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With this issue, the Messenger turns four years old. We started publishing in March 2014 and, now with three years under our belts, I can honestly say that some years are better than others.

This past year was our “best” year yet.

Why? For so many reasons—but each which is a specific person on the Messenger’s team, from Alex to Tuula, and from Josh to Julie.

Since Day One, we have had a strong core team—and they have been doing impressive work. Josh Gross is our Music Editor, and one of the best music writers on the west coast. (Truly. I challenge you Portland, Seattle, San Francisco to find one better.) After gunslinging in Portland, at Boise Weekly and for Boulder Weekly, Josh returned to his hometown, Ashland and has been steadily filing music reviews for us—and doing so much more. This past year, he released a heart-wrenching memoir, and was voted Best Author by our readers; and, as if that wasn’t enough, like the Michael Phelps of Rogue Valley writing, also won gold for his part with Puppeters for Fear, which won the Best Of Theater.

It is that type of talent, dynamic yet focused, that defines our all-star team. Our Calendar Editor, Jordy Lindsey, although swamped with emails and details about this yoga class and that upcoming band, pulls together the events calendar each issue without ever a peep of complaint. And, perhaps not as visible to our readers, but absolutely essential to our financial sanity, is Sara Louton. A year and half ago, she struck out on her own to start Advanced Books, and, deservedly so, she is killing it! She is talent, and we are so fortunate to have her on our team.

Our Associate Editor, Sara Wiltermood, is not a writer by trade, but has stepped into the leadership position with the confidence of a newspaper veteran. She and her husband run a pig, chicken and rabbit farm near Grants Pass (perhaps simply re-applied the patience and diligence of chasing chickens to wrangling freelance writers). Each issue, Sara coordinates writers and articles for the Culture and Sports, and has developed the Screen section into a galley that profiles local talent each issue. And, Katie Ball is our unflappable Production Manager, who singlehandedly and with far too resources, lays out eye-catching issues. Yes, we have built a great core team over these three years.

And, what is exciting about this past year—and looking forward to the next—is we have built some exciting additions on this foundation. That is, we have been fortunate to have some truly talented writers join our team.

Alex Sophia took over distribution for the paper nearly a year ago—and quickly offered up her services as a photographer (see her pictures throughout the Best Of sections in this issue), but her true talent is her advice column, Hey Messenger, which offers smart, considerate and sometimes smackdown responses to our readers peculiar dilemmas.  

Several other new writers also joined the paper this year—and are excited about how they are developing the voice and content of the Messenger. In late summer, we received a note from a young writer who recently had returned home to Grants Pass after a stint in New England. Since then, Melissa Haskin has taken over our food writing—and we couldn’t ask for a better writer. She is considerate and curious in her writing, and already the Messenger is a far better newspaper because of her contributions.

Another writer also cold-called us about a year ago. While still a student in Massachusetts, she found one of our album reviews on-line. A southern Oregon native, Jordan Marie Martinez returned to the region after graduation, and since then has been producing our “Art Watch” column and scores of other articles. And, Charles Fischman! His byline is peppered throughout this issue. Late this summer, he and his wife struck out on a road trip from Maine to find their new home—and on a whim, landed in Ashland. It is such a perfect fit. Charles quickly jumped in as our Drink Local columnist and, more recently, writing the Public Profiles. Although a newcomer, Charles is teaching us about what makes the region great.

Yes, it has truly been our “best” year yet, but with the talent that is here and is joining us, I expect that this coming year will be even better.

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