And then this happened.
Some days, being truthful, I wonder whether the whole blog thing makes any sense. I sit quietly in the Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson and question the sanity of investing so much time writing on the internet.
It’s often circumstances that snap me back. The blog will attract plenty of conversation or I’ll get an email out of the blue from a potential sponsor.
But it’s the times that I’m able to retreat a bit and pay attention to what’s happening with Just Wright Citrus and the diverse conversation on a weekly basis — that’s when I realize what a real gem we’ve stumbled upon here.
I use “we” a lot because there is no me without we. My words are drivel without your interaction. An informed and engaged community moves the needle. Right now we’re a little rudderless but while the government figures it out, we can point out the challenges.
That happens through this blog. Every weekday. And the occasional Facebook drop is usually good for decent chat as well.
Well, we’re about to broaden our horizons.
Citrus County Chronicle Publisher Trina Murphy and Editor Jim Gouvellis invited me to start writing Sunday Commentary columns. It took a nanosecond to say yes.
Jim suggested I take a day to think about it. I ran it by a half-dozen trusted friends and they had the same reaction I did.
When I saw Jim at the chamber lunch Friday, I said I was all in and really gassed about it.
He gave me a look.
“You’re not gonna want a parade, are you?” he said.
(Chronicle has a crusty editor. That’s a good sign.)
This was unthinkable 18 months ago. When I retired from the Chronicle, I remained a loyalist but the only way to survive was to separate from my role there to this totally different role here.
I made sure, though, to keep a healthy relationship with Trina. She was my last publisher and a darn good one, and I watched her face a lot of uphill challenges that first year.
Every time we chatted, Trina always made a point of saying she enjoys the blog. She was one of the first to tell me she reads it every morning.
We also spoke frankly about the newspaper. She listened to my concerns, particularly about community challenges that were on the horizon. I had the publisher’s ear and she had mine. We developed a sense of mutual respect.
When her husband John entered a political campaign, Trina suggested I handle the questioning of his district race at the Chronicle forum. Not a big deal to most people, but it showed a lot of trust on Trina’s part.
Eventually, Trina was able to bring in her own editor. Jim Gouvellis knows his way around a community newsroom in Florida and he’s seen all the tricks local politicians pull on the press.
I had a Cattle Dog chat with Jim the other day and as he’s talking I’m thinking, “I coulda worked with this guy.”
And now I’ve been invited back, in a much different role, to help lead the community conversation instead of simply writing about it. The first column is scheduled for this Sunday.
Two distinct but vital partners make this possible:
— Sponsors who pay Just Wright Citrus each month to advertise on my blog website. Four of them — Meek Real Estate, Good Signs Fast (Mark Baker), Mike Bays State Farm Insurance and M&B Dairy — signed on right away and they’re hugely encouraging. I value each sponsor and am humbled by their trust.
— Speaking of trust, there’s you, the reader. You read and comment. You comment politely but firmly. My blog means little without your comments, which quickly turns into conversation or debate. Suddenly we’ve got a living, breathing thing on our hands and knowing it won’t go off the rails, it’s fun to see.
This is how a strong community thrives. We tend to emphasize who wins the debate and forget how we got here. It’s the ability to ensure all sides in Citrus County are heard without reproach — that’s the goal.
It’s my aim. I can tell by the Just Wright Citrus conversation it’s yours too.
Let’s keep it going. Plenty to talk about.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.