Shelby County finds a place for the wallflower

Published 11:32am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

For the last two-plus years, I have attempted to watch Shelby County from the outside.

As a print journalist, I tend to gravitate to the edge of events or meetings in order to be a silent observer. Reporters are charged with recording events, not being involved or creating them.

I tried to stay on the outskirts, but Shelby County residents would have none of it.

I’m going to blame my gradual inclusion first on members of the Chelsea Citizen Observer Patrol. Each time I arrived at an event — typically one that included food — the COPs would save a seat for me. How could I turn down a meal with a group of fun-loving retirees with big hearts for their city?

The next group surprised me. The first few calls I had to make to law enforcement agencies about wrecks or crimes absolutely terrified me. After a few hit-and-misses, though, I think I got the hang of it. More than that, I’ve learned that the law enforcement officers of this county are some of the most honorable, deeply passionate men and women I’ve met.

I’ve also had the opportunity to cover the Shelby County Commission and city council in seven municipalities, and I feel I can confidently say the leadership will continue to lead this county toward an even brighter future.

The list of Shelby County people who have drawn me into their lives over the past years far exceeds my word limit. I have met an unbelievable amount of people willing to share their stories with a near stranger, and I leave with the blessing of having recorded and shared those stories.

This is my last week with the Shelby County Reporter. My brilliant husband was accepted into the doctorate botany program at the University of Florida, and, as a Floridian myself, I’m looking forward to being closer to my family for our next chapter.

It’s not every job that lets you have a personal connection with so many incredible people, and I feel truly blessed for having been a part of this community, if only for a short while.

It’s bittersweet to leave, but I’m confident to leave “my” cities and beats in the hands of my more-than-capable co-workers, those who have mentored me through my time here.

I wish you all the very best, and go Gators!

Christine Boatwright is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 16 or by email at christine.boatwright@shelbycountyreporter.com.

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