It was a year ago that life as I knew it ended and a new one began.
On Aug. 13, 2021, I retired from the Citrus County Chronicle, the place I called home for nearly 35 years.
I was left with no direction, uncertain what to do next. I met with Gerry Mulligan, the retired publisher who had hired me all those years ago when he was editor.
We sat on a bench outside the YMCA entrance. He told me I needed to use the skills and experience I learned at the Chronicle to help my community.
And that’s what I set out to do. The Just Wright Citrus blog came online six weeks later and we’re still chugging along.
My Chronicle career is never far behind. David Arthurs’ death on Monday reminded me of the incredible fortune Citrus County has had with the Chronicle. Arthurs taught Mulligan about community journalism, Mulligan taught it to me and countless others.
There are two ideals drilled into my head from my Chronicle years that drive Just Wright Citrus today:
— Local, local, local. There are plenty of places folks can find out what’s happening in Miami, Tallahassee or Washington, D.C. There’s only one place they can find out what’s happening in Lecanto, Homosassa or Beverly Hills. For years, that was the Chronicle.
My wife and I were at the county fair in March and I was recalling how the Chronicle prints full pages of the livestock auction purchases. Photo after photo of a steer or swine, the proud student owner, and a business person in the community who just bought it.
Local. Totally local.
It was a great business model, sure, but a great community model. This county grew with the Chronicle. Each thrived because of the other.
From the start, Just Wright Citrus has been local and I plan to keep it that way. Just as my Chronicle experience was focused on writing all things Citrus County, my new focus remains there as well.
— Stand up for what’s right. I disagreed with Mulligan on a number of topics but never once believed he didn’t have the county’s best interest at heart. He said what needed to be said, when no one else was saying it.
We need that now, because it’s line-in-the-sand time.
Library Guy is taking us for fools and so far it’s working to a T. He took an issue that well-meaning people can identify with — protecting children from harm — and whipped it into a frenzy of lies and deceit about a library display problem that never existed.
He’ll attack as “predators” or “pedophiles” anyone who dares stand up to this garbage. Fortunately, there are few.
People like Josh Wooten, the chamber of commerce CEO and former commissioner, who hasn’t backed down one inch from these bullies despite their attempts to have him fired.
And how about the chamber members, mostly owners of small businesses, who also refuse to cave to mob pressure and instead are sticking by Wooten.
Just Wednesday, county commission District 2 candidate Diana Finegan removed Library Guy’s endorsement from her campaign Facebook page.
This is huge. While in a perfect world we’d have Finegan and District 4’s Winn Webb, who also has Library Guy’s endorsement, articulate their disdain for this person and all he stands for, this comes close.
I don’t know why Finegan removed the endorsement. I sent her a text asking that question but didn’t get a reply.
But it’s a glimpse of hope.
Then on Thursday, the Chronicle reported that Library Guy had qualified for the Inverness City Council ballot, and he was mentioned as well in a story about endorsements for commission candidates.
The newspaper said Library Guy “is the local representative of MassResistance, which was labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2021 by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
That’s the first time the Chronicle made that connection and I hope it’s just the start of more reporting about these trouble-makers.
Mulligan instilled in me a duty to protect the community from those who wish to do it harm. I spent 30 years writing about such people for the Chronicle, and now am doing the same thing with Just Wright Citrus.
I love this county. Truly, truly love it. It’s worth the battle. You mess with my county, you mess with me.
Worse, you mess with my friends. And they’re not the forgiving type.
(BTW, yes, I’m enjoying retirement very much. Thanks for asking.)
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.