Well, this is not how I foresaw my exit from the Morning Times going, but timing in this life is something that has always been out of my control.

After just over four years, this week is my last as a reporter for this fine newspaper. It’s important to note right off the bat that this has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crisis; I am simply pursuing a new opportunity that I am excited to begin.

Ideally, I wanted to announce this bit of personal news in person at each meeting and to all of my professional relationships that I’ve had over the past four years but, of course, that is pretty much impossible at this point. So, this column will have to do.

Firstly, I need to thank God for placing me where He wanted me when the time was right. While the current timing of my departure feels like the worst possible scenario, I’ve learned from past personal experience that His timing is perfect, and I trust that completely.

I also need to thank my publisher, Kelly Luvison, and my former editor, Warren Howeler, for taking a chance and hiring me in late January 2016. From the start, they held my feet to the fire while also giving me support and making me a better reporter than I thought I could be.

When I first started working here, the only place in the Valley I knew how to get to with any confidence that was not on Elmira Street was Pizza Hut (RIP). I drove right by the Morning Times office on my first job interview and wound up in a parking lot I was prohibited from using.

Since that time, I have become happily married, moved to Sayre and called the Valley home — and there are few places I can’t find. These past four years have seen many significant changes in my life, and my time here at the newspaper has supported me through all of it.

Most of my beat has been on the New York side of our Valley. I have been a regular at the Waverly Board of Trustees and the Waverly and Tioga Central School Boards. There are so many individuals from all three of those entities that I want to thank and I will miss, and I don’t want to leave any of them out.

All I can say is that voters have done a great job electing people who genuinely care about their communities and want what is best for all of them. I’m sure I have written stories that have made their lives difficult from time to time, but I have always had outstanding, transparent relationships with all of them and they understand that I was simply doing my job bringing news, good or bad, to their communities.

And speaking of communities, I could not have asked to serve better communities than all of the ones that collectively make up this Valley. Whether it was something as simple as asking for directions to incredibly obvious and iconic places or interviewing people who had just suffered a terrible loss of some sort — this community has been nothing but kind and welcoming in spite of my awkward and sometimes difficult questions.

I am certainly going to miss this job. I will miss the too-deep conversations and arguments I’ve had with Kirk about rock music and sports, and I will miss the even deeper discussions on politics and life that I’ve had with my fellow reporter, Matt.

I will miss everyone in the newsroom department — Pat, Cathy, Dave and even our newcomer, Ryan — whom I already know I would get into too many football arguments with come NFL season. I will miss the out-of-context snippets of conversation from the other departments.

I will miss the Saturdays when I would cover event after event of examples of this Valley community coming together to benefit one or many of their own. I will miss covering the pride, respect and patriotism of our local veterans organizations. I will miss covering the talents and accomplishments of this community’s local students at all grade levels.

Thank you to everyone involved in all of my stories throughout these four years, and especially to our readers. Your interest and care for your community keeps these stories going, and I am proud that I could be the one to tell them to you for these past four years. God bless the Valley.

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 232 or jwilliams@morning-times.com. Follow Johnny Williams on Twitter @johnnywMT

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