The end of the year marks a pretty momentous occasion. Jeff Morrow is stepping down from L4 to L3.

This may not mean much to many of you, since Jeff never actively sought the spotlight, but he’s been one of the most significant forces in the judge program for several years. He was the best and brightest candidate to come across my path in a long time when he first showed up and, right up through his promotion to L4, always seemed a little surprised that he merited whatever honor was being bestowed upon him. That was just modesty. Every one of those promotions was a no-brainer slam dunk.

If you have heard of his work, it’s likely in context of the formalization of L3 testing. That was a giant hairball of a project, and turned into something way bigger than was first envisioned when we talked about him taking on that role. But Jeff picked that up and dragged it across the line, something I think very few people could have had the patience to see through. Now we have formal procedures, extensive documentation, and a clear roadmap for aspiring L3s to follow. He pulled off the miracle of making it simultaneously easier to become L3 while not compromising the standards for the role. We’ll be benefiting from all that hard work for years to come, but it’s important to give credit where it’s due; Jeff made it happen and did it so well that it can be handed off without a hitch.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Jeff has been one of the more valuable voices in the high-level community for several years. That’s because he brings something to the table that a lot of us lack: pragmatism. If Jeff tells you that a project or proposal is going to have trouble, you should listen carefully. Not just because he’s probably right, but because he’s focusing on it from a different angle. How will this survive contact with the real world? Is this the most elegant solution to the problem? He’s not the most prolific poster, but I’d say that his posts are the ones I pay closest attention to when looking for feedback.

Of course, all of these contributions are dwarfed by the most significant one of all: getting to know and be friends with Jeff has been a tremendous privilege. If I could have one wish for all the judges in the program, it’s that they will each find through it a few lasting friendships as I’ve been lucky enough to. Thanks for all your hard work, buddy, when are we getting together for dinner?

There is cruel irony in that knowing when to step away from L4 is a sign that you have a maturity that makes you valuable in the role. Being a high-level judge is demanding, and Jeff has always had many interests competing for his time – he’s a programmer, a game designer, a musician. We’re lucky that he chose to devote these years of service to the program, and lucky that he’s still going to be around, even in a reduced role, so that new judges in the future can get to experience J-Mo.