After 24 years

After 24 years

COLUMN: Good friends, good memories, goodbye

After 24 years, Kevin Mills is leaving the Abbotsford News to become the new editor of the Nelson Star.

Twenty-four years. When you say it out loud, it doesn’t sound like much, but for the past quarter of a century I have been sitting in the Abbotsford newsroom attempting to inform the public about myriad events in the community.

But no longer.

I’m starting a new career, as editor of the Nelson Star, another Black Press publication.

Tomorrow is my final day at the Abbotsford News – don’t tell my editor, but it’s unlikely I’ll do much work that day – and the time has come for reflection.

During my career, I’ve covered everything from sports to business to arts to council meetings. I’ve met a lot of great people, and some not so great.

At the tender age of 25, I was covering Abbotsford council (then the smaller of the two councils when compared to Matsqui). That’s where I first learned about how passionate the community could get over “controversial” issues – like strippers.

Yes, a civic ban on strippers was my first “big” series of stories – controversial and polarizing.

During one public hearing, a man stood at the podium, banged his hand down, pointed at me sitting at the media table and told everyone in council chambers that I was “going to hell” for writing about it.

Apparently I had presented both sides of the stripper debate instead of condemning it outright.

It was my first (and definitely not the last) taste of criticism, and as my career and the city grew, weightier issues would arise.

I was on hand to witness the amalgamation of Abbotsford and Matsqui, along with the hunt for the Abbotsford Killer. I covered the Western Canada Summer Games, watched Mary Reeves shock the community by knocking off Mayor George Ferguson and then saw Ferguson regain his title three years later.

More recently I have covered issues including the Plan A projects, the Abbotsford Heat contract/deficit and the much maligned P3 water proposal which cost Mayor George Peary his job.

While issues are important, it’s the funny moments I’ll remember most. I recall sitting at a press conference and having Mayor Peary walk by and suddenly kiss me on the top of the head. Why, I’m not sure. He didn’t call… didn’t send flowers…

During the recent provincial election, while conducting a sit-down interview with Premier Christy Clark, I was rendered speechless by the Liberal leader. After asking her a question, Clark looked at me deadpan and said she wasn’t willing to answer the questions of a Chicago Blackhawks fan, referring to my signature shirt.

She was kidding.

My job has allowed me to speak with politicians and artists, rock stars and cancer patients. In this line of work you meet a lot of people.

Speaking of which, I’ve worked with some of the best. I’ve had four different editors, each with their own style and view of how a newsroom should be run.

From Mark Rushton to Gord Kurenoff, and Rick Rake to Andy Holota (my current commander-in-chief), I have managed to glean much-needed guidance, advice, inspiration and the odd butt-kicking from each of them.

I hope I can be half as good an editor in Nelson.

I’ve also learned so much from my co-workers – a surprisingly large number of them.

With little effort I can think back to at least 18 newsroom work mates who have come and gone during my tenure and now I’m adding my name to that list.

I leave behind a mix of talented individuals who will serve this community well. From the poker-playing sports guy, to the new(ish) council reporter and a talented veteran who has been here almost as long as me, the newsroom is in good hands.

They are truly the best friends I have ever had, despite what I tell them.

Finally I have to thank the Abbotsford News for the most important thing it has done for me.

I have gained experience, I’ve made friends, I’ve learned more than I thought imaginable and I’ve received a pretty hefty paycheque. However, the News is also where I met my wife, Pearl. The one who never doubted me, always supported me and said the magic words “Nelson, why not?”

She’s a gift I’ll always treasure.

Goodbye Abbotsford – for now!