I Can't Say It Was Ever Boring



I vividly remember the day I arrived in Payson.

I had driven 12 hours straight from 11 feet of snow in Steamboat Springs to the perfect 70-degree, winter weather of Payson.

It was the night of the Candidate Forum, held in the auditorium of Payson High School. It started at 7 p.m. and that's when I arrived.

In the ski resort, mountain town where I'd been living, showing up early was never done and, as an unspoken rule, everything starts 15 minutes late.

I was still on Steamboat time.

But that was a mistake, because at 7 p.m. there wasn't a parking spot left in any lot at Payson High School. The entire town, it seemed, wanted to hear what the council and mayoral candidates had to say.

I found a seat in the back of the auditorium, because that was about the only seat left.

And, as I settled in, I looked around and saw the faces of the town of which I was about to become a part.

You didn't know I was looking at you. You didn't know me and from the intense expression on most people's faces, this wasn't a time for socializing. This was business.

I saw people with notepads on their laps, madly scribbling as the candidates spoke. I saw husbands and wives leaning to whisper in each other's ear as the candidates answered question after question.

It was the first time I heard the names Bob Edwards -- who would later become mayor -- and the names Mike Vogel, Su Connell and Ed Blair.

I listened to the questions being asked to try to understand what was important to you. Most of the questions were about water and growth and the YMCA. The first two have rung in my mind like a daily chant. The latter seemed to be an issue during the election, but then hasn't appeared on the table again.

I drove home that night and called my family and tried to describe what I'd just seen. My parents couldn't believe that so many people would turn out for a candidates' debate. I couldn't believe it either.

I took over as the editor of the Payson Roundup the next day.

It was my first editor job and it was by no means an easy first.

By the end of my first week, I had moderated debates in my office and heard the concerns of countless strangers. Being an editor, I quickly learned, means a lot more than checking for missing commas and making sure the paper gets out on time.

I felt so young and so unqualified for the task in those first few weeks, but this is not a town that allows you to doubt yourself or make excuses.

I had been handed the helm of a ship, mid-storm.

I braced myself and tried to hold the wheel steady.

As the editor, I came to understand the role of the newspaper in a community on a level that I never had to face as a reporter.

In one of my early columns, I said that I wanted the newspaper to be a mirror for the community, so that we could see ourselves more clearly.

Holding up that mirror, you do not always show people what they want to see. But if we look at all parts of the community -- even at the things that make us ashamed -- we can understand ourselves and better prepare for the future.

I wasn't here long, but I can promise you that I gave it everything that I had while I was.

No matter where I go from here, I'll always have a special place in my heart for Payson -- partly because it was my first paper as editor and partly because tumultuous times form tight bonds.

I wish you all the best. I'm heading to Winter Park, Colo. to help start a daily newspaper for Grand County. Look me up if you're ever in the Rocky Mountains.

Until then, be nice to the new guy.

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