Words To Live By: Change

By : Rick Claggett
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Rick Claggett

Rick Claggett

Change is inevitable. It’s scary. You can’t control it or predict it.

We’ve seen a great deal of change over the past several months. In September 2014, Tom Dyer announced that I would take over as Publisher of Watermark. Tom and I spent months working out the details, preparing me for the new role and coordinating the best time to make the move.

Although I handled the day-to-day operations of Watermark for years, my new position threw me a few curve balls I didn’t see coming. Our community was seeing change all around.

St. Pete Pride and the Tampa Bay Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce saw big changes to their boards, and Tampa Pride began its resurrection. In Orlando, the Metropolitan Business Association and Come Out With Pride went through a leadership change, as did The Center and Hope & Help.

It’s overwhelming, and that’s just a small percentage of what has happened. Enter the scary part of change. How will new management in so many associations affect decades of relationships? For the better, I hope.

Communication is the key to making change positive. I’ve seen communication working in our community, but we can do better. I can do better. I encourage the executive directors and board members of non-profits to reach out to me. Let’s discuss how we can make our organizations and our community stronger.

You certainly are not alone. Watermark exists to serve this community, to tell your story. Let’s work together to make that happen.

Watermark has recently gone through a few staffing changes of our own. Our online media director, Jamie Hyman, has given birth to a beautiful baby boy and will be out on maternity leave through July. Jeremy Williams has returned to Watermark to fill in for Jamie, keeping our website updated and making sure Orlando news is covered.

We are grateful to have Jeremy back for the next few months and expect that you will love him just as much as we do.

The biggest change to Watermark’s staff came the morning I was writing this column. As stated in the Editor’s Desk, Steve Blanchard has accepted a new position outside of Watermark and will no longer be our editor-in-chief.

I’ve worked with Steve for over a decade now, since his first day at Watermark. I’ve watched him grow from freelancer to staff writer to bureau chief to editor-in-chief

Steve has been a staple here for a long time and exemplifies what it is Watermark strives to do. He entertains, informs and makes our community a better place. Although I will miss him immensely, I am excited for him as he takes on his new endeavor.

Watermark is hard at work searching for our next editor. I guarantee our commitment to our entire coverage area in whichever direction this change takes us. I am certain we will find a voice that speaks to you.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m also reminded of a very personal change in my life.

On December 31, I lost my father to a long battle with liver disease and cancer. My father was a hero to my family. He married my mother when I was 2 years old and the youngest of 5.

My father raised us as if we were his own and is greatly responsible for who I am today. He loved to laugh and had a corny sense of humor. I both thank and blame him for passing that on to me.

I distinctly remember the day my father and I reconciled over my being gay. I knew he knew I was gay for a long while, but we didn’t talk about it.

In my early 20s I was living at home with my parents and I decided it would be a good idea to invite my boyfriend to stay over… for a few weeks. Partly because I had a twin bed and partly out of respect for my parents, my boyfriend slept on the floor.

Early on a Saturday morning my bedroom door swung open and there stood my father. He threw a handful of cash on my dresser and said, “Please go buy a bigger bed so he doesn’t have to sleep on the floor.”

Then he walked out. Simple enough but it meant the world to me.

My father remained strong through his many years of illness. I thank my mother for that; she’s pretty tough for a short red head.

I had the privilege of standing with my mother by my father’s side when he took his last breaths. I stood in awe of her love, compassion, strength and faith. This will be the first Mother’s Day we spend without my dad and I’m sure it will be a rough one, but no worries mom—I’ll bring the bloody mary! Happy Mother’s Day.

I’m just over halfway through my first year as Watermark’s publisher and change is everywhere. As it turns out, it’s not that scary. I welcome it. With each change there is an exciting opportunity for a fresh perspective.

I’m 40, single (topic for another column) and ready to help make our community more fabulous than it already is.

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