My post-college newspaper career at the Pioneer in Big Rapids, Michigan began on the Monday after Christmas weekend, when I was given two critical assignments my first day:
1. Buy booze from the party store down the street for the company New Year’s party later that week.
2. Write the year-in-review stories.
No. 1 was easy but vital. I was just a kid out of college and wanted to impress the new co-workers. Plus, at that time in my life, I was quite fond of booze.
“My kind of job,” I thought.
No. 2 proved more challenging.
I crammed day and night reading that year's newspapers and it gave me a pretty good idea what was up. I wrote those year-in-review stories and they were OK; while I had the knowledge, I hadn’t witnessed any of that stuff so it didn’t mean anything to me.
I concluded from then on that it wasn’t a big story of the year if it didn’t resonate before or beyond those 12 months.
Here’s what I mean:
A politician does something dumb and gets his name in the newspaper for it. It’s forgotten a few weeks later. Maybe embarrassing at the time, but means little in the long run.
Or a politician does something so dumb it brings citizens to board meetings to complain. They write indignant letters to the editor. The politician runs for re-election and loses, then a week later admits to the newspaper he shouldn’t have done the dumb thing. This happens more than you'd think and it's always a top story.
Some year-in-review stories are of maximum importance from year to year. The Suncoast Parkway is a perfect example. Before it was even a twinkle in the state’s eyes, the parkway was among the top annual stories in Citrus County for decades.
After 25 years of waiting, the parkway finally opened to State Road 44 in February. Now we can hardly remember it not being there. Construction on the stretch to County Road 486 starts in early 2023. Eventually it’ll end at U.S. 19 in Red Level, just like the vision from those many years ago.
The parkway is arguably the biggest economic/government story in modern Citrus County history. Everything rides on that road. (Pun unavoidable.)
So, you see the difference between a headline-of-the-week story, a story with actual impact, and those of the global nature that carry significant weight year to year.
All that said, here’s the Just Wright Citrus 2022 year in review:
Citrus County had a very good year.
The challenge, as I presented in the blog kickoff Jan. 2, was to stop bickering and start focusing on the many issues we face. We accomplished both.
To stop bickering, one must first bicker. And bicker we did. Politicians bickered. Citizens bickered with politicians. Citizens bickered with one another. Seems everywhere we turned we were stepping into something unpleasant.
Along the way, though, I began to sense the tide slowly turning. It really started with the Library Guy Gang losing key votes to gain control of the library board. Then we saw more people stepping out into leadership roles, encouraging one another.
After the election, there was a general exhale, of course. More than that. Victory. Either the people we wanted to win, won, or our voices were at least heard clearly. I can’t think of a single election cycle EVER that had as much variety of public chat on the county commission level as this year’s. I mean…we all know where we stand now, right? Thank the campaign season for that.
That places us in prime shape for 2023. We have a laser-focused county commission and an eager new administrator. We’re going to need that because next year is discussion time on priorities for today and tomorrow. Everyone is more than a little nervous about this growth. Lots to talk about. I’m stoked as heck for Just Wright Citrus readers to participate in that chat.
Each year has bumps and we had our share in 2022. But, by golly, we did not let that stuff pull us backward. Instead, Citrus County is on an upswing coming into this new year. I’m very excited about it and you should be too.
Best year-in-review story I’ve ever covered.
P.S. You can find my Florida Politics year-in-review stories here and here.
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