PRINCETON — Tammie Toler is closing out a major chapter in her life as she leaves the Princeton Times, where she has served as editor for 14 years.
But the closure has not been easy, she said, and although she will throw herself into a new job at a Bluefield bank, her experiences at the newspaper will never be forgotten.
“By far, the best part of my job was being involved in the day-to-day lives of the people I have met along the way,” she said.
Toler said when she met a former director of the Chuck Mathena Center after taking over the reins of the newspaper, he told her it did not take him long to discover that this is the “land of the storytellers.”
“Everybody he met wanted to tell him a story,” she said. “He was right. Everybody has a story to tell and most of them are willing to share it. I really count it as one of the greatest blessings in life that I have been involved in sharing those stories over the last 14 years. Some have been happy, some have been heartbreaking, but I thank everyone along the way who was willing to share those stories with me and in turn allow me to share them with our readers.”
Toler said one story often led to others as she met people and learned of their friends or relatives who also had an interesting story to tell.
Not only did she enjoy working with people, she also had difficulty saying goodbye to local officials and business and community leaders she saw on a routine basis and with whom she had established close ties.
“Whether it’s at the police station, courthouse, city hall or in businesses, these are people I regularly visited,” she said. “They have just been so supportive. It was really hard to let those people know I will not be in there as regularly as I have been.”
Toler said one gentleman in the community who has always been supportive told her she had to stay. “He said, ‘No, you are not allowed to leave.’”
As difficult as it was to make the decision, she said she knew it was time for a “new season in my life.”
That new season will include having regular work hours, something she never experienced as editor of the newspaper, often working nights and weekends and being ready to be called out at any time to cover an emergency.
“I can go home and have dinner and have it at a regular time,” she said, adding that she can also have more time to read and have a routine schedule.
“Life is increasingly complicated,” she said. “It’s hard to be there for the people you feel like you need to be there for when the news can derail everything.”
Toler, a 1995 Princeton High School graduate, came to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in 2000 as a copyeditor after graduating from Concord University with a degree in communication arts, including broadcast, journalism, public relations and advertising.
After former editor Jim Terry died in 2004, Toler said she was offered the job, having the tall task of replacing a man who was “very beloved.”
“By that time (2004), I had gotten very comfortable in the news editor position (at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph),” she said. “But it appealed to me. The more I thought about it the more I grew to like the possibility.”
It was also a time of transition at the Times when she came on board, as other employees in Princeton had moved to other jobs and careers.
“When I went there the office was basically empty,” she said.
But since she called Princeton her hometown, “it definitely felt like coming home.”
Toler took charge and began the process of becoming the face of the Princeton Times, getting involved in the community and getting to know the people who became her news sources as well as her friends.
She has also witnessed big changes in her town.
“I loved being part of the Princeton Renaissance Project, and getting to see the beginning of the rebirth of downtown Princeton,” she said. “That has definitely been one of the most rewarding experiences while I have been here.”
Greg Puckett, director of Community Connections and one of the forces behind Princeton Renaissance, said working with Toler has been rewarding for him.
“Never one to cater to ‘gotcha’ journalism, Tammie reflected the true spirit of community as a writer and editor of the Princeton Times,” he said. “ Her dedication to the story, and compassion for its subjects, allowed her to give the readers a simplistic and realistic understanding of the truth. Her attention to detail and ability to find that common language that communicated to every reader is a testament of her natural ability to listen, relate, and convey.”
For Puckett, her professionalism also came hand-in-hand with friendship.
“As a fellow alumnus of Concord, and having served in that same communication arts program, I am proud to call Tammie not only a colleague, but a friend,” he said. “I know that she will continue to exemplify the same integrity that she has shown at the Times in her new venture, and I wish her great success.”
Mercer County Sheriff Tommy Bailey said he has known and worked with Toler for many years.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 27 years and I have worked with her most of that time,” he said. “First and foremost, she was one of the best in her field, easy to work with and intelligent. Beyond the pretty smile, she knew how to approach people in a way that was unintrusive. I will miss her and I’m sure the community will miss her. I wish the best of luck.”
Princeton City Manager Mike Webb said Toler always maintained a balance between doing her job and being part of the community and a friend.
“She was professional at all times,” he said. “She was fun to be around, but she was also professional.”
Webb said everyone enjoyed her covering city council meetings and “she seemed to be at about every one.”
“She was a pleasing person to be around and knew her job and how to handle it,” he said. “She always strived to have good karma.”
Although Toler said she loved being the editor,”I felt like it was time to look at other options for me.”
“I am really going to miss seeing the people every day,” she said. “I didn’t realize how hard it will be to stop seeing the family in the community who I have seen day in and day out.”
Toler said each community is unique, and it’s all about being a part of it.
“You have to have a heart to be in whichever one you choose,” she said.
Toler will be working at the First Community Bank corporate center in Bluefield in the marketing department.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com.