The first time I met Rich Archbold was serendipitously unintentional.

It was late 2005 and I had been sent on a mission from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Long Beach by my then new boss, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, to seek the Press-Telegram’s editorial support for some particular public policy matter of great importance to Supervisor Knabe.

I was new to Southern California — 25-years-old and stupid, fresh off a stint as a broadcast news producer throughout the Northwestern states, starting a new job as Knabe’s communications director.

At the time, I figured the best way to get something published in a newspaper I didn’t know, in a town I didn’t know, was to go straight to… the publisher.

I arrived at the Press-Telegram’s ancient and expansive former home at Sixth and Pine for my appointed meeting time with Publisher Mark Stevens, and while waiting for a rickety elevator ride upstairs, someone unexpectedly came up behind me and offered to point me in the right direction.

It turns out it was Rich, the executive editor and top newspaperman at the P-T. It was the first time I met him and whether he knows it or not, he’s one of the newsmen and community leaders who has been pointing me in the right direction ever since.

Over the past year or so, Rich has publicly and graciously documented and shared the ups and downs of his journey to battle melanoma cancer, including how he’s deftly navigated unique challenges and vulnerabilities throughout his cancer treatment as a husband, parent, grandfather and community leader.

I can’t wrap my head around the year that Rich and his family have faced, but last night came a bit of good news as this year soon comes to a close: In one of his last actions in office, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia will be presenting his final Keys to the City to Rich Archbold and Naomi Rainey-Pierson this Tuesday, Dec. 13.

I could fill pages about my friend Naomi — about her singular work to bring our community together, to fight against racial prejudice, to champion inclusion and equity for women and minority groups, her work as a commissioner, volunteer, educator, board member to dozens of community groups and boards for decades, about the good trouble she and I get into anytime we’re blessed to sit next to each other at galas and dinners, about the steady mentorship, counsel and compassion she’s given me over the years — but more on my friend Naomi another time.

This column, after all, is about Rich.

After riding up that rickety elevator with Rich in 2005, the doors opened to a maze of offices at the P-T building, but also opened to a journey in my own life and career continuing to play out today, which I could have never seen coming as that stupid, presumptive kid nearly two decades ago.

Rich introduced me that day to the P-T’s legendary Editorial Page Editor Larry Allison, the always impeccably dressed, poised and wise newsman who was mentor to many and whose legacy lives on so many years after his passing.

Rich next took me to the publisher’s office, delivering me into the wood-paneled wonderland, featuring a fireplace on one wall and woven rugs across the floors — a bygone setting not remotely repeated in the publisher’s current office at the Long Beach Post and Business Journal.

Years later, it was Rich who so perfectly captured the awesome grief, terrible loss and community compassion when Shaun Lumachi — the irreplaceable thread and common best friend forever linking me and Mayor Garcia — was unexpectedly killed in 2011.

More recently, it was Rich’s name, along with Larry Allison’s, I found forever memorialized on the dedication page of one of Tim Grobaty’s books, which I devoured in the days leading up to starting my current job, in order to better understand the rascally colleague I was about to have when Grobaty joined the Post in 2018.

Rich has never ceased his celebratory chronicling of our community — Long Beach and the people in this city are an endless party, captured across the decades in Rich’s work. He’s never backed down in his belief in the power and vitality of local journalism or his championing of and steadfast support in the Press-Telegram.

It’s because of people like Rich that I get to work with people like Tim Grobaty. I get to work with Grobaty every day — that’s a headache and annoyance and thrill and privilege not many get to experience and something I’m blessed with daily.

I’m so fortunate to have run into Rich that day at the P-T so many years ago, I’m fortunate to have gotten to know Larry Allison because of Rich’s initial introduction, to work with Grobaty today, to have Rich’s columns help me better understand the city where I’m raising my family.

The Key to the City is a fitting tribute and a much-deserved honor for Rich Archbold — a newsman’s newsman and a true Long Beach legend.

Thank you, Rich.