Beginning a new chapter

Beginning a new chapter


by Mike Van Sickle



I have experienced writer’s block in the past, but this is the first time it is because I have so much to say and don’t know where to start.

     After nearly 20 years in the newspaper industry, I have accepted a new career opportunity in Editorial Services at Upper Iowa University. So this will be the last article I will be writing as editor of The Union and as regional manager of the Elgin Echo, Fayette Leader, and Ossian Bee.

     Over the years my role as news, feature, and sports writer has provided me the opportunity to personally meet a countless number of people, many of whom I owe an extreme amount of gratitude. I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

     I am indebted to fellow Hawkeye native Janell Bradley, then owner/publisher of the Elgin Echo, who first took a chance on me as an unproven writer.

     Initially my main interest was in sports writing. Valley wrestling coach LeVirgil Monroe, assistant coach Bob Fassbinder, and the Tiger wrestlers led by John Kelly and Pat McMillan especially made this green sports reporter feel at home along the mat. To say they made my job fun is a vast understatement.

     The list of other Valley, North Fayette, West Central, and Turkey Valley high school coaches and athletes I feel blessed to have met and covered over the early years is too long to include in this space.

     I gathered some experience in feature and news writing at The Echo, but it wasn’t until I was hired at The Union that I mainly started to cover “the news” of Unionland.

     Meetings with the Fayette County Supervisors, North Fayette and Valley school boards, area community organizations, and the city councils of West Union and the surrounding communities were soon regularly marked on my calendar.

     What would any of us do without our public servants? As a citizen, I wish to thank each of these officials and volunteers for the time and effort they put into their jobs or group for the betterment of their respective community, county, or region.

     As a reporter, I wish to thank each of them for taking the time to answer my questions even during difficult times. At the same time I wish to thank their respective secretaries, clerks, etc., who took my messages or even answered my questions on occasion.

     I would like to give a special salute to our local law enforcement, fire departments, and EMS.

     As a reporter, I especially enjoyed working with the late Chuck Broghammer, former West Union fire chief; current Fire Chief Roger Gamm, and the entire WUFD; Clermont Fire Chief Randy Wiedenhoff; Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher and the sheriff’s office; and the West Union Police Department.

     With all due respect to the other groups, organizations, and individuals with whom I have bonded in friendship, I am left to thank the staffs of The Union, Echo, Fayette Leader, and Ossian Bee.

     Current publisher LeAnn Larson provided the phone call asking me if I would be interested in joining The Union. After I was hired, then publisher Jerry Blue gave me some early lessons in reporting and photography that I still remember to this day.

     From Publisher Larson to the sports, news, proofreading, design, composition, and sales staff, you will never find a harder-working staff than you have at The Union, Echo, Leader, and Bee.

     As you can tell, what I will miss most about leaving this position is the people – from those I reported on each and every week to those who greeted me in the office almost each and every day.

So in closing, I thank everyone who for nearly 20 years each week lent me your words or took the time to pick up the newspaper and read my work. It has been an extremely gratifying chapter in my life, one that I hope to only build on at UIU. 

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