We’re starting the week with a little celebration.
It was a year ago today that the Just Wright Citrus blog made its debut here on Facebook.
The concept was to inform Citrus County residents of things they should know and wouldn’t know if we didn’t tell them. The idea has blossomed into what we have today, Citrus County’s true water cooler.
A year later I say, without a hint of doubt, that it’s wildly successful. Not because of what I’ve written, but how you’ve responded.
This idea, hatched by longtime friends Josh Wooten and Meredith Linley, was dreamed up in the weeks after my Chronicle retirement. Both Josh and Meredith were convinced that Citrus County residents would not only read what I have to say but participate as well.
I was doubtful on both points, but being retired and hoping to stave off Social Security as long as possible, I figured what the heck.
A year later, here’s how that panned out:
— We’re closing in on 3,000 followers and the numbers increase daily. When I got my 100th I was shocked. I’m not a Facebook analytics person, but the people who pay attention to such things say that’s quite an impressive number to achieve in 12 months. Almost all of that is organic; I boosted, maybe, three posts.
— Those additional followers mean more diverse discussion. Spirited conversation is the norm here and encouraged.
— It's pleasant conversation. If you read my original post that kicked this off, you’ll see that right off the bat I wanted it polite and fair. While I’ve deleted posts that cross a line, I’ve only blocked two people. And everyone who has a post deleted gets a note from me explaining why. Most people are cool with it.
— Politicians read the blog. They read your comments. Participating in a Just Wright Citrus blog conversation is better than an email to your elected representative.
— We set the tone for conversation on all the significant issues of the past year. Library Guy, Suncoast Parkway, Northern Turnpike extension, county administrator hire, ghost political candidates — all either started here or are explored in detail.
—While I didn’t get into this for breaking news, I haven’t shied from it either and we’ve had some huge scoops in the last 12 months: Target coming to Lecanto, Chipotle coming to Inverness and, the biggest of them all: The state pausing plans for the turnpike extension (99,000 saw it; 1,000 reacted; 789 shares). Each time you responded with insightful opinion.
—Local politics. I promised comprehensive coverage of the elections and so far we’re doing all right. Thanks to mystery District 2 NPA Paul Grogan, we have plenty to consider between now and the election. We broke the news Friday of the first fake-candidate complaint filed; more complaints are expected. (Grogan says he’s in it to win it.)
—The biggest, without a doubt, impact of Just Wright Citrus’ first year has been Library Guy. He showed up not long after I started this gig, and it was our blog and pressure from readers that kept the Library Guy Gang in the spotlight.
Of all my posts, Library Guy resonated the most. Probably because, thanks to commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr., Library Guy and his pals received much more attention than they should have. Just Wright Citrus readers, though, saw right through it and repeatedly hammered Kitchen while encouraging Commissioners Holly Davis, Ruthie Davis Schlabach and Jeff Kinnard to do the right thing.
Those three, led by Crystal River Councilman Ken Brown, turned aside the Library Guy and did so in straightforward fashion.
Library Guy hasn’t gone away, but we foiled his plans. The Fort Lauderdale transplant was convinced he’d come into our pleasant community, stir up trouble and get whatever he wanted before we knew what hit us. That might work somewhere else, but not in our neighborhood.
So my applause today is not for my success but yours. I’m just one blogger with an opinion. It matters little if you don’t respond to it. And it’s the online conversation that is moving the political needle in Citrus County.
We’re a year into something very special here. I’m thrilled to share it with you for the sake of our piece of paradise.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.