Sue Stafford has always had a deep and abiding love for Sisters - and for the written word. She combines them as a freelance reporter for The Nugget.

"I've been a writer since I was able to hold a pencil," she said. "It's the way I process stuff."

Stafford got her start as a Nugget freelancer in 2013. She had been involved in establishing senior programing at Sisters Park & Recreation District and approached The Nugget about writing an occasional column geared toward senior issues and interests. "Of a certain age" continues to be featured in the paper - but Stafford's work expanded greatly from that start.

Soon, she was writing feature stories, and then she took on the City Hall beat for the paper.

"The City beat is always a tough one in a small town," said Editor Jim Cornelius. "It requires a particular blend of temperament and reporting skills. You have to be able to set aside your own policy preferences and biases - even on issues that affect you as a citizen. And you have to be able to translate sometimes dry and complicated policy issues into something that is both interesting to read and readily understood. It's a real challenge, and Sue delivers on it week in and week out. I rely on her heavily."

For her part, Stafford said the "hot seat" of the City beat "hasn't been a problem." The feedback she gets on the street is gratifying.

"I get a lot of appreciation from people," she said. "They tell me that I explain things in a way that's easily understandable."

She acknowledges that sometimes it's difficult having to confine herself to observation and reporting, when the issues at hand affect her as a citizen living within the city limits of town.

"I don't get to be Joe Citizen," she said. "I don't get to have an opinion. That's hard, because I'm a very opinionated person! I work really, really hard to be as objective and factual (as possible) and to tell all sides if there are sides to a story. I don't have an agenda when I write a story. To me, it's professionalism."

While she likes being The Nugget's City reporter, it's not her favorite part of the job.

"The articles I really like to do are the history articles, the features (on a) person," she said. "I like people. I love to hear their stories... It's the human connection, that's what it is. That's why I love the feature stories."

She has a similar love of place. Sue has been coming to Sisters since she was a young girl, camping along the Metolius River in Camp Sherman. She once rode in the Sisters Rodeo Parade with her best friend. The place is graven on her heart and soul.

"When I leave, which I seldom do anymore, when I come over (the pass) and see Black Butte, I say, 'Ah, I'm home,'" she said. "This is my heart space and my energy center."

Her love for Sisters has led her to preside over the year-old Three Sisters Historical Society, which wrapped up a season of Fireside Stories with regional historians this week.

She's also a gardener, though she admits that she doesn't go at it as hard as she used to on the wet side.

"I used to love to garden," she said. "My physical limitations are making it less fun than it used to be. And the deer are always a challenge."

Though she's been in the saddle with The Nugget for five years and turns in multiple stories each week, the print run always gives her a charge.

"I get an adrenaline rush every week before I pick up the paper," she said. "It's just fun to see what I've put down on Saturday and Sunday in print."

Cornelius said that he appreciates Stafford's work ethic and productivity and her insights into the issues that matter in Sisters.

"Sue works hard and takes her coverage seriously. She has a real sense of responsibility for what she does and she cares deeply about her town," he said. "She's rock-solid reliable and really sees below the surface of things. I have to say that our Thursday-morning conversations that start the work week are one of my favorite things about the job."