The first time I covered the Town of Candor—at the October 2013 town board meeting—I thought everyone would hate me. I was an outsider and a liberal, I’d just gotten out of prison, and I looked rather obviously out of place with my biker boots, all-black attire, and facial piercings. I thought that Candor would hate me.

I was. So. Wrong.

At that first town board meeting, Supervisor Bob Riggs strolled right up and introduced himself with his Louisiana drawl, handing over a business card with his cell phone number and instructing me to call whenever I had questions, anytime. He meant it.

He was always there to answer my calls and my many questions and eventually he friended me on Facebook. I thought, “Oh no!” I was afraid if I accepted his request he would learn about my past and stop being friendly. My page includes posts of articles others have written about me, articles I’ve written about prisons and addiction, and occasional comments from people I met behind bars. In accepting his request, I knew that he’d learn I’d served prison time for a drug charge.

I took a chance and accepted the request anyway—and later when we talked he told me how impressed he was by what I’d overcome. I was moved (and relieved) by his openness and acceptance.

As I began freelancing more for the paper and began meeting more Candorites—and eventually many Spencerites and Newfielders—I found that I met a lot of people like Bob. I met wonderful people like Ed Brown, Eric Halstead, Erika Brown, Jeff Hart, and Jim Loomis, and they all went out of their way to make my job easier. Then I started covering the Tompkins County Legislature and found the same thing there when I met people like Joe Mareane and Dan Klein and Jim Dennis.

In the process of meeting all these great people, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. Unlike Route 34/96—which seems narrow, curvy, and patently unsafe—Route 96B is a beautiful drive home. The trip starts with nice views of the rolling hills of Candor and ends with a sweeping vista of Cayuga Lake. It’s the sort of road for doing some serious thinking.

Thus, every month, as I drove home from Candor town board, I found myself thinking about where my life was and where it was going. My thoughts along that road have, in a way, been the measuring stick for my life. When I first began driving that road, my life was not in a great place. I was still on parole, and my time in the car was largely spent worrying. A few months later, I found myself thinking about how glad I was that I’d moved up from freelancing and gotten a full-time job. By the end of last year, my thoughts turned to how wonderful it was to have finally graduated and then to how happy I was to have gotten a promotion to web editor.

I have often found myself driving along, grinning for no apparent reason, just feeling grateful for how much my life has improved from where I was five years ago. This week, as I drove back from Candor after the Candor school board meeting, I was grinning again … but I was also crying. That was my last drive back from Candor; as of August 28, I will be an employee at the New York Daily News.

I will miss this area dearly. I’ll miss the small-town gossip, I’ll miss the community gatherings, I’ll miss the random free cookies at meetings. And I’ll miss my wonderful editor and best friend, Glynis Hart. She gave me a chance at a time when not a lot of other people would and, without her, I surely wouldn’t be moving on now.

So before I go I should put this in print: Glynis, I will miss lots of things about the Ithaca Times and Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. I will miss free donuts on Wednesdays, I will miss June’s cheery smile when I come in, I will miss what passes for my desk (even though I’m never there), and I will miss Bill and Josh (and his interesting fashion choices) and Mike and everyone at the office. I will miss Candor, Spencer, and Newfield, but I will miss you most of all. You cannot be replaced. •

This originally appeared on ithaca.com.

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