To be perfectly honest, I didn't know much about Phoenixville 10 months ago.
I had driven through the borough several times in the past and covered a few high school basketball games as a sports writer while working at another Chester County newspaper. My only interaction with Phoenixville was dealing with the high school and sports staff members of The Phoenix.
I never really got to know the town until I was hired as a copy editor at The Phoenix in April 2003. My first day was Memorial Day and the friendliness and hometown feel of the borough made me feel right at home from the start.
My fellow writer Dennis J. Wright immediately took me into Frank's Italian Delite where the staff has been nothing short of friendly and outgoing from the start. I spent many dinners at the various shops and stores on Bridge Street and Nutt Road.
Phoenixville has a lot going for it right now. Friends of mine tell me all the time how they look forward to seeing acts at Steel City. Colonial Theatre is always busy for the 7-8 p.m. nightly show. In the spring and summer months, Reeves Park is constantly crowded.
Phoenixville has a strong history and even stronger sense of community. Restaurants are constantly popping up. Just Wednesday alone, I had a great plate of barbeque chicken at the new Bigg Daddy's Rhythm and Ribz. From the minute I walked in the door, I was greeted with a smile.
Even where I live in Delaware County, I've never seen such events like "The Blob" re-enactment at Colonial, "Mr. Phoenixville," or the Dogwood Pageant. The town has a lasting effect on the people who come in direct contact with it. The three news writers care deeply about their assignments. All Bill Rettew talks about is how fascinating the borough council meetings are and what big plans the area will soon undertake. While she hasn't been here very long, Kate Saunders really enjoys her Steel City shows, Bridge and Main street store openings and various weekend events.
Dennis Wright, he's a different story. His personality made me feel right at home right when I walked through the doors on my job interview. Everywhere I go in the borough, he knows everyone. He knows his beat, and loves every minute of it. He knows what's going on, what needs to be done and where to find it.
The readers have also made me feel comfortable. As a copy editor, you don't exactly have the same amount of bylined articles as a staff writer. I'm not out covering games like the sports writers or council meetings like the news writers. Therefore, I'm a behind the scenes guy of the editorial staff that comes in contact with very few outside the office.
What I've learned is how passionately local readers take The Phoenix. Both good and bad, I had readers approach me and comment to me about my column. Without even introducing themselves to me, they approached me like a friend and told me they understood what I was going through. Most of my columns have been an extension of past actions or beliefs. For those have read this column in the past, I thank you.
As a reader, you may be asking why I'm mentioning all of these events and things about Phoenixville. Most of them are items of information that everyone already knows.
But for me, it's a little different.
Sunday is my last night as copy editor at the paper. I will be starting on Tuesday as a copy editor at The Trentonian. For various reasons, it was an opportunity that I couldn't see myself passing up as I look to further my career in the newspaper business.
Even though I often struggled with topics (and finding time to finish it), I took a lot of pride in this column. You see, all I had was three years as a high school sports writer. I could tell you anything you wanted about high school girls basketball or softball.
But business, politics, religion, I would have passed the buck off to someone else.
I came here as a sports writer. I left as a news editor. More importantly, I left a better person.
I merely reported the scores 10 months ago. Now, I have a better idea of what news is and should be for people.
Phoenixville wasn't just a stop along the way. It's been the place where I have proudly called home for the past 10 months.
I thank you for that.
Kevin Leitzell can be reached at email@example.com.