Hello, Jefferson County. I’ve been working in the background for the past two months as the interim managing editor of The Leader. Today, I can officially say the “interim” tag has been lifted. I’m here full-time and ready to meet you.
While I don’t live in the county yet — I’ve been commuting from Key Peninsula south of Gig Harbor — hopefully that will change soon.
Mostly because it’s our belief at the newspaper that we should live in the area to fully understand and cover it. But I don’t particularly enjoy driving nearly four hours a day either.
My background in newspapers spans nearly two decades. I grew up in Port Angeles and worked as a sports reporter at the Peninsula Daily News from the beginning of my senior year of high school in September 1997 until I left to finish my bachelor’s degree at Washington State University in August 2001. In between, I earned an Associate of Arts degree from Peninsula College and volunteered for two years to be the play-by-play voice of the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
While I was in Pullman, I worked at the student newspaper called The Daily Evergreen and had opportunities to contribute both to The Associated Press and The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review.
Once I graduated from college, I spent 2½ years as the sports editor at The Peninsula Gateway in Gig Harbor, followed by 18 months at The Olympian. In 2007, I returned to the Gateway to manage the award-winning weekly newspaper, and my responsibilities increased during the next seven years to include managing the weekly Puyallup Herald and the title of publisher at both papers.
I stepped away from the industry for the past four years. During that time, I worked in a communications role at an electric utility, and I spent six months at a foundation, getting a crash course in the nonprofit world. While both opportunities had their positives, neither was as satisfying — or as natural — as the functions of a newsroom.
I have a very supportive family. My wife is a mental health counselor, and my son is a fourth-grader who recently started participating in Cub Scouts. We’re expecting a baby girl in May.
I’m glad to land here, not only because the North Olympic Peninsula always has been my home, but because newspapers, in general, have played a major role in my life. This area, and this paper, has a lot to offer.
With the exception of one reporter, the news team is relatively new.
Kirk Boxleitner is our veteran, literally and figuratively, with two years in Port Townsend. We’ve leaned on his background knowledge and expertise on everything from government sources to lighter stories about local businesses or nonprofits. Boxleitner, who served in the U.S. Navy, currently covers our education and PUD beats, among others.
Lily Haight has been with The Leader since September, and she jumped into the fold with coverage of the annual Wooden Boat Festival. Her main focus areas include the Jefferson County Commissioners, the Port of Port Townsend and environmental issues.
Chris McDaniel started in late October and has taken leadership of our Arts & Entertainment section. He’s our go-to guy for features, health care, community calendar and breaking news that typically involves law enforcement or other first responders.
Scott McMahon is our newest addition. He was hired Nov. 30 as a part-time copy editor with a focus on looking for holes in stories and helping reporters develop a greater command of newspaper style.
In addition to being your main point of contact for the Opinion pages — letters, perspectives and columns, including those from community organizations — I will be covering sports.
We have a great opportunity to chronicle Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene high school athletics along with many recreational clubs, from swimming to golf.
Our goal is to grow together and to cover Jefferson County with the news you need to know, the features of people you recognize, and the achievements of our kids.
That’s the heartbeat of a hometown community newspaper.
Brian McLean is the managing editor of the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader. He can be reached at 360-385-2900, ext. 109, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.