Hello, Savage.

And goodbye.

This column will be my last for the Savage Pacer. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, my last day at this newspaper was Tuesday. I’m going to jump back into the realm of business reporting, which I love and have quite a bit of experience in. I’ll be working as a reporter for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

I would like to thank all the readers, citizens and city officials for all your help over the last year and a half as I’ve gotten to know and understand Savage. Newspapers could not do what they do without active citizens and helpful government representatives staying connected about important stories going on in the communities. And working as a suburban reporter can be complex because the southwest metro area is so interconnected, with cities sharing resources, ideas and projects. I’m so grateful for all the people who took their valuable time to talk to me and help connect with our audience in meaningful ways.

I’m also grateful for the people who decide to share their very personal and moving stories. Like Rolf and Nancy Olson, who last year shared with me how they coped with the murder of their daughter, Katherine Ann Olson, on the 10th anniversary of her death. Or the Gigstad family, whose son Carson had a sudden heart transplant and his mother, Christin, shared her son’s — and her family’s — journey. Another notable person was a Savage man, Dan Amundson, who tackled the Appalachian Trail and had a complete transformation during the trip. He was kind and brave enough to share his story.

I know how much bravery it takes to share your story because I’ve been on the other side of the notebook before, and it feels strange. It’s hard to be vulnerable in front of thousands of people and share your thoughts and your feelings. This is why I’m so grateful.

Another fascinating part of our jobs as journalists includes learning what our local, taxpayer-funded government agencies are working on. I got a chance to watch firefighters extinguish flames on a home and a business and to learn from police about fraud, theft, assault and other routine criminal cases. I even got to read criminal files from Scott County and learn more about the justice system.

The city and schools are doing a lot, as well. Mayor Janet Williams always answered my frequent phone calls graciously, and often with a good sense of humor, as she spoke to me about all kinds of things the city has going on. Barry Stock, the outgoing city administrator, also gave me an education on the history of Savage. Like some of the people I’ve reported on, the city has been through its own transformation as it worked for 15 years to turn around its finance. It brought its savings from 6 percent of its general fund budget — it should be at about 30 to 50 percent — all the way to about 50 percent. And it even got the highest bond rating it could get.

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District is undergoing massive shifts, making it one of the most fascinating school districts I’ve ever covered. I appreciate how district officials answered my questions and spoke freely about the many projects, programs and initiatives they have started in my year and a half here. They’ve also got an extremely diverse school district, which carries unique challenges and opportunities. Schools are some of the most important institutions around because they’re influencing new generations of children and young adults. It’s also largely taxpayer-funded. So being able to get in the schools and explain to readers what is happening in the community has been essential.

Thank you, Savage, for everything. For your time, which is hard to compete with these days. For your loyal readership. And for your help telling the community’s stories.

I look forward to reading all about what comes next!

Britt Johnsen was the Savage Pacer reporter from September 2016 through February 2018. For comments or questions, contact Savage Pacer editor at editor@savagepacer.com.

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Britt Johnsen is a Savage reporter who loves in-depth reporting and bringing more heart and soul to the paper. Britt is thoughtful, hard-working and an “introverted extrovert.” She loves her two cats, yoga, poetry and snobby Minneapolis coffee.

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