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Last day in the office. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

Time to say goodbye.

This is my last Oamaru Mail as editor – sort of.

I am heading back to Dunedin on Sunday to begin an exciting new role on November 12 as editorial executive for the Otago Daily Times, our sister paper.

You won’t be losing me immediately. I will continue to edit this newspaper from Dunedin until my replacement has been sorted.

For those who have been following it, yes, this continues the world’s most boring career path: ODT to Oamaru Mail to ODT to Oamaru Mail and back to ODT

On duty as manager of the Waitaki Boys’ High School First XV last year. A life-changing experience. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

I cut my teeth as a sports reporter at the ODT, and my love for New Zealand’s best daily newspaper has never dimmed. A return to Dunedin gives me an opportunity to contribute to its future and reconnect with many of my former treasured colleagues.

Heading “home” to Dunedin – Mosgiel this time, actually – is also a great move for my family, and we’re looking forward to spending more time with my in-laws and stepchildren.

But of course I leave with plenty of sadness in my heart.

My blood runs deep in North Otago, and while I don’t have many close friends (what journalist does?) here, I have been able to connect with hundreds of great people through the privileged role of small-town newspaper editor.

It was never the plan to return to Oamaru when we did, but it has been a great four years, and the experience of transforming the Oamaru Mail from a struggling daily paper to a thriving weekly paper has been extraordinary.

We had no real template, but we pitched in to give the community the newspaper it deserved. No story would be too small. The overwhelming focus had to be on relevant, local news. And dang straight there would be lots of sport.

I do love this paper, and I hope the people of this fine district appreciate how fortunate they are to have the best of both worlds – a major daily newspaper and a warm community newspaper, both owned by the same Otago family – and continue to support both titles.

It might be the era of digital media but I remain convinced there is no substitute for your local paper, no other all-in-one package for news and views and photos of your people, your place.

With my boy Eli at the Oamaru Public Gardens. PHOTO: SASKIA MEIKLE

I want to thank some people before I leave.

Mum and Dad – you taught me more than you realised, and I miss you both.

All of my colleagues – especially Mark Julius, Daniel Birchfield, Sally Brooker, indefatigable photographer Carol Edwards, and my professional soulmate, Sally Rae – and our columnists, especially Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher.

All of our schools – especially the Oamaru secondary schools. May you all continue to thrive.

The 2017 Waitaki Boys’ High School First XV – seize the day, boys.

Everyone in the North Otago sports community – simply too many to mention. Thanks for putting up with me. And go Valley.

Finally, and most importantly, our readers.

Thank you for your support. Keep making this district great.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz