Goodbye, thanks and good luck

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By AJ Vicens

All good things come to an end, and for me, the time has come to leave the Columbine Courier.

I came to South Jeffco in September 2007 knowing virtually nothing about the area, outside of having visited Chatfield Reservoir as a child and watching the Columbine High School tragedy unfold while I was a junior at Eaglecrest High School in Aurora. I came here from Sterling for the chance to work in the Denver area, and had no idea how much I’d grow to appreciate this place.

South Jeffco is one of the key parts of the metro area, with nearly 100,000 residents and all the issues of any major city. There are budget issues, drugs and murders, and businesses coming and going.

While some of our coverage comes from sources in county government, law enforcement or other official entities, some of our best stories come from people in the community who care.

In that respect, I’d like to specifically thank several area residents for consistently helping me and the paper focus on what’s important. People like Diane Suchomel, Regan Benson and Justin Everett deserve credit for helping us pay attention to important stories in our area.

Jefferson County government officials, from county administration to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, also deserve credit for working with us on stories.

Jeffco sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley, along with spokesman Jim Shires, were always there for me to talk about law enforcement issues in the county, whether the story reflected well on the sheriff’s office or not. Sheriff Ted Mink was also helpful in discussing stories that didn’t always make him look good.

Kathryn Heider, spokeswoman for the county, also deserves credit for making various Jeffco government officials available for stories, and for helping track down sometimes-difficult documents.

I’d also like to thank Jeffco district attorney spokeswoman Pam Russell, and all the county’s elected officials that at least tolerated my attempts at journalism. I’d like to thank Dakota Ridge High School principal Jim Jelinek for working with me to overcome a rocky relationship between the paper and the school to develop a constructive relationship that addresses negative issues without overlooking the positive accomplishments of the school’s students.

I’ve worked thousands of hours trying to put together stories I thought area readers would care about, and although I’m proud of the work we were able to produce, I realize that things could always be better. I made mistakes and tried to correct them every time we realized they had occurred or whenever readers pointed them out. I apologize for any mistakes I made that weren’t corrected.

Please help Emile Hallez Williams, our new reporter, pick up where I left off. He’s been a freelancer for our paper for some time shooting photos and writing stories, and he could benefit from area residents’ letting him know what’s important to them.

As for me, I’m moving on to other opportunities and will watch developments in South Jeffco with great interest. Thank you to everyone who helped me out, and everyone who took time to call me or send an e-mail when I stumbled.

Any correspondence for AJ Vicens should be sent to news@evergreenco.com.