May 23, 2005, was my first day at the Mansfield News-Mirror. Almost exactly a dozen years later, I’m writing my final story for this newspaper.
It’s been an interesting ride, some really good times and some not so good.
I’ve gotten to soar in a B-17 bomber and a helicopter, and splashed at Hawaiian Falls and through the muck of soggy festivals and football games. I’ve eaten some of the best food in the Metroplex at Mansfield restaurants, and survived late-night council and school board meetings on caffeine and willpower.
I’ve held moms’ hands as their children were named homecoming kings and queens, and sobbed and hugged my own boys tight after attending the funeral of 15-year-old Summit High junior varsity football player Dozie Njeako.
I’ve waited out hostage situations, helped expose child molesters and photographed the rubble of people’s homes and businesses. I’ve watched people get the keys to their first homes with Habitat for Humanity, celebrated as children beat cancer and cheered on a determined youngster with autism competing on his team’s cross country team.
People tend to see the press as those folks who only show up when something goes wrong, when something bad happens. I have had to cover, edit and assign stories and photos of some of the worst moments in people’s lives. But I’ve also tried to show and celebrate Mansfield people who are doing good, who are helping others.
And there is so much good in this community, and so many good people.
Common Ground Network started as a group of churches and community groups that wanted to make sure every kid got a present for Christmas. They put aside theological differences and made it happen, expanding to feeding children, getting them school supplies and books to read. And they have done it for years with very little fanfare.
Mansfield Cares organizers attended the Arlington Margarita Ball and wondered why no one was doing the same thing in Mansfield. So they did. They hold the biggest bash of the year and donate the proceeds to a health clinic, food bank, shoes and food for kids, and scholarships for seniors. If they find out someone is in trouble, these people are trying to figure out a way to help.
Mansfield’s Habitat for Humanity organizers did exactly the same thing, helping build homes in other communities until they figured out a way to bring the program to Mansfield. They have now built 13 Habitat homes here.
When I graduated from high school, you filled out dozens of applications and hoped for the best. In Mansfield, non-profit groups, businesses and community organizations get together and pass out thousands of dollars to graduating seniors, who fill out one application for the school district’s Multi-Scholarship Program.
There are people who do get some attention for all of their hard work. Our mayor, David Cook, has gotten used to me taking his photo, but he does so many things behind the scenes to help the city, community and individual people. We have an amazing superintendent, Jim Vaszauskas, who never planned to lead a school district, he just really liked kids and wanted to teach and coach. Now he leads the Mansfield school district with dignity and respect for his teachers and students.
Then there are those that you don’t hear about at all, like the local business owners who pay for kids’ extracurricular activities and medical bills. There are people who work hundreds of hours -- unpaid -- to make Mansfield a better place.
I’ve watched Mansfield’s population grow from 37,000 to approximately 60,000, build and repeatedly expand a hospital, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, plus a movie theater and two high schools, Legacy and Lake Ridge.
And I’ve gotten to work with some of the hardest-working reporters that I have ever known. Thank you, Nicholas Sakelaris, Brian Hernalsteen, Bailey Shiffler and Michael Hines.
I’ve been privileged to watch my three sons grow from young boys to men, all earning their Eagle Scout Awards through Troop 1993, graduating from Mansfield High School and two going on to serve in the U.S. Navy.
And I’ve made a lot of friends, people that my husband, Bob, and I now consider family.
Last week, the Star-Telegram, the News-Mirror’s parent company, laid me off, along with several other long-time writers and editors. Friday will be my last official day as managing editor of the News-Mirror.
Former Mansfield publisher Lance Winter will return to manage the newspaper, along with the Weatherford Telegram, so the News-Mirror will go on, as it has since 1883.
And so will I. While I’m looking for a new job, I’ll still be a proud Mansfield resident. I hope to find a position that lets me continue to work in the community that I love.
Thank you all for the kindness that you have shown to me and my family for the past 12 years. God bless.