By DAVID MAY
Hope Inc. Executive Director Lisa Huffaker came into my office a few days before the recent gala asking if I had saved any photos from previous galas she could have copies of.
I spun around in my chair to the desk behind my desk and pulled open the top left-hand drawer. I looked inside and it hit me. The last 10-1/2 years of life – one fifth of my lifetime – were essentially burned to disk, labeled, placed into CD jewel boxes and stored generally in chronological order.
I was looking at nearly 200 compact discs containing the stories, photographs, special sections and more comprising the coverage of local events and people in the time I have been privileged to serve as the editor of your newspaper. Wow, 10-1/2 years. That’s roughly 126 months, or 3,800 days give or take. I won’t calculate the hours, minutes or seconds. I’ve produced around 2,600 editions of the Index in that span. A long time, all archived and stacked into one desk drawer for me to peer into and wonder how that much time could have gone by so fast.
Back in 2002 I was in need of a new job and direction. A previous decade-plus in journalism left me with a little burnout and a burning desire to look at other opportunities where I could put my skills to work outside of newspapers. That came with mixed success – I made more money for a few years but went through layoffs, corporate merger downsizing and a start up failure. Every time I had built up a nice savings, I had to use it to survive periods of unemployment.
I was a technical documentation editor for a telecommunications software company in Plano when that industry turned upside down in 2001. I was in the first wave of layoffs in August that year. I thought, OK, I’ve been through this a couple of times recently. I’ll find another job. A few weeks later 9/11 happened. The country was thrown into turmoil, and companies quit hiring. I knew it was going to be a long layoff this time.
In June 2002 I was in Longview when I saw an online job application for the position of editor of the Mineral Wells Index. I met with publisher Mel Rhodes and, before I knew it, my daughter and I loaded up and headed west not knowing just what was ahead of us, what this new town and life would bring. I was about to go over my own personal financial cliff, so the opportunity came none too soon.
I never thought I would be here this long. First, it is the longest I have stayed in one position. Journalists are fairly nomadic by nature. Now looking back, coming to Mineral Wells was a blessing in so many ways both personally and professionally.
The best part is the stability it brought me and my daughter as we started over, taking and making steps as we could. I couldn’t be happier about raising her in Mineral Wells and her six years in the local school system. She thoroughly enjoyed high school, and now she is preparing to accept her bachelor’s degree and is working toward a master’s. I thank you for helping make that possible, by accepting me and letting me serve as the editor of your hometown paper all these years.
What a ride it has been. Through the Index our lives and relationships have been through a lot together. So many stories of personal triumphs and tragedies. Fun times and events, seeing firsthand the good works of so many people dedicated to making this community a better place to live and work. I have been here so long kids whose pictures I took at livestock shows or county fairs are now in high school, college, or married and having children. And then there are those I came to know who have passed.
I have worked in a few communities across Texas but Mineral Wells leaves me amazed at what goes on here, the many people who work and give unselfishly for others, like Tommy’s Angel Tree which is the best community project I have ever covered or been part of. So many here, whether they a little or a lot, do what they can to help their fellow man, woman and child. I tell you this Mineral Wells, don’t worry what outsiders say. This is a good community with a lot of good people, especially a lot of good young people. Stay the course and keep working together. The positives here far outweighs any negatives, in my opinion.
To avoid making a long story longer, it is with this column that I wish to thank each of you for your support and contributions to the Index whether as a subscriber, advertiser or submitter of photos and articles. There are so many I would hate to start trying to single them out, and I can’t imagine trying to produce a community newspaper without your contributions.
But it is time to head out – no not into the sunset, for that would be going west. I am eastbound – into the sunrise (I hope). I am moving to our sister paper, the Weatherford Democrat, where I will occupy the editor’s seat. Not sure I will last 10 years there. I might not last 10 months. But I look forward to the challenges ahead.
I can only hope the Weatherford community will be as welcoming, accepting and at times as forgiving as the people of Mineral Wells. I have seen and experienced so much here and made more than a few good friends. I have met many wonderful people and for that I am grateful. Those experiences and relationships are what this profession is about, what makes it rewarding and enriching.
As I like to say, I have done all the damage here I can. Seriously, I leave with the hope I have played a role in making Mineral Wells a better place to live, work and raise a family. Thanks for letting me be part of it and keep moving forward.
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