If there’s one thing that car wreck taught me, it was to be more observant, more careful, and more prepared. That lesson stuck with through the three and a half years I’ve been in Hannibal as the news leader of the Courier-Post.

In my first two weeks of living in Hannibal, I was in a car accident near the Hannibal Walmart. My car slid on ice on a downhill stretch of pavement and any effort to brake was futile as the car went right into Stardust and hit a pickup truck. It wasn’t a great start to my time in America’s Hometown.

I was young, knew no one here, and felt too inexperienced to be taking the reins of Missouri’s oldest daily newspaper that has ties to one of America’s greatest writers.

Boy, did I feel incompetent and the car accident felt like a bad omen.

But if there’s one thing that car wreck taught me, it was to be more observant, more careful, and more prepared. That lesson stuck with through the three and a half years I’ve been in Hannibal as the news leader of the Courier-Post.

Friday will be my last day at the newspaper. I’ve accepted a position at the St. Louis Symphony, which puts me closer to family.

I love St. Louis, warts and all, but I’ve also grown to love Hannibal as well.

To be truthful, I didn’t really understand the town when I moved here in February 2015. I thought it was a strange mix of people and things, conflicted in identity.

But I’ve come to understand America’s Hometown — I think. I’ve never experienced in any other place I’ve lived the charm of a downtown festival quite like the Autumn Folklife Festival. The bustle of visitors is intoxicating during tourist season, while I appreciate the solitude of Riverview Park in the fall.

I’ve never felt quite as welcomed as I did when attending my first few events in Hannibal as a fresh-faced newcomer.

And while I don’t celebrate them, I appreciate the struggles and issues Hannibal faces as well.

Hannibal is a dynamic town, filled with stories that need to be told and heard. The Courier-Post does this better than any other news outlet in the area, and I would gladly debate that with anyone.

The journalists that work here are from here and live here. They understand the history of this town and the repercussions of changes. You see them walking in the neighborhood, shopping at stores, and taking their kids and grandkids to events.

They are to be trusted, despite a popular refrain from politicians who like to shout “fake news” to discredit all journalists.

From my time at the Courier-Post, I can point to several pieces of journalism of which I am most proud. A four-part series in September 2016 on Hannibal’s heroin homefront was a multiple award winner that dug into the drug issue as it was developing, not when it was already established.

We’ve uncovered citations against the city of Hannibal by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, examined the city’s failing stormwater system in depth, covered the condemnation process the city follows and looked at how the Hannibal School District handles at-risk students.

We’ve told the stories of the mission to save local bats, a baby’s fight for survival, military honors, and organ donation.

We’ve broken stories on jail hangings, residents denied the opportunity to vote in an election, and public disputes between elected officials.

Simply put, the Courier-Post is a valuable part of the community, and I hope you will continue to support the journalists here, just as I will be from afar. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you, readers. And thanks.