Despite writing for The Ely Times for almost two years now, this will be the first time I’ve ever written something for the paper about myself. For two years I’ve done my best to keep the spotlight, and the company’s nice camera, pointed right back at the community around me.  I’ve stood atop a water tower amid a boil water alert (my co-workers still make fun of me for how scared I was going up and down that ladder), I’ve sat in on countless city council meetings and I’m proud to say I’ve cheered on the hometown Bobcats and Ladycats in just about every sport the high school offers.

But now the time has come for me to give someone else the chance to experience all that Ely and reflect it back as truthfully as they can to you, this newspapers’ dear readers. I came to Ely in December of 2013, pursuing a life long dream of being a journalist and I can say now that every single person in this city has helped make my dream come true. I can’t tell you the number of fascinating conversations I’ve had with the people that have called this town home their entire lives, but I can relay back to you the insight I have gleaned from them.

For starters, Ely is a happening place! And by that, I mean there is way more happening here than I would have ever expected. I distinctly remember worrying how I would fill the pages of a weekly newspaper as I made my first four hour drive up from Las Vegas. I laugh at that thought now, as my life has turned into constantly having to remind myself to go to this event, or that game, or make sure to print the myriad of announcements and coming events and programs put on by all the wonderful local organizations.

For such a small place, I’ve seen more hard work, more volunteers and more heart put into the events here than I ever saw in my 20-plus years living in a big city. It’s inspiring stuff, and it’s been my mission since day one to highlight those in the community that make it all happen. To all those that I’ve written about, I hope I did you and your stories right. To those that I never met or wrote about, I’m sorry and I hope your work gets  the attention it deserves in the future.

Something else I’ve learned is the power of hearing someone out. I know I’m just a city boy who ultimately didn’t spend anywhere near as much time here than most of you have in your lifetime, but my coming in from the outside has been to my benefit in a lot of ways trying to report the news. Many of the people in this town have known each other for years, or maybe even their entire lives, and have come to an understanding as to how they feel about them. In my experience, that can sometimes lead to people or groups of people seemingly never getting along.

In my two years at the paper, I’ve heard many things said about many people, but in almost every single instance of negativity, I’ve found it to be several steps away from the truth. My job requires me to talk to people on both sides of controversial issues, and in my doing so, I’ve never met anyone who wished ill on Ely. It might sound odd, but I would actually recommend that the next time you feel certain on a divisive local issue, approach it as a reporter would: Research first, then ask questions, and always give both sides a chance to state their case. An open mind and a healthy curiosity can lead to completely new perspectives on things, and almost assuredly will give you something new to consider.

Many have asked me where I stand on certain issues that I’ve written about, and my honest answer is that I don’t know. It is my opinion that a reporter shouldn’t have an opinion, and I’ve always tried to keep mine out of the stories I wrote. I know some might not believe me, but just know that I’ve been accused of being biased on both sides of several issues, which to me says I’ve done my job.

But enough about advice, this column isn’t meant for that. Instead it is meant to thank each and every one of you for welcoming me into your community, trusting me enough to tell you the news of your town and for letting me take so, so many pictures of all your beautiful faces and putting them in a publication that is seen by the rest of the town.

As an indoor enthusiast who is allergic to trees, grass and hypersensitive to sunlight in one eye, I never imagined moving to a small mountain town who embraces the outdoor life to affect me as much as it has, but it has. I will miss your spirit, your camaraderie, your selflessness, your generosity, your kindness and your honesty (save for the few that successfully bluffed me at the Hotel Nevada poker Table on weekends) and Twin Wok’s amazing lunch buffet.

Thank you all for making my time at The Ely Times something special.