If you're a regular Frankfort Patch reader, you probably know that I've been harboring the worst-kept secret around town since just after Labor Day.
That's largely because it wasn't really a secret. More of an unannouced fact or a professional matter that no one drew attention to yet.
But now it can be told. My secret is this: I have a new job that's taking me out of Frankfort.
Just before Labor Day, I was asked to take over the Tinley Park Patch site (that editor had been asked to start new Patch sites in the area), and I agreed to it just after Fall Fest. Since then I've been working double-time between the two sites. Starting this week, however, I will be working fully in Tinley, and a new Frankfort editor will come on board.
Although I'm excited at the new challenges covering Tinley will bring, I'm sad to leave Frankfort and the Patch site I helped get up and running back in November 2010. Patch reinvigorated my love of journalism by showing me how to cover a community by being a part of it, and not simply parachuting in for the big news stories.
And Frankfort has been the perfect place to do that, and I've developed a deep affection for the village.
I've been amazed at how people—from residents to business owners to civic leaders—have embraced Patch and treated me with such respect from the outset. Many of you have invited me into your lives so that I could tell your stories on the site, and that has been a responsibility I never took lightly. It also was a responsibility that was rewarded anytime a person came up to me after an article had been published to tell me he or she was happy I had written the story, even if it wasn't the most flattering piece.
Recently, when I called to tell a local school board member that I was moving on, we got to talking about my time here, and she told me about how a board article I wrote almost a year ago absolutely drove her nuts. She didn't like how I spun the story, and she made a point of telling me at the next meeting. She was passionate at the time, explaining what she took issue with.
Before I could mount any type of defense or explanation, she capped it all off by saying: "But you weren't wrong, and you did a really good job writing it. I'm just glad you come the meetings and cover us."
If I didn't tell her it at the time, she knows now: In my 15-year career, that was the best compliment I've ever received from someone I've covered. Here was someone who didn't agree with how I wrote a piece, but who felt she could tell me that directly and who still understood—and appreciated—that I had a job to do.
The fact that that board member's reaction is the rule and not the exception, is one of the things that makes Frankfort such a wonderful community to cover. And it's one of the many things that I am going to miss.
However, I'm only moving one village over. Heck, Lincoln-Way and Summit Hill school districts draw from Tinley Park, so I will still have excuses—I mean, "legitimate professional reasons" to roll in to town. I've already threatened the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce that I plan to volunteer for Fall Fest again next year, and so long as I can have a pulled pork sandwich-and-waffle brunch there, you'll definitely see me pop up at the Country Market when its open.
Also, let me reassure everyone of something: I might be leaving Frankfort, but Patch isn't. The new editor, Anna Schier, starts Tuesday, Oct. 2. I've met her and given her a quick tour of the village, and she's excited to start working here. She has a great enthusiasm for the job, and I think she'll do great. Please treat her as wonderfully as you did me (well, maybe not that wonderfully).
I guess that's everything except for one big thank you to everyone. To the residents I've met in person to do interviews, as well as those I've only "met" via phone, e-mail or Facebook. To the village and school officials who patiently explained government operations and district history. And a special thank you to all the readers who kept me on my toes and made my day just by saying, "You're from The Patch? Oh, I read your stuff all the time."
Next month, Frankfort Patch celebrates its second anniversary. Make sure to save a piece of cake for me.
Editor's note: Yes, I realize I'm trying to hitch a ride to Tinley Park by flagging down cars going southbound on LaGrange Road. And loath, though, I am to do it, I'm going to plead artistic license on this one. It was tough finding a Frankfort sign close to the road where I could also catch the sunset.
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