On December 31, 2013, not only did I say goodbye to another year, but I said goodbye to the wonderful staff, volunteers, and community that I had formed during the three years that I worked at the Petaluma Visitors Program.

I hadn’t planned to change my job situation but around Thanksgiving time, an opportunity arose through a friend to work in a family-owned small business, a world that I am very familiar with and appreciate since Steve and I own a similar type of business. When an opportunity arises in this sputtering economy, it isn’t to be taken lightly.

The past month has been a bittersweet time – while I am looking forward to returning to the business world and the growth that my new job will bring, it has also been hard because I will be leaving so many people who I love and respect. I was grateful that at our Christmas party, I had a chance to express – rather emotionally how much these folks have meant to me. Darn, I hate crying in public.

Here’s what working at the Visitors Program has mean to me:

I worked with staff members who care passionately about the community that they live in; they are not just collecting a paycheck but working tirelessly for the betterment of the city – staying positive when faced with obstacles or going up against just plain cranky, difficult people.

I worked with part-time staff members and volunteers who were extremely skilled and accomplished professionals from all walks of life; yet when they retired from their careers, they chose to work at the Visitors Center, always bringing an attitude of “I’m here to be helpful in whatever way I can,” no matter how often a lost tourist asked how they happened to end up in Petaluma when they wanted to be stay on Highway One.

I worked with board members who showed me a level of commitment to volunteering for an organization that I had never seen before. They weren’t doing it for the prestige or for a potential payback in the form of business or networking; they gave countless hours and put their plentiful skills to work purely because they believed in the mission of the organization.

So although it will take some extra effort on my part, I plan to stay connected with these people and the Petaluma community; relationships like these should be cherished and maintained.