Sam Youngman

Sam Youngman: How time flies — a bittersweet farewell

Herald-Leader Political Writer Sam Youngman.
Herald-Leader Political Writer Sam Youngman. Lexington Herald-Leader

On Christmas night, while I sat with my family in Owensboro, enjoying the peace of the season and the pause in emails that normally flood my phone, I was pleasantly surprised to get a text message from retired state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

I grew quite fond of the judge while I was covering his quixotic gubernatorial bid — a candidate who jumps out of an airplane will almost always earn a permanent spot in the heart of a political reporter — and like so much of his folksy remarks from that campaign, his text that night made me laugh out loud.

“Just layin’ around now watching Deliverance,” the judge wrote. “1972 was a long time ago.”

It sure was, judge. But as we all know too well, time flies when you’re having fun.

I know it sure has for me.

While it feels like the blink of an eye, I moved back to Kentucky more than two years ago to join the team at the Herald-Leader and cover a remarkably consequential time in Bluegrass State politics, a period of intense and overlapping campaigns that captivated the attention of the commonwealth and the nation.

I’ve been very blessed to be here, to be a part of this team and cover those races, and I’m eternally grateful to each and every one of you for contributing to the excitement, intrigue and fun.

But my time with the Herald-Leader is coming to an end.

A close friend presented me with one of those opportunities that doesn’t come along very often, and after a couple of months of sleepless deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t pass it up.

It was not an easy decision, and that’s in large part because of you.

This is a special place, and the last couple of years have been a special time.

From the 2014 U.S. Senate race to Rand Paul’s presidential bid to last year’s endlessly crazy gubernatorial race, Kentucky has had more than its share of time in the political spotlight.

The commonwealth’s political junkies have been fortunate, and I have no doubt there will be more good times to come.

For me, it has been an extraordinarily rewarding experience, plying my trade in the state where I was born and raised, learning about and visiting parts of the commonwealth I had never been before, getting to know our readers and the men and women who have fought tooth and nail for the chance to lead Kentucky.

I have so many strange and wonderful memories from my time with this newspaper, enhanced greatly by a readership that is passionate and engaged.

From my first Fancy Farm to the many debates to parades and festivals all over the state, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to get reacquainted with Kentucky as an adult, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything — except maybe 40-0, but I would’ve traded a lot for that.

So many of you have emailed or stopped me on the street or the campaign trail or in coffee shops or in Rupp Arena to say hello and offer your thoughts on the politics of the day.

This is a great job, and I’m eternally grateful to have been in this position.

The Herald-Leader has an amazing history, and I’ve been lucky to be a small part of it.

Looking ahead, I have some of the same worries about the future of Kentucky that you do. But I have faith in the commonwealth and its citizens, and I am optimistic that the day will come when we realize all that we can be, even if that day comes later rather than sooner.

For now though, I’m taking a step back from politics and journalism, trying some new things and new adventures as I join a public relations firm.

And while those adventures might take me outside the state lines, I know that I’ll never leave Kentucky.

Because I learned a long time ago that you can take the boy out of the Bluegrass, but you can’t take the Bluegrass out of the boy.

For that and so much more, I am grateful.

Thank you for reading, thank you for writing and, most of all, thank you for welcoming me home.

It has been my pleasure.