Readers might have noticed a new face and name Friday in our annual Christmas reflections.
But they probably missed the wistful look on a familiar face in the editorial board's group photo.
The newcomer, Kayla Pratt, is the board's first reader representative. We started her on a three-month trial last spring, and we've been fortunate enough to talk her into an extended stay.
The old hand is Matt Taylor. He's off to the right in this year's Christmas portrait, standing almost outside the group. When the photo was taken, unbeknownst to the rest of us, he'd already decided to announce his retirement -- or more accurately, his re-retirement.
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Taylor first left the Herald in 1999, after writing some 6,000 editorials during a 12-year stint as the Herald's editorial page editor.
When his replacement, Kate Riley, left for an editorial writing job at the Seattle Times in 2002, Taylor agreed to return for a month or two to write a few editorials to help ease the transition.
That temporary assist is finally ending nine years later. Taylor asked us not to make a big deal out of his second retirement, and we will try to honor his request.
But we can't remove his name from the masthead that appears over this column without acknowledging his contribution.
He's been a friend and mentor to the three editorial page editors who followed him, a role he will continue in retirement. With more than 50 years in the newspaper business to draw on, his wisdom is always welcome.
The passion and experience he brought to our weekly discussions helped form almost every opinion the Herald published during his 21 years on the editorial board.
He brought those same qualities to his writing, helping readers not only think about the issues of the day, but feel for the people who make the Mid-Columbia such a wonderful place to live.
We'll miss him but wish him well, and we'd better stop at that before we break our promise and make a big deal about his departure.
Unfortunately, we will soon being saying goodbye to a new friend as well, although the timing isn't nailed down.
We've taken advantage of Pratt's good nature for far longer than the terms she originally agreed to, and we're hoping to coax her to stay a little longer. We know, however, she'll be leaving the board sometime in the relatively near future.
But we're already convinced that the experiment she helped us launch in the spring is a success. Pratt brought an independent and thoughtful perspective to our weekly deliberations.
The hope was her participation would help us combat a tendency to become too insular. Mission accomplished.
Because the board skews well above the half-century mark, we asked the Young Professionals of Tri-Cities to recommend one of its members to become our first reader representative.
It's no small task to jump into a conversation that a tightknit group of opinionated individuals has carried on for years, but Pratt was up to the task.
As one of the driving forces behind the Young Professionals of Tri-Cities and director of Communications and Membership for the Tri-City Development Council, she came to us with a full complement of skills, knowledge and confidence.
Earlier this year, she was recognized by the Tri-Cities Journal of Business as one of the Tri-Cities' Young Professionals of the Year.
Pratt is an active member of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition Advisory Board, Richland Rotary Club and the Miss Tri-Cities Scholarship Program, in addition to her role here.
She and her husband, Brad, enjoy spending time with family and friends, serving in children's ministry and traveling.
One of Pratt's final duties with the board is to help us determine how to move to the next phase in our experiment in reader participation.
Should we assemble a reader panel or stick with one community member at a time?
How long should they serve? Should we create an application process? What criteria should we use? What should we expect from these volunteers?
We'd like to hear your ideas on the topic. Write us at email@example.com or give editorial page editor Chris Sivula a call at 582-1538.
We head into 2012 with mixed emotions -- sad to see our good friends leave the editorial board but excited about the prospects for new energy and fresh perspectives.
May your new year hold as much promise.