A little over a month from Brian Cooper’s retirement, the reality has begun to set in: He’s actually leaving.

In my nearly three decades at the TH, I’ve scarcely made a tough decision without running it by Brian. His leadership and guidance have charted the direction of our news coverage since 1986.

During that time, he’s been a constant advocate for public accountability and the importance of a free press — not just in the tri-state area but across Iowa.

His ardent support of First Amendment issues has garnered statewide attention. Last week, Brian received the Iowa Freedom of Information Council’s annual Harrison “Skip” Weber Friend of the First Amendment Award at a banquet in Des Moines.

Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, recognized Brian’s work for public access. “Brian has been a towering figure for more than 30 years in the quest for improved government transparency in Iowa,” Evans said. “He has passionately made the case in the Telegraph Herald’s editorials, in its news coverage, and in conversations with lawmakers.

“The citizens of Iowa owe a huge debt of gratitude to Brian.”

I second that.

Other recipients at Thursday’s banquet included Maquoketa Sentinel-Press editor/publisher Trevis Mayfield, and Gina Colbert, a resident of Columbus, Ga., who has become an advocate for public accountability following the shooting death of her daughter in 2015 by a Burlington police officer.

Congrats to everyone who fights the good fight for the public’s right to know — especially Brian Cooper.

THE REAL TOM BARTON

Readers might have been a bit puzzled last week to see a familiar byline on TH news stories: Thomas Barton.

Would Tom Barton, the longtime school board member who is not seeking re-election this fall, be changing careers to join the Fourth Estate?

Nope, don’t worry, it’s not that Tom Barton. This is the guy we at the TH think of as our Tom Barton.

Our Barton covered city government, politics and other issues as a TH reporter from 2014 to 2018. He then left Dubuque and worked at The State newspaper in South Carolina as a senior reporter on the state government team.

But something about Dubuque had gotten into his blood, and when we had a reporter opening, Barton sought to return. We’re thrilled to have our Barton back on the team, and I know readers will benefit from his diligent and dogged reporting.

And with Tom Barton the news source stepping down from his elected position, hopefully it won’t be too confusing for folks.

HIGHLIGHTING THE ARTS

October is designated as national Arts and Humanities Month and various arts groups in the city are marking the occasion by highlighting programs and events throughout the community.

The tri-state area is rich with arts and cultural opportunities, and I’m proud of the work the TH staff does in previewing and covering those events.

This month is particularly laden with arts events and we’ve got lots of coverage planned. Later this week we’ll unveil a consummate guide to Dubuque’s ever-growing list of outdoor murals and take a deep dive on William Intriligator marking 20 years with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.

The Dubuque-area arts scene is a point of community pride, and we’re excited to spotlight some of the many opportunities there are to explore local arts.

Email Gilligan at amy.gilligan@thmedia.com.

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