BROOKVILLE — My perspective of Randon “Randy” Bartley, as editor of the Jeffersonian-Democrat newspaper, initiated in November of 1994 when one of the several freelance writers at the time, Joey Ann Payne, introduced me to him.
Joey and my son were friends in school. She knew I enjoyed history and writing. There was a need for another freelance writer – meaning someone who is independently contracted to provide content by the story.
Randy’s office then was in the McMurray Company building, now C.S.A. & Company. In that historic structure, Randy had begun his newspaper career as a sports reporter in 1986.
Mentored by Don and Bruce McMurray, Joe McLaughlin was editor as Randy undertook a distinct change from his previous positions as a manager of a truck stop, convenience store and other retail businesses.
By January of 1989, he would take over the editor’s chair, a position which will come to an end on Jan. 31.
In the days when newspapers were produced by a combination of melted lead, skilled linotype and press operators, plus quantities of ink, a story ended with the symbol of a dash, the number 30, and another dash, written -30-. That indicated to those setting the type that a particular article was concluded.
Reflecting on the opportunity to write a -30- as a farewell for Randy’s tenure, my love of history looked back through time to Major John McMurray, the longest tenured editor in the history of the J-D, his career spanned the late 1800s into the 1900s. Randy will come in second place, and being second to the Major will be alright with him.
Both the Major and Randy served the nation in their respective eras, both in the U.S. Army. While the Major carried deeply personal memories of the Civil War, Randy has long been a dedicated re-enactor of that time, as a member of the Berdan’s Sharp Shooters, so that younger generations will know of the history and sacrifice of those four years.
Regardless of which editor, or which time period, the image of someone in that position usually centers around a desk, most likely a bit larger than others, where decisions about content, stories, and a myriad of other details are made.
From the McMurray Building, to the corner of Barnett and Main, and most recently to the McKnight House, Randy’s desk has traversed three different newspaper owners, numerous personnel changes and a host of events.
Still the desk remains the focal point, but in his case, it is the chair beside the desk which draws attention. There has always been a chair in which a visitor can sit and talk with Randy.
Rarely did he ever turn away someone who stopped in to talk about an idea for a story, an upcoming event, share a memory or relate something more personal.
Regardless of the deadline, the need to attend a meeting or other demands, Randy has unfailingly done his best to talk to each person who came to his desk. The scanner telling of an accident or fire was the exception when the editor returned to being a reporter, grabbed a camera and headed out the door.
Few people noticed the array of cushions on Randy’s personal chair, evidence of the back problems which have made walking sometimes difficult. He rarely said much about that or other health concerns – but his loving wife, Barb, keeps a close eye on that.
Barb is a highly-skilled registered nurse. As a couple, they have managed their respective work lives in amongst the ever-present backdrop of the priority production of the J-D placed on him, sometimes to the extent of altering plans they had made together.
Throughout the years, there has been “the Brookville office” contingent of personnel, both staff and freelancers, much larger when I began my association with the paper.
“Chipping in” each month, a fund grew to provide a birthday cake for each one, which also meant that often Randy would write a poem about the honoree.
Celebrating a Brookville office Christmas moved through different types of observances, but always there were
the individual poems for each one, written usually late at night by Randy. Those were tailored to every person, along with a “gag” gift.
The student reporters whose stories are part of the archives of the J-D also found a mentor in Randy. It was not unusual to find one of those young people sitting in the seat beside his desk receiving advice about articles or pictures. That list of those he encouraged along the way is extensive.
Like Major McMurray, Randy’s interests in his community will keep him among familiar faces. He recently returned to the Board of the Jefferson County Historical Society, just was appointed to be a Brookville Borough Councilman, and is invested in the expanded Laurel Festival.
Beyond that, for the first time in years, he and Barb are planning a vacation, one that won’t be curtailed by something unexpected for the paper. He’ll be able to attend events for the grandsons without concern about getting back for a meeting.
Certainly there will be care and concern for the first responders going out on a fire or accident call, but no longer will it be necessary for him to be the eye-witness for the reader.
One of the enduring qualities of a newspaper, a plain, old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hands newspaper, is that it doesn’t need batteries, can be read with any kind of reasonable light, and can be saved for as long as a person might wish.
So, like the Major, Randy’s work will be submitted to the archives of history in a publication begun in 1832. It is fitting for -30- to be written from the other side of his desk.