John League, The Herald-Mail's editor and publisher since 1995, plans to retire in July, capping a 32-year career with the company.
League, 56, revealed his plans Monday during a series of meetings with Herald-Mail employees.
There are "other things I want to do with my life," he said Tuesday during an interview. He didn't name anything specific, but said it will be fun deciding what to do next.
Schurz Communications Inc., the Indiana-based company that owns The Herald-Mail, plans to have a replacement ready when League leaves.
Charles Pittman, Schurz Communications' senior vice president of publishing, said the news caught him off guard when he was at The Herald-Mail on Monday for a previously scheduled visit.
Pittman called League "a consummate professional" who works hard, grew in the job and truly cares about the newspaper, his co-workers and the community.
"It's important for me to go out close to the top of my game," League said.
League joined The Herald-Mail in 1979, starting as a reporter in the bureau in Charles Town, W.Va., where he grew up.
He was named city editor of The Morning Herald in 1985, at age 29, then managing editor later that year.
At the time, The Herald-Mail Co. published both The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail, an afternoon paper, as well as combined Saturday and Sunday editions. The three versions of the paper merged into one — The Herald-Mail — in 2007.
Besides the merger, League also has overseen the newspaper's emergence in the digital world and a transfer of printing to presses in Frederick, Md.
He said he's been on call 24/7 for more than 26 years, in various editor positions and as publisher, and he's ready for a change.
While at The Herald-Mail, League has been active in community groups and causes, including the Greater Hagerstown Committee, the chamber of commerce, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, Hagerstown Rotary and Horizon Goodwill Industries.
"This community has been very good to The Herald-Mail Co. and to me personally," he said. "As a business leader, you're obligated to give something back."
League said he'll miss the people he's known through his work and "the great atmosphere of any newspaper, which I think is a singular experience."
"What we do is part of the democratic process, and I've never taken that obligation lightly," he said.
Asked about his proudest moments with the newspaper, he named two.
One was The Herald-Mail's in-depth investigation of tip-jar gaming in Washington County in the 1990s, which led to the creation of a Gaming Commission.
The other is keeping the newspaper's pages open to the community, especially for criticism of The Herald-Mail.