As you may have read in this week’s paper, reporter Barb Charzuk is officially retiring. We’re all excited for her to get out there and enjoy herself, but the office certainly won’t be the same without her.

If you’ve picked up a copy of The Fountain Hills Times anytime in the past 14 years, you’ve definitely seen her work. Barb’s regular beats were business and religion, but community reporters have trouble coloring inside the lines these days. On top of writing countless features and news stories for just about every section of the paper, Barb is also a skilled photographer and made her way to multiple community events each week, frequently turning in entire galleries’ worth of photos or snapping a shot so nice we just had to run it as big as possible on the front page.

She will, of course, say she was “just doing her job.” I’d argue she always went above and beyond that benchmark.

Barb and I actually started working for The Times at nearly the same time. I started in late 2005 and she began here earlier in the year. So it’s hard for me to imagine The Times without Barb.

Barb has been a journalist for more than 50 years, coming to work for The Times after her first retirement. She’s got ink in her blood, so of course I’ve learned a lot just from watching her work over the years. She’s got an uncanny nose for a story and, if you talk to the subject of any of those stories, they’ll tell you she’s a consummate professional.

I’ve only been an editor for a few years but, in that time, Barb has been a rock I could always lean on. She’s a no-nonsense reporter who holds herself to high standards, probably making my job easier than I deserve.

Whenever a “who can cover this” moment came up – and they come up all the time – Barb was usually the first to throw her hat in the ring. It needed to be done so she would do it, no questions asked. That’s just the kind of reporter she is.

And when she pushes for something she knows is a bigger story than anyone else realizes, it’s clear I’ve still got a lot more learning to do.

But I can’t be too greedy here. Barb has more than earned a break, though I doubt it will be much of a “break.” She’ll be out there before we know it, offering her talent and expertise to some worthy cause. Or maybe she’ll surprise us all and begin a second career in NASCAR or something. It genuinely wouldn’t surprise me.

Without getting too sappy here, it’s appropriate Barb is retiring the day before Thanksgiving. She’s done amazing work for The Times over the years and I’m thankful I got to work beside her all this time.

The silver lining to Barb retiring is that it means I can probably get away with writing this column. She’d have to make a special trip to the office if she wants to reprimand me and, for that or any other reason, I’d be happy to see her.

We’re all going to miss you, Barb, but we’re also excited for whatever comes next for you. Go enjoy yourself and thanks again, so much, for everything.