List of distinguished retirees grows longer

February 18, 2014

By David Hayes

Debbie Berto joined a growing, distinguished list within the past year when she announced her retirement. After 40 years at The Issaquah Press, she was ready to move on to the next challenge in her life.

She wasn’t the only one to call it quits on service in the public eye.

David Hayes Press reporter

David Hayes
Press reporter

Locally, Ava Frisinger ended her run in January as Issaquah’s longest-serving mayor after 17 years. When Frisinger announced in 2009 she would not run for another term, her reasoning was simple.

“I didn’t want to become stale,” she said. “It’s important to let others in and run things with a fresh set of eyes.”

Believe it or not, Debbie had shared a similar sentiment as a reason she retired. She also felt she’d done all she could with The Issaquah Press and felt it was time to let someone with a fresh perspective take over.

As long as we’re discussing politics, Montanan Max Baucus has decided 39 years is enough in the U.S. Senate. At about the same time Debbie was applying her dedication to public service at a community newspaper, Baucus committed himself to public service, only in his case, as an elected member of Congress.

While both sides of the political aisle can point to partisan issues he championed, Baucus seems to be most renowned for his pragmatism and his ability to work with Democrats and Republicans in doing what’s best for the people he represented. That, at its essence, is what endeared Debbie to Issaquah, eschewing political bias in her staff, making sure the community watchdog remained impartial.

Last week, longtime New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter announced 2014 would be his last season in baseball. As one of the most respected players in the game, by his peers and sports writers, Jeter felt dedicating himself 24/7, 365 days a year to the game he loves had taken its toll after 19 seasons. He, too, was ready to move on to the next challenge in life, whatever that may be.

At times, in my years here at The Press, it felt like Debbie had her mind on the next issue of the paper 24/7. Once, she even woke me up at 11 p.m. at night, on a weekend, to go take photos of a house fire in a nearby neighborhood.

Back in 2009, comedian Jay Leno had the enviable task of filling the late-night shoes vacated by then retiring king of late night, Johnny Carson. Now, 22 years later, Leno has said his farewells, ready to pass the mantle on to Saturday Night Live alum Jimmy Fallon.

I caught Leno’s last show and damned if he didn’t get a little verklempt at the end. Tears welled up as he thanked those who helped make him a success over the years. Debbie’s own waterworks leaked when we threw her a sendoff. It’s unexpected when people like Jay and Debbie let down their public persona long enough to express their innermost, heartfelt emotions.

Here’s to hoping, like her fellow retirees, Debbie finds something that recharges her passions in the next phase of her life journey.

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