Longtime CTV Ottawa anchor Max Keeping is stepping down after more than 30 years behind the anchor desk. Veteran CTV national reporter Graham Richardson will take his place as co-anchor with Max's longtime partner Carol Anne Meehan.

"Now is a good time to step aside personally, and watch the team you've grown to trust so well for so long continue to serve you," Max told viewers at the end of his 6 p.m. newscast on Thursday. Dec. 3, 2009.

"You've given me the privilege to come into your homes for 37 years, and each one of those newscasts was signed off with a 'thank you' -- the least I can say for being as blessed as you've made me."

Max -- who is a beacon in the community and has helped raise more than $100-million for charity -- will sign off for the last time on March 26, ending his 51-year career in journalism.

"I've worked in five markets but I've never worked with someone who loved their community more than Max. He's been so selfless over the years," said Meehan, who fought back tears while talking about his departure.

Dedication to community

Max is devoted to charity and community. He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario; a wing at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is also named in his honour.

Max's own foundation - the Max Keeping Foundation - was established in 1995. Its aim is to help meet the financial needs of children and families who don't meet the requirements of other charities that offer financial assistance in the Ottawa area.

Over the years, Max has also faced his own struggles, fighting and beating a very public battle with prostate cancer, which he used to spread awareness.

Big shoes to fill

While Richardson admits he has big shoes to fill, he is excited to take the reigns and return to his roots covering local news.

"It's the most important story-telling in our network," said Richardson.

"Like politics, all news is local; the closer the story is to people, the more it matters."

Richardson, who is a veteran journalist with an extensive career covering news at the local, national and international level, will start making regular appearances on CTV Ottawa starting in January. He will take over the job on a full-time basis at the end of March.

"No one can replace Max. He has such an extraordinary impact here," said Richardson.

CTV Ottawa General Manager Louis Douville said the station was eyeing Richardson for the job for sometime.

"We started talking about him as one of the potential candidates well over a year ago," Douville said.

"We knew filling Max's shoes was going to be a decision we couldn't take lightly and we had to make sure we had a candidate who was going to be able to fill those shoes as best he can; and (Richardson) is going to have to grow into those shoes."

Douville would not confirm the names of any other candidates.

Community ambassador

Although Max is leaving the anchor chair, his career at CTV Ottawa is far from over. After reporting his final newscast, he will step into a new position as CTV Ottawa's community ambassador.

"I'm not going away. For the next two years, I'll be CTV's community ambassador -- continuing the role we think it's important for your local station to play," Max said.

Douville said the position was created to help Max keep in touch with the community he's served so closely for almost four decades.

"We couldn't fathom the thought of not allowing Max to continue the work that he's done in the community. Now, he'll be able to dedicate himself 100 per cent of the time to the incredible work that he's done," Douville said.

"Nobody can do it the way he can."

Meehan agrees: "He's irreplaceable," she said.

"There's nobody like him. There will never be anybody like Max Keeping."