Reporter has left lasting impact

Where is the good in goodbye?

-- Meredith Willson

We had a grand retirement reception Friday for Sylvia Cooper .

Public officials past, present and probably future showed up at the Hatcher Center to honor The Chronicle 's longtime political reporter.

The mayor even wrote her a poem.

As her supervisor for the past eight years I was asked to say a few words, which was a challenge.

How do you possibly comment on a woman who has been described as a cross between Barbara Walters and Minnie Pearl ?

How do you say goodbye to a journalist who has tried to make this community right by pointing out what it does wrong?

How do you boss around a woman who gets people indicted?

James Folker was Sylvia's editor her first eight years in Augusta, and he told me a long time ago that there was a secret to managing our star reporter.

"Find out what she wants to do," he said, "and tell her to do it."

It worked for him and it worked for me. Besides, she had powerful supporters.

A couple of years ago when legal troubles began for then-state Sen. Charles Walker , he called a news conference to address the allegations.

One of our photographers was at his office with all the other local media awaiting the senator's comments.

He said Mr. Walker walked outside, surveyed the TV crews and cameras, then asked with some irritation, "Is Sylvia here yet?"

When told she was not, he turned quickly to an aide, said, "Well, come and get me when she is," and went back inside.

You know, we like to say news doesn't wait for us, but with Sylvia that wasn't always true.

Today she is known for her popular weekly column City Ink.

But the truth is that's not what's going to get her into Journalism Heaven.

No, that promotion will come for an amazing body of work that fixed the flawed and righted wrongs for almost two decades by telling Augusta that its public officials could do better.

With a job so well done, she can now retire to her Thomson Tara and enjoy the rewards of country living and multiple dog ownership.

I don't know what she'll do out there, but as I told Sylvia on Friday, Augusta will miss you. Your co-workers will miss you. And I will miss you.

But we all will thank you for the impact you've had on this community.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.

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