Writing is both therapeutic and agonizing. Writing with purpose consistently requires commitment, passion and creativity. These are lessons I have learned every week since January 2009, when I became a regular columnist as the editor of the Sedalia Democrat.
I have written a weekly commentary for the Democrat for a dozen years. The first one included a reference to then Mayor Bob Wasson welcoming me to the city on my first day on the job. His dedication to public service remains one of the most inspiring things I have encountered in Sedalia.
I have explored the zucchini races in Cole Camp, detailed my experience trudging through a deserted downtown during the blizzard of 2011 and explained how Dave Clippert, who led the Pettis County EMA at the time, helped keep our whole community safe in the 2011 tornado by learning lessons from Joplin’s experience. My first couple of years in Sedalia, I wrote daily commentaries during the Missouri State Fair, wandering the grounds until I found something interesting or enlightening.
Whether offering a local perspective on a national issue or sharing stories about people in our community, my goals are to give readers something to think about or smile about.
This week, I reached out to find out which of my columns had an impact on Democrat readers. Emily Schmidt, communications director for Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri, cited my piece on Mr. Jimmy, who hands out snacks at the club’s Parkview Elementary site. Schmidt has “always enjoyed stories like that – small moments and people who may have gone overlooked.”
Terri Ballard has liked the “Slice of Life” columns, where I share the story of someone who lives outside the community spotlight.
“During a time when our country and our community (are) so divided, these pieces allow us to get politics out of the way and get to know each other on a human level,” she said.
Commentaries on media literacy have hit home for Brian Pettis.
“We have talked about it many times, and unfortunately it tends to fall on deaf ears, but it is a huge issue in modern society, and it is nice to have a local voice advocating for it,” Pettis said. “If it makes even one person double check something before sharing on social media, then it’s successful.”
My friend and fellow writer Becky Imhauser appreciates what she called my “gift for recognizing and communicating the positive in our community – groups and individuals.” She mentioned Democrat legend and Missouri Press Hall of Fame member Ron Jennings in her comments. The column I wrote just after Ron’s passing is one of my favorites, as I sought solace after losing someone I still admire to this day. One of my other favorites was getting to share the story of LaTonya Marshall and her focus on keeping her sons’ lives steady as she pursued her law degree.
This is what editors call burying the lead: This is my final weekly column for the Democrat. A variety of factors led to this decision, and it was not an easy call. I have truly enjoyed this experience, but right now I am not able to commit to writing regularly and at a level of quality that readers deserve.
I’m not going away, though; Democrat Editor Nicole Cooke said she would welcome occasional submissions, so expect me to pop up from time to time to address local issues, share stories about area residents and sometimes just to get something off my chest.
My sincere thanks to anyone who has read my columns over the years. I appreciate your investment of time in my work more than you know.