I haven’t always loved my job. Who loves anything all of the time? Even a parent who loves their child might want to slap them “into the middle of next week” occasionally. So I hear. I don’t have children, but I have adorable dogs that drive me crazy as much as they warm my heart.

I remember I was at a low point in 2004 with my career at Watermark. The repetition of an administrative assistant position with a local niche newspaper was taking its toll on me. I was young, stupid and combative. Up to this point, I never held a job for more than a year and a half and I was currently over two years at Watermark. I was starting to get antsy, so I looked for another job. Walt Disney World accepted me to their entertainment team as a production assistant and I took a few days off at Watermark to enroll in the Disney training class known as Traditions. The only thing left to do was put in my notice and leave.

The day I decided to announce my departure, I was outside throwing away trash when then-owner Tom Dyer approached me. He asked me how things were going, a conversation he and I had never had as I was very quiet and non-communicative back then. Tom then went on to say that he had high hopes for me at Watermark. He couldn’t say when exactly, but he saw me rising through the ranks and he had hoped I was as excited about that prospect as he was. I didn’t end up taking that job at Disney, and I have never regretted that decision. I’m not sure I ever told Tom that I had that job offer, or that I had planned on leaving. His words that day changed the course of my life.

We’ve had other low points since then. Watermark is truly a family inside these walls and it hurts to lose people, whether it be layoffs from a recession, career changes or—in a handful of situations—unexpected passings.

I bring up the struggles and low points because it helps me appreciate the high ones. Right now, Watermark is definitely on a high! Word is slowly getting around that we are working on a documentary to tell the story of the journey of the rich and courageous history of LGBTQ life in Central Florida—a project I have been wanting to do since watching our community come together in the face of horrific tragedy.

In addition to the documentary, I couldn’t be happier to announce that Watermark has just opened an office in the Grand Central District of St. Pete. We are sandwiched somewhere in between Queen’s Head and Punky’s and we couldn’t be more proud to reside in an area that means so much to the LGBTQ community. Watermark has been part of Tampa Bay for nearly 24 years, and now we have a home here.

I have also taken a huge leap to expand my personal stake in Tampa Bay as a resident of Old Northeast. My goal is to split my time between Orlando and St. Pete, growing as much as the Sunshine City itself. To my Orlando family, don’t worry. I will still be here with you. To my Tampa Bay family, I look forward to being an active member in our community and I am excited to get to know you all better.

We have some great stories for you in this issue of Watermark. Holly V. Kapherr takes you on a tour of two LGBTQ-friendly Caribbean vacation spots in our In Depth section. Central Florida news digs into a lawsuit filed by some Pulse survivors, and we take a look at the new LGBT+ Center in Kissimmee. In Tampa Bay, we introduce the local who launched OutBuro that connects LGBTQ businesses, and we congratulate USF on their first Lavender Graduation Ceremony.

In entertainment, intern Randa Griffin interviews Todrick Hall and Ryan Williams-Jent gives you the LGBTQs of Tampa Fringe. Our last page features Scottie Campbell who celebrates his 20-year affiliation with Watermark this issue.

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

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