Carole McWilliams, whose columns readers love or hate, the reporter who has covered more meetings than any reporter in the area, and a noted artist and photographer, is leaving the Pine River Times.
"It was always better than getting a real job," she would say when asked about her many years of working for the small weekly newspaper covering Bayfield and Ignacio.
Today is her last day at the office at the Times. Ballantine Communications, the owner of the Times, Durango Herald and the Journal in Cortez, announced layoffs earlier this month.
The newspaper office at 110 E. Mill St. in downtown Bayfield also is closing. Editor Melanie Mazur will work out of her home while finding a new smaller office in Bayfield. The Times will continue publishing every Friday.
McWilliams started working at the Times in 1987 as a correspondent covering Ignacio School board meetings. She takes copious notes at the meetings she covers, using shorthand. She bemoans the fact that schools no longer teach the dying craft.
She was hired by the newspaper's founders, Stephen and Lynda Cannon. She stayed on after Ann McCoy purchased the paper in 1987, and when Melanie and Robert Mazur took over in 2002 in the middle of the Missionary Ridge Fire. The Mazurs sold the newspaper in early 2014 to Ballantine Communications.
Her first stories for the paper, published in January 1987, covered construction on County Road 516 and a request by Ignacio teachers for higher salaries.
In 2010, the Times was awarded the Colorado Press Association General Excellence award, meaning it was the top small weekly in the state in 2009. McWilliams won second place that year in the education category, one of more than 20 CPA awards she received during her years at the paper. She also is a finalist for a writing category in the 2016 awards, which will be announced in April.
"It is with a great deal of sadness that I watch my long-time employee and friend leave the paper," Mazur said. "She has dedicated her professional life to accurate coverage of local news, and there is no one who can replace her institutional knowledge of oil and gas, water rights and other local issues."