After more than a year and a half of living and working in Texoma, I’m saying goodbye.

I recently accepted a job with the Associated Press in Phoenix, and I’m moving next week. I did not come to the decision to leave North Texas lightly. In fact, it was a tough decision. I have fallen in love with this place, and I’ve met and worked with many extraordinary people. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.

I started working with the Herald Democrat as the police and fire reporter in January 2016. I was hired after graduating from Oklahoma Christian University the month prior. Since the day I packed up my bags and drove from my hometown of Oklahoma City to Sherman, I’ve learned something new everyday.

My time here seems to have flown by, and it has definitely been one of the most valuable and interesting experiences of my life. I have witnessed much; I have seen the best and worst of this area. I have seen first responders perform their duty with grace, empathy and professionalism in times of great stress and sometimes great devastation. I have met several public officials with a passion for bettering the communities around them. And they seem to realize the role the media plays in keeping what they do in check and informing the public on what’s actually happening.

I have worked with reporters and editors in the Herald Democrat newsroom who serve this community daily to the best of their ability, and they take to heart the mission of local journalism that is sometimes misunderstood, overlooked or even attacked. The people in this newsroom believe in what they do — they believe in shining a light on the darkness and putting a check on the powers that be. It’s often a thankless and even criticized job, but it’s something so vital to this community.

While this newspaper does not have the resources to dive deep on every tip and uncover every allegation that lands on our desks, the people in this newsroom do care about the communities they serve, and they always work diligently to report as accurately and as in depth as possible.

I can never express my gratitude and appreciation adequately enough to my coworkers and the people of Texoma for all they have taught and given me. So I will just say a simple thank you and farewell.

Happy birthday Friday to Joe Marvin Fulencheck, Ron Seal and Jokari Barnum, all of Denison; Josice Wright, Cecil Crockett and Leonard Bell Sr., all of Sherman; Timothy Scott Arrington of Gunter; Latoya Jamerson of Lubbock; Gary Pittman of Cartwright, Oklahoma; and Riley Lyles of Ivanhoe.