If you’re a regular reader of the editorial pages of this storied newspaper, you probably know that Greg Kesich has retired after 11 years as opinion page editor and almost 30 at the Press Herald. I started this column in October 2017, which means that Greg has been managing, editing, herding, questioning and otherwise corralling me for almost five years.

But I’ve known Greg for nearly 20. Our families went to the same church, and his daughter has been one of my very best friends in the whole world.

If you’re a longtime reader, here are some things you’ve probably figured out about Greg that I can confirm to be true: He’s tough but fair. He may disagree with what you’re saying (and he’ll certainly let you know it) but he will defend to the death your right to say it. He has high standards. He’s one of the few humans on Earth who may be more stubborn than I am. He doesn’t seek personal glory or recognition. He’s a hard worker.

Here are some things you may not know about Greg Kesich: He once drove my sister to Maine Med for a broken arm. He’s an amazing cook. He drove me to and from college on more than one occasion, playing 1930s union songs the entire way. He knew all the details about all the crimes committed in Maine during the late 1990s and early 2000s and would constantly warn us to stay away from gravel pits (I guess that’s where shady things happen). He was always running off on union-related trips to save the paper. He has either great or terrible taste in music, depending on who you ask (please do not ask me). As part of a Serbian Christmas tradition, he would burst into the house during parties, disguised, and pelt us with walnuts. He has opened his home to me on many, many occasions. He gave the eulogy at my father’s funeral.

In May of 2017, I got blackout drunk on chardonnay one night (which, to be fair, I did pretty much every night back then) and wrote a letter to the editor (this I did not do every night). It was about being a millennial in Maine and my generation’s economic struggles – what would go on to be my usual fare. I don’t actually have any memory of writing that piece, and it’s definitely not my best work, but it drew a lot of clicks and comments online. I think that’s when Greg started seeing my potential as a writer.

When my dad was in hospice, heading towards the end of things, Greg (among many, many friends – Dad was pretty beloved) came to visit. I can neither confirm nor deny that my dad asked Greg to give me a chance to write for the paper. As my mom, the professional mystery writer, always says, “two can keep a secret if one is dead.” Well, Dad’s dead and Greg’s not talking. (A reporter always protects his sources, dontcha know.) What I can confirm is that a few weeks after the funeral, Greg asked me if I would like to try writing a column for the paper. It was never something I had thought of doing prior, but it’s not like I had anything else good going on in my life at that point, so I said yes. And, to my surprise, I turned out to have a knack for it.

When I re-read my earlier pieces, I cringe a little. My writing just wasn’t as good as it is now. And I’m sure in another five years, I’ll re-read this piece and cringe at it. One of the best things about writing is that you don’t ever have to peak if you don’t want to; you can always improve and evolve. Practice may make perfect, but a good editor makes best. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy being my editor over the years. I was always texting Greg asking what naughty words I could and could not put in the paper, and my overuse of parentheticals may have driven him into retirement. And I’m sure it’s difficult to suddenly have to work professionally with a person previously known to you as your kid’s nice but weird friend.

I’m grateful that Greg believed in me enough to take a chance on my writing. I hope to continue to make him proud. Having seen how insanely hard he has worked for not very much money over the years, I hope he takes a well-deserved rest. (My guess is that he’ll last about two weeks before he takes up some sort of near-full-time passion project.) And I look forward to pestering him in my personal, if not professional, capacity for a long time to come.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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