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Shavonne Potts: It was my pleasure to serve as Post reporter for 15 years

By Shavonne Potts
shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As some of you have already heard, my time at the Post has come to an end as a new chapter with the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office is unfolding.

I’ve lamented for two weeks as to how I would sum up 15 years in one final column. In true reporter form, I jotted down some notes here and there.

I came to the Post in the middle of September 2005 not knowing if I’d even stay three years. I was given a chance to work as a crime reporter by then-Post managing editor Frank Deloache. I had already worked for nearly three years in a small South Carolina town at a family-owned paper.

There have been so many memorable experiences with some unforgettable people, many of whom have shaped me as a journalist, a mother, a woman of faith, and in so many indescribable ways.

I started my career at the Post with so many who helped make me a better journalist. They include Deloache; former book editor Deirdre Parker-Smith; longtime photographer Jon C. Lakey; the incomparable Rose Post; former reporter Jessie Burchette; former city reporter Emily Ford; Kathy Chaffin, who left the Post and made a return; longtime editor Elizabeth Cook, the late-great sports editor Ronnie Gallagher and now-retired columnist Mark Wineka, who I swore would be my writing mentor.

There have been so many more reporters and interns who’ve walked through the halls of the Post, became friends, made an impact upon my life and made their own exit.

Some of the things I will miss the most have nothing to do with writing but from the interactions with the people who became like family that I worked with every day.

What’s at the top of my list is graphic designer Andy Mooney greeting me with “what’s up, Spotts?” When I first began working at the Post, our emails were our first initial and last names. The emails have since undergone a few iterations over the years, but the nickname stuck.

I will certainly miss answering the phone with “newsroom, Shavonne” as well as sports reporter Mike London shouting, “C’mon, Mr. Computer” when it didn’t do what he expected.

Mornings just won’t be the same without media meetings with the Salisbury Police Department and Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

My first morning meeting was with then-Police Chief Mark Wilhelm who told me, “Trust is earned and you better not screw up.” I knew he wasn’t joking and I’ve tried to live up to that throughout my 15 years with the Post.

Those morning meetings were how I started my day for 15 years sitting beside legendary WBTV reporter David Whisenant.

From the start, Whisenant showed me kindness, tricks of the trade and taught me what it truly meant to show compassion in a field where sometimes it’s not often shown. I learned more about journalism from him than journalism school.

I’ll miss hearing stories from page editor Paris Goodnight about the three screaming Goodnights (his children who are now grown) and, of course, questions from the advertising salespeople who just came by my cubicle to ask, “Now, what’s the real deal with this case.” There’s the morning reporter meetings where we talked about upcoming stories and may or not have discussed our latest restaurant explorations.

One of the perks of being a reporter was getting to explore the community via writing stories about restaurants, businesses and, of course, the people.

Some of the people who I will greatly miss are the people who risk their lives every day — the firefighters, paramedics, police, deputies and troopers. There are so many that I don’t dare try to name them all.

Never would I have imagined that 2019 would be the last time I would watch as the First United Methodist Church pre-school class marched their Penny Harvest to the Post for its Christmas Happiness Fund. The children were always so excited, and to be honest, so was I. It was also the last time I would speak to the Overton Elementary School students for career day.

I count it an honor and privilege to have written the stories of so many people — some because of tragedy and others because of triumph.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget these names as long as I live — Leeanna Newman, A’yanna Allen, Patty Burgdoff, Treasure Feamster, Marco Kauffman, Marsha Ludwick, William Peoples, Elnora Cole, Otis Gibson, Victor Isler and Justin Monroe.

I’ve been inspired by many but here are a few: Carolyn Logan, Dee Dee Wright, MaryAnn Kauffman, Lisa Monroe, Tiffany Woodie, Anthony Smith, Mahgony Koontz, Kenny Hardin, Al Heggins and Carolyn Parsons. Each one left an imprint, whether it was to forgive, endure, survive, dare to dream, be tenacious, fight for injustice, rock the boat, think outside of the box or heal in your own timing.

I wish nothing but good things for the town of East Spencer, which I had the opportunity to cover for about 10 years. They really are a hidden gem.

I am forever grateful for the other opportunities I’ve had, including watching the Pops at the Post from the roof of the Post, participating with my co-workers during the United Way’s volunteer Day of Caring, riding shotgun with troopers and police, being lifted 100 feet into the air in a Salisbury Fire Department ladder truck and traveling to Nash Correctional Institute via private jet with Joe Gibbs Racing and his Game Plan for Life team.

I guess my 15 years with the Salisbury Post can all be summed up in the words of every Chick-fil-A employee: “it was my pleasure.”

Shavonne Potts is a former Salisbury Post reporter who’s now working as a Rowan County magistrate.

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