After more than 31 years with the newspaper, Sylva Herald Editor Lynn Hotaling will retire at the end of this month.

“It’s been a wonderful job, but it’s time for me to go,” Hotaling said Tuesday. “I’m ready to spend more time hiking and gardening.”

Herald Publisher Steve Gray said that while he’s sorry to see Hotaling go, he understands her wish for more time to pursue her other interests.

“Lynn has been a true asset to The Herald since she joined our staff in 1984,” Gray said. “During her tenure she has produced award-winning special sections in addition to weekly editions of the paper. She has seen the paper through its transformation from paste-up to computer layout and helped us transition from a print-only product to one with an ever-expanding online presence.”

Though Hotaling is stepping away from The Herald’s day-to-day operations, she is not ending her long association with the newspaper. Instead, she will become The Herald’s senior editor. In that role she will continue to write her popular Ruralite Cafe column as well as offer input into editorial decisions.

Veteran journalist Quintin Ellison, who joined The Herald staff in 2012, will take over as editor.

“I’ve benefited from my association with Lynn over the past three years,” Ellison said. “She’s one of the best editors I’ve worked for, and I’m glad she’s willing to continue with the paper in an advisory role.”

Hotaling, a native of Chickamauga, Ga., who grew up near Atlanta, arrived in Cullowhee in 1970 to attend Western Carolina University, where she studied history and biology, and never left.

“I fell in love with the mountains,” she said. “It’s that simple.”

She got her start in journalism while an undergraduate at WCU, joining the Western Carolinian staff as a typesetter and later co-writing a weekly column. She worked a series of jobs after graduating from WCU in 1972; all of them were undertaken in order to stay in the area, she said. Over the next nine years, she was employed by Wolf Creek Tree Farm, Sapphire Valley, WCU, Jackson County Schools and High Hampton Inn, where she met her husband, Richard, now an engineer with ConMet.

Hotaling returned to journalism in 1981, when Dan Moore offered her a job on the original Cashiers Chronicle. Moore sold to Community Newspapers Inc. in early 1984, and the Chronicle merged with the newspaper CNI had begun in the southern end of the county to form the paper now known as The Crossroads Chronicle.

Hotaling, associate editor of the Chronicle at the time the paper sold, was out of a job when the papers merged and CNI kept its editorial staff. She joined The Herald that fall as an advertising sales representative and special sections editor. She added more writing duties after J.D. McRorie retired as news editor in 1993; Hotaling took over his longstanding post as Sylva town reporter and also began covering the local school board. She moved into the editor’s job when McRorie’s successor, Angela Griffin (later Nicholas), left The Herald in 1997.

Hotaling is the winner of numerous N.C. Press Association awards for all aspects of her writing, including reporting and columns. She won a first-place award in 2003 for editorial writing and, with then staffer Rose Hooper (now Garrett) was a statewide winner for all divisions of Tar Heel community newspapers in the religious reporting category for a series of reports on a schism in the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. In 2007, Hotaling won a similar statewide community newspaper award in the legal reporting category for coverage of a lawsuit brought by ousted Airport Authority members against Jackson County.

Ellison, who grew up in Bryson City, studied music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She began her journalistic career at The Franklin Press in 1992 as a general assignment reporter. After leaving the Press in 1996, Ellison was first a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times and then editor/manager of the newspaper’s Haywood County News. She spent two years (2010-12) at the Smoky Mountain News before joining The Sylva Herald.