Wednesday, December 1, 2004

A quick goodbye to Winchester - thank you all for everything

In all the years that I have been writing, this is probably one of the hardest columns I've ever had to put together. Next week will be my last one editing The Winchester Star. I have decided to go back into the radio field and will continue my community journalism career in a city closer to my new home.
The decision to leave The Star was a difficult one but made all the easier after the birth of our first child in August. Starting a family was something I put off to the very last minute, preferring to dabble in music, politics and media. But one of the things I always promised myself was that when I did have children, their needs would be put first to the best of my ability. By "needs," I didn't necessarily mean possessions. I promised myself that I would not be one of those fathers who was never around. What would be the point? I didn't wait all these years to have kids so that I could spend my entire life at work, even if I do enjoy it. While there will always be a story to chase on deadline, this change will allow me more flexibility and more time with my beautiful son and supportive wife.
I hope readers understand that this is a personal choice. This decision is what is best and just one of many, as we measure what is truly most important in our lives.
With that said, there are so many people to thank and I know I will miss a few.
Professionally, I want to thank all the remarkable people I have worked with here at CNC, including two great reporters: Christopher Rocchio and Kristina Arvanitis. Thank you all for your camaraderie and friendship.
In Winchester, I would like to thank everyone who contacted me with story ideas, congratulations, praise, and criticism. Thank you for letting us into your homes and interesting lives to tell your stories.
One of the things I love about this town is that there are so many straight-shooters. You always know where Ellen Burkhardt, Fire Union president John Frongillo, Peter Haley, Superintendent Jim Marini, Selectman Chuck Nurnberger, and state Sen. Charlie Shannon stand on any issue. Thanks for being there.
Thanks to all the regular contributors: Mary Courville, Lynn Engle [and her husband Wayne], Lauren Field, Walter Finneran [keep smiling], Hope-Valerie Pashos, and so many others who helped to make The Star better than it would have been without you.
Thank you Bob Baughman and Annette Farrington for your long-time friendship as we worked together in the music and political worlds.
A quick "good luck" to problem solvers like Roger Berman, Paul Collins, and other FinCom folks; Maureen Meister, Charles Smith, Sam Stroud, and other planning, engineering, and historical hawks; and others like Fran Sabatino and the West End Neighborhood Association; everyone at WinCAM, the Jenks Center, the library, and recreation department; and all the employees at BookEnds and The News Shop.
And thank you also to Katherine Allen, Eva Arnott, Chris and Elena Benoit, Debbie Catalano, Tony Conte, Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, Patrick Fortin, David Frenkel, Robert Guarente, Selectman Tom Howley, Kathryn Hughes, Carolyn Latanision, John Natale, Michele Nathan, Andrea Phelan, Mary Pronski, Marcia Saltmarsh, Michael Schindelman, Peggy Schleicher, Dan Sheridan, Pam Swartzel, Margaret Sullivan, Kim Whittaker, and so many others for good conversations and contributions to the paper.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank Laurie Russell of the Winchester Community Music School, the first person in town who invited me into her world. I'm sorry I never got a chance to peruse the huge record library at your school but maybe someday.
Regrets? Yeah, I've had a few: Not being able to get to the bottom of the Winning Farm mess and not working harder to expose the town's business, records and meetings to the public. There is so much you should know that you don't.
In some ways though, people get the town they deserve if they stand on the sidelines and allow their elected officials to lead in a vacuum. Participatory democracy is only healthy and strong when the people are involved and when the press is investigating and not hamstrung. I think we have done our part to the best of our ability. Now, it's your turn. Run for one of those town seats that go unchallenged year after year. Run for Town Meeting - the last bastion of historical democracy - which languishes and never reaches its full potential in Winchester despite the efforts by some. It isn't meant to rubber-stamp - it is meant to inform, debate, challenge, and amend. That is what the founders intended.
Lastly, please remember this: Despite what anyone says or writes, it is not a personal attack to criticize or dissent. Residents should be able to disagree with their leaders [and other residents] but still sit down with them after the fight and have a beer. That is the essence of a town that is truly a community.
Alright, one more bowl of lasagna and Chianti at Lucia's, a swing around to the drop boxes and we'll call it a night. Maybe I will see you all again sometime in the future.
Until then ... Best, Tony.

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