It started with the election of Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983. And it's ending after the inauguration of the country's first African American president, Barack Obama, in late January.
In between those perfect bookends: An estimated 10,000 stories about politics in Chicago, Cook County, the state of Illinois and Washington D.C. Campaigns, controversies, scandals---even a presidential impeachment. I've traveled around the country and the world, hosted debates and talk shows, spoken about politics to dozens of groups and trained too many interns to count.
I've loved every minute of it. But now it's time for a change. My original game plan was to take the winter off in a warm climate with my wife, Mary, and then slowly develop a schedule of my own that taps my skills, engages my brain and lets me be a bit more partisan: Writing, teaching and mentoring; talk radio, public television, speeches to interested groups, communications/message management and perhaps some political consulting.
All of that will come in due time. But the economics of the last few months have changed the timetable for me like it has for so many other Baby Boomers, and it's eliminated some of the flexibility we thought we'd earned. As my old friend Terry Savage said in one of her columns: "Sadly, those who saved and invested will now be in little better position?than those who lived only for each day."
The election of Barack Obama, the scandal surrounding Rod Blagojevich and the topsy-turvy politics of the next election cycle have recharged my news batteries enough to look forward to putting my skills to good use in the business I know and love before transitioning into new ventures.
I leave ABC 7 with mixed feelings: A deep appreciation for the opportunities I've had and a deep affection for wonderful friends and colleagues I'll miss; but also a sense of excitement that new and interesting challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
I've had a pretty good run. And it's far from over. See you along the trail.