As years go, 2021 was a doozy.
Take my life for example. Starting Jan. 1, leading up to and including the week ending on Friday, Aug. 13, was less than spectacular. Covid lingered for months, I struggled at work and my general attitude did not ooze warmth.
Life frightened me and every day seemed darker than the day before. If you’ve been there you know what that’s like.
So when Gerry Mulligan announced on a Wednesday he was retiring as Chronicle publisher two days later, Aug. 13, it felt like my world was caving in. Gerry hired me when he was editor and the newspaper was six days a week. We had been through so much, good and not so good.
When he retired, it made sense for me too. Not because I had some grand plan for travel or sitting by the dock of the bay. I had no clue.
I sat with Gerry a few days later and he told me to use the skills and experience I had gleaned from a lifetime at the Chronicle for the community’s good. Exactly what that looked like, no one knew.
My friend Justin Strickland suggested I keep writing, at least on Facebook. Justin believed there were some folks in Citrus who might want to keep reading about local politics.
Then I had lunch with Meredith Linley and Josh Wooten, who agreed with Justin and then some. They both thought a void existed in the community for straight talk on local politics and government, and I was best suited to fill it.
I started talking with people, really spending time with them. I have never been a meet-me-for-coffee guy, mainly because it involves two things – mornings and coffee. But it turns out that’s a great opportunity for conversation, and I can drink lemonade.
Each conversation opened more doors. More encouragement. People who have been on the wrong end of some of my newspaper stories were saying the blogs struck a chord in the community. They wanted to help.
Commissioner Holly Davis – who I predicted TO HER that she would lose to incumbent Jimmie T. Smith in the 2020 election – designed my Just Wright Citrus logo, including that very cool “W” typewriter key. Holly did that because she wanted to, and we’ve become good friends.
All along, the Facebook page kept growing. Last I checked we were at 852 followers (not that I need to know or anything) and that’s practically all organic. I may have boosted three Facebook posts since September, when we kicked this thing off.
I formed an LLC. Obtained a web address. The chamber of commerce helped me set up the website and Wooten supported the concept and financially. We placed two chamber ads on the page for the Strawberry Festival and Manatee Festival, and justwrightcitrus.com was born.
The Facebook page grew. Just as important, participation grew. We’re getting excellent conversation from folks who read the blog and offer thoughtful opinions. I’ve had to “hide” fewer than a dozen comments; I send a private message to the person saying why I did that.
(In case you’re wondering, here’s why: I want civil discourse on this page, period. Name-calling, political grandstanding, inciting arguments has no place in the serious discussions that need to take place about our home, Citrus County. So there. The publisher has spoken.)
This thing started taking on a life of its own. I approached business owners who I know are vested in the community, about sponsorships. Several were very eager to help and some of their ads are now on the website.
The website, by the way, was designed by two brilliant Lecanto High School students – Joshua Brunk and Noah Breder, who I wrote about this week and were still helping me with bugs late Thursday afternoon.
And that brings me to today, New Year’s Eve. Holy cow.
If it sounds like boasting, I apologize because it’s not meant that way. At all. I’m in this position only because you supported it.
Just Wright Citrus’s success isn’t due to the publisher. It’s you, the Citrus County resident who is eager for healthy, educated, insightful discussion and debate about where we are today, how we got here and what happens next.
I’ll get on my 2022 soapbox Monday, but just let me end 2021 this way: Thank you. Thanks for your trust. Thanks for allowing me to be so conversational in the blogs. Thanks for letting me be open with you. Thanks for not fleeing from the truth.
I can’t wait to share with you details on the website and what we have in store for 2022. I expect great things from this community and I’m so eager for the conversations we’re going to have.
Please check back Monday. Until then, have a safe and delightful New Year.
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