. We’ve partnered with supportive community sponsors to give away more than $10,000 in post-secondary scholarships each year.
While I don’t have a favorite class, the experience each May is rewarding because I get to learn about individual students from this community who are destined for great things. The faces change, but the accomplishments seem to be more impressive every year.
This week is my last at the paper, but I’ll continue to be involved with Students of Distinction through May 21. It’s a special night with 300 of our closest friends at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church.
I hope to see you there, or elsewhere, throughout our community.Brian McLean: 253-358-4150 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_brian