So much can change in a year and has.

Dynamics of relationships have changed, and some people are no longer a part of my life.

The changes haven’t always been bad, and more will be different come January.

As Paula announced last week, she is retiring, and I am taking over the reins as editor.

I’m nervous and excited all at once, but so grateful that I have been trusted to fill her shoes. I hope to be half as good as Paula has been.

For those who don’t remember, I interned here at The Gazette when I was studying at Longwood. I needed a summer internship between my junior and senior year to earn college credit, and when I contacted Paula, she was more than welcoming.

I believe my first story was a feature about a running club.

This is when Danielle Vaughn and Tiffany Hudson Whitlow were reporters here. It was great working with both of them. I enjoyed that summer.

Then I graduated and came home with no job lined up. I interned at Staunton River State Park doing marketing, but just before the summer was up, I received a call from Paula.

Tiffany was leaving, and she needed a replacement. I jumped at the chance. Back then I wanted a job in my field so bad, I probably would’ve taken an offer from just about anyone, but I’m glad it was Paula who called.

I was just about to submit my resume reel to WSET. I had just spent the past week getting everything together, and I had my boss at the park, Pat Eastwood, look over it. I was going to put the envelope in the mail that Monday, and on Sunday, Paula called me.

I couldn’t believe it. I still remember coming in for an interview, and someone asked me where did I see myself in five years. I said, “Hopefully, here,” and here I am six years later.

Employees have come and gone and sometimes returned, and I’ve sat here tackling each story with as much vigor as I can as I sit back and watch the changes play out.

But some people have remained a constant. That won’t be true next year.

They say experience is the best teacher, and it most definitely has been for me along with all of the advice these fine individuals have given me over these past six years. I will be forever grateful for them for taking a chance on a young, shy girl fresh out of college who just wanted to write and share stories of the people in this community.

It’s been a fun ride, and even though I will continue to miss those who have left and those who are leaving, I look forward to seeing what next year brings.

I will have a new position, a new babysitter, new relationships and whatever else 2020 will bring my way.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at