Happy New Year, Citrus County! Let’s have a chat.
These last few months have been quite rewarding as we’ve gotten to know each other a little better. Plenty of feel-good experiences, with lots of people saying almost on a daily basis they’re enjoying the blog.
Reasons vary, but there is a theme: The blunt, conversational writing style. I have to say, I like it as well. I tend to get to the point and readers seem to like that approach. It’s cool all around.
So, that said, let’s just dive into 2022, shall we?
This county, the one we purport to love, is being tossed about. We are losing focus. Our identity is questionable. Quick: What does Citrus County stand for? What does it represent?
If you’re still thinking of an answer, there’s the problem.
I don’t want to sound like a politician (ha!), but I’ve spoken to several people since September and noticed a common theme. There is a feeling in our community of unease, not exactly pessimism but more a sense that things aren’t quite right.
These folks are not down on their luck or have an ax to grind. These are successful, smart, engaging residents. They’re retired or business owners. They lead organizations that give to the community, or they volunteer their time.
In other words, the cream of the crop. Citrus County community leaders. The folks we count on to guide us.
And they’re feeling lost.
Hard to pin the reason for all this. We’ve experienced growth before, so that’s not it. House prices have skyrocketed in the past, so that can’t be it. Local governments are not aggravating people more now than they have before, so no answer there.
Or maybe all of it.
It’s easy to point fingers, and we are experts at it: County commission, school board, sheriff’s office, Republicans, Democrats, hospitals, newspaper (no more Peanuts!), rich people, poor people, cheap taxpayers, spend-a-lot liberals, folks who live on the water, folks who live in Beverly Hills – and on and on.
If you read the Chronicle’s Soundoff, which used to amuse me but now I just find sad, you see silly bickering about this county’s problems. Taxes are too high. They’re too low. We don’t have enough bike trails. We have too many trails. We need a Starbucks. Support local business. The roads are a mess. Traffic lights aren’t timed right.
Makes me wonder how some people can pull themselves out of bed having to face another day in such a decrepit county.
We have become lazy, disinterested, opinionated to a fault, pushy and arrogant.
Folks, we are WAY better than this. I’m throwing the gauntlet, issuing the challenge. Smart, informed conversation leads to spirited and cordial debate, and that leads to well-thought changes or direction with buy-in from multiple places.
We can do that here. And at Just Wright Citrus, that’s been the plan since Day 1 back in September.
The concept is fairly simple. I’m going to keep writing blogs and you’re going to keep commenting. That’s how this works. My opinion means zilch without engaged readers.
And, in case you wonder if participating in Just Wright Citrus is spitting in the wind, I can point to conversations that have occurred on the county commission that were spurred by our blogs. Politicians are paying attention because the debate is well informed.
(Just for fun, by the way, three things that drive commissioners crazy. Go this route on any of these and kiss your request goodbye:
To make the website more engaging, we added pages for community organizations and political candidates. Truthfully, that’s still in the trying-to-figure-it-out stage, but I’m confident it’ll be a great platform for community groups like the chamber of commerce and United Way, and an avenue for political candidates that Citrus County hasn’t had before.
We’re limiting comments to the Facebook page alone, so please keep doing that. I know bouncing between Facebook and a website can be aggravating. But I’m asking you to do it anyway.
I’ve gone on long enough so I’ll close with this:
2022 is huge for Citrus County. Yes, the parkway opens and all that, but symbolically, it’s take-charge time. Not so much in a government way of making sure the parkway exits don’t look like crap (though that’s important too), but a general feeling of camaraderie that we’re missing.
I’m driving the county a lot more than in prior years, and boy is it beautiful. We have so much here to see, to experience, to be grateful for. Floral City to Red Level, Riverhaven to Citrus Springs. Just look outside your front door.
Do we have challenges? You betcha. Lots and you’re going to read about them here. But for Pete’s sake, let’s be grownups in trying to solve these things. I know we can do it. That’s why this blog will thrive on informed spirited discussion. That’s how the good stuff happens, I’m telling ya.
I am so excited for 2022. I don’t expect a cakewalk, but let’s try to raise the bar a little in what we expect from public officials and each other.
Citrus County, the home we love, deserves it.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.