With roots in place, it#8217;s off to another branch of my life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

It was September 1993 when I received a phone message from Jamie Brown, editorial supervisor with Byerly Publications, about joining The Tidewater News staff.

I was working as a lab technician with the second owner of a photography studio downtown.

Discovering that I lived down the street from Brown, I met him for our initial interview on his front porch. Brown, as anyone who knows him realizes, is quite a down-to-earth character—exemplified by him donning cut-off shorts during our meeting.

I was to meet him the next morning as well, which was Saturday, to show him some samples of my photographs and to demonstrate that I knew how to develop a roll of film.

Bright and early, we headed to the newspaper building.

Little did I know how long I would end up spending in that building.

Initially hired to take photographs, it wasn’t long before I began trying my hand at writing some columns, which came about after a visit to the local animal shelter.

When I returned to the office to tell Editor Jim Hekel how the drug-sniffing dog, Kilo, proceeded to mark his spot on the side of my shoe before I left the shelter, he said, laughing, “You’ve got to write a column about that.”

I was honored that he thought I could possibly handle a writing assignment, even if I had to poke fun at myself to do it.

And I was proud that, from then on, I was included in the column rotation. It was therapeutic for me to find the humor in a situation, and to be able to share it with the readers.

I can’t recall exactly how my next graduation came about, but eventually I began to include writing feature articles, which was to be my niche for years to come.

Got a new band? Call Wendy. Have an upcoming fund-raiser? Call Wendy. How about a story involving animals? Yes, call Wendy for that, too.

These were the types of articles I was known for writing, and the ones I’ve enjoyed the most.

The most difficult challenge for me has come in the last two years when Editor Don Koralewski left shortly after the purchase of the newspaper.

With no experience with government dealings whatsoever, I was left to begin covering meetings of the City Council, School Board and Planning Commission.

They say patience is a virtue, and to that, I say, the most virtuous folks I know have been my co-worker, Res, who has been my primary source of methodology and other information; and our publisher, Steve, who could have decided to replace me, rather than giving me the opportunity to try my hand at this, too.

Our editor ranks right up there with them, as does all of the city officials who had to put up with my persistent phone calls.

The newspaper has changed a lot since 1993. But many good times in and out of work have been shared, and have allowed us to relax, keep our sense of humor, and therefore, our sanity, as we’ve struggled to meet deadlines.

Co-workers, who have proven to be good friends, are still here. Some have come and gone.

And now it’s time for me to move on as well.

As you know, jobs related to my field are scarce in these parts, and natives like me aren’t in favor of abandoning home.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to “graduate” again, pun intended — this time as public relations specialist at Paul D. Camp Community College.

It is an opportunity that I am looking forward to with enthusiasm.

At 42, I’m still learning, still trying my hand at things, still graduating. And that will be OK, as long as I don’t forget my roots.

Wendy Walker is a staff writer for The Tidewater News. Her e-mail address is wendy.bryant@tidewaternews.com, but her day at that address is today.