12.28.17 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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New Year’s Eve is upon us. This day has changed for me over the past few years. Usually I’d spend the evening getting drunk and complaining about how awful the year was. At midnight my friends and I would hug each other in the hopes for a better new year.

December 31, 2014 would be much of the same. In the early morning hours of that day my father passed away, pretty much sealing the deal on making 2014 an awful year. Later that evening my family joined me at my favorite watering hole before we all retreated back to my place where I drank the year away. That was the last New Year’s Eve I would spend drunk.

Since then, New Year’s Eve has become more reflective for me. Rather than simply complain about what went wrong I look back on the year’s events as lessons. What did go wrong? What role did I play in its inception and how did I react to the adversity? It’s a practice I pursue every day, but at the end of the year I look back at the big picture. What I hope to find is that the year is met with progress.

We knew 2017 was going to be a tough year. It began with our community in pain over the recent Pulse tragedy, coupled with fear and anger over what a Trump White House would bring for us. We knew we had a battle ahead of us and we were ready to fight. We didn’t know that we would lose the singular voice and fighting spirit of Billy Manes, who passed away unexpectedly in mid-July. Billy is a hero to this community and his inspiring spirit lives on, moving our community forward.

And our community is moving forward. We have fought for what matters to us and the progress is palpable. Our country saw champions of LGBTQ causes winning elections along with history-making wins for transgender candidates. We are seeing real progress and that leads to a hopeful new year.

Hopefully you will see great progress in Watermark this New Year as well. As we bring our new, full staff up to speed you will see an increased and varied online presence. As our team of freelancers grows we will be bringing you more compelling stories of issues that affect your community and how they relate to your life, or at the very least inspire you.

It is important for me that our readers know how dedicated our staff is to the community and how hard they work to bring your stories to print. In 2017 we introduced a series called The Last Page to do just that. We have a few more staff members to cover before we start filtering in our freelancers and their passionate stories of commitment. New in 2018, I will open up this page to give a voice to the two bureau chief that work to the heart of what’s going on in Tampa Bay and Central Florida. In every other issue, beginning with the next one, our Central Florida readers will hear from Jeremy Williams and our Tampa Bay readers will get more insight from Ryan Williams-Jent.

In this issue we check in on a Longwood couple featured in ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. In Tampa Bay news, we look into the Straz Center for the Performing Arts’ new grant and who will benefit from it. Our Arts and Entertainment section gives you a preview of Winter Fringe in Orlando and an interview with the legendary Johnny Mathis, who is performing at Ruth Eckerd Hall in January. In each of our news sections, as well as the entirety of our In Depth section, we give space to the stories that shaped 2017 and our community. You will also find a pop culture look at the past year.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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