Three staff members graduate, say goodbye

Saying “goodbye” is one of the hardest things to do, especially when it marks the beginning of a new chapter. This week The Western Carolinian said farewell to three of our own-Lex Menz, editor-in-chief; Jamie North, photographer and designer, and Brandy Carl, staff writer.

Menz is graduating with a bachelor’s in English literature and a minor in creative writing after spending almost four years working with the paper.

From the time she was a freshman at Western Carolina University, Menz spent a lot of time working with The Western Carolinian between attending classes, challenging staff members to a game of “Harry Potter” Scene It and volunteering at the Jackson County Animal Shelter.

“Hiking up to the Old Student Union from Walker Hall with my hand drawn map freshman year was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Menz. “Working here was my college experience, and I’ll never regret that. I wish it wasn’t over. I really do. Not because I don’t want to face the real world or become a ‘grown up,’ but because I have to leave behind this wonderful job with these incredible staff members and friends. In a figurative sense, it’s my home. I’ve been with The Western Carolinian longer than I’ve been in any one place while living in Jackson County. So, it really is my home. I just hope after graduation that I find a job I love as much as this one, but nothing will ever completely replace it.”

Over the years, Menz has been a wonderful inspiration and influence to the staff. Many employees, like Ryan Michaud, a sports writer, have worked with her for several years.

“I have worked with Lex for three and a half years now,” said Michaud. “She knows how to bring fun to the workplace. She will succeed wherever she goes.”

Rachael Hedden, a contributing writer, said, “The first thing I thought when I met her was ‘Wow, this girl has an incredible sense of humor.’ I later found out what a talented writer she was, too.”

Hedden continued, “Lex is one of those people who leaves a trace of themselves behind in your heart, and you will remember them for years to come. I am going to miss her very much. Her leaving is happening all too soon.”

Ceillie Simkiss, photographer, staff writer and designer, stated, “Lex is very dedicated to her work. You can see the love she has for the paper in everything that she does.”

Even under a duress, Menz makes exaggerated gestures and uses a sarcastic tone to get her staff members smiling and to shake off whatever negative feelings they had about the mistake or “disaster.”

“Lex Menz is one of those people who inspires others with her dedication and passion,” said Jovahnna Graves, intern. “She approaches all subjects with a smile and even when she is stress and everything is going horribly wrong, Lex continues to be kind and helpful to those who need it. She is one of the best examples of a leader I have ever seen.”

Another well-loved staff member, Jamie North, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in communications with a concentration in journalism. He will also graduate with a minor in art.         

As a designer, North spends two weekends a month locked in the office with fellow designer Simkiss, Menz and Managing Editor Laura Odom. Over the weekend the designers work to create the newspaper that appears at the distribution points. On these long days, North can be counted on to bring laughter and fun to the process.

One of the things that Odom will miss the most about North, other than his vivacious personality, is his ability to silence a room with a commanding belch.

“It really is an experience to witness,” said Odom.

Graves said, “Jamie North is the type of guy who always has tunes playing as he diligently works on his projects. He is friendly and open towards people and he is a killer of bees. Most importantly, he is a fantastic photographer. Every picture I have seen, he’s been able to catch feelings and moments, perfectly frozen in the lens of his camera.”

Menz described North as “. . .a beautiful person with so much personality and flair he almost intimidated me at first. Once you get to know him, though, it’s like you’ve known him forever. I keep telling him that we need to a find a job in the same town or city because I don’t want us to lose our friendship due to distance. Or, we’ll start our own little community newspaper. I’d write and he’d take the photos! I told him about that, and he laughed, but I was somewhat serious!”

North plans on taking the rest of December off to enjoy the holidays.

“Come January 2,” he said, “I will start back on the grind looking for a job. I might look for a newspaper to work for. But, ultimately it will be working on getting my small business together with wedding photography and go from there.”

Brandy Carl is also graduating with a bachelor’s in communications with a concentration in journalism.

“Brandy has this spunk that I knew would fit at the newspaper,” said Menz. “I still remember her calling me about how much Ingles supermarket was blowing her off for a story, and she went on this crazy escapade only to find out they weren’t expanding their store in Sylva. Bless her, she works so hard and has overcome so much adversity in these last few years. Her work ethic is top notch.”

Carl’s perseverance is noticed by more than just Menz. It is a mark she has left on several staff members.

Michaud said, “Brandy loves her job, and her passion will take her far in her career.”

“Brandy has been a fantastic coworker and an absolutely wonderful friend since I joined The [Western] Carolinian,” said Simkiss. “Going to New York with her and Jamie was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I will definitely miss her entertaining contributions to staff meetings and other discussions.”

Carl has applied for many jobs in different aspects of journalism.  

She said, “I’ve applied at a couple of local newspapers. I plan on not taking any time off and continue hitting the ground running, applying to everything I can. I have been looking at social media positions.”

Chris Ward, photographer, stated, “Working with Brandy, Jamie and Lex has been a great experience. I’ve learned from each of them, and they’re a great bunch to work with. It will be sad to see them go.”

As Menz reflects on her years at the paper, she had the following to say: “For my staff, and I can’t say this without tearing up, I want everything for them. I want them to graduate with honors, immediately find good jobs and go on a crazy, life-changing road trip of epic proportions. I don’t know what after graduation is going to look like because I don’t know if I’ll see some of them anymore afterwards, so let me say to them now: I love you all. If there is anything that you ever need, I will always be here to help you like you have helped me, whether you realized it or not. Each of you have made an impact on my life that will never fade. I know it all sounds cliché and mushy, but I can’t think of a better way to express myself. You’re my family.”