Thank you, and goodbye

By Alexander MacDougall

This is my last issue with the Houlton Pioneer Times, as I return to my home state of Massachusetts to start the next phase in my career. The past year and a half spent up here have been interesting, to say the least.


I came to Houlton fresh out of grad school and looking to take the first steps in my full-time journalism career. At the time, I had no idea that my first job would be moving all the way to Aroostook County, Maine. Nor did I think it would coincide with the start of the worst pandemic in a century. I guess I was looking for a sense of adventure, and boy did I get it. 


The first few months here, as you can imagine, were a bit rough. I didn’t really know anyone, and a lot of my belongings were still back home (I had planned to bring them up in April 2020), but I made do with what I had. But eventually, things got better, some of the restrictions lifted, and I began really getting to work on writing the stories that mattered for Houlton, Aroostook County and the state of Maine. 


Of course, there were also many fun and good moments. When COVID-19 measures began to relax, I saw just how festive Houlton could be. From Fourth of July’s Midnight Madness to Memorial Day parades to Halloween’s Shiretown Spectacular, this town truly knows how to celebrate America’s greatest traditions and bring its community together. 


I want to thank Joseph Cyr, my fellow reporter at the Pioneer Times, without whom it would have been nearly impossible to develop sources or move a bed into my apartment during the early months of lockdown. I also want to thank my fellow Aroostook County reporters and my editor, Julie Harris, for being incredibly supportive of me and my professional growth during this time period. 


And I want to thank the people of Houlton and of southern Aroostook County. It’s you all for whom I have written, and it’s been an honor to serve this community. In the midst of the pandemic, with the whole world seemingly turned on its head, it was up to me to inform you how it affected your area. From reporting the first case in Aroostook County to how the long border closure with Canada affected families and businesses, I’ve done my best to keep you informed on what was happening and why. I hope I’ve done a good job. 


I’ll never forget you, Houlton, and I’ll be sure to be back to visit you — hopefully when COVID-19 is just a distant memory. 


Alexander MacDougall’s reporting served the Houlton Pioneer Times, The Star-Herald, the Aroostook Republican, the St. John Valley Times and the Bangor Daily News.

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