07.25.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Watermark is in the midst of celebrating 25 years in publication. It’s a huge milestone for many reasons that I will get into in my next column, so stay tuned. However, I bring that up now because—in preparation for the celebration—I am going back through the years and highlighting some of the stories we’ve covered.

You may have noticed these pages popping up toward the end of the past two issues, covering 2014 and 2015. Tom Dyer had done a similar retrospective for the 20th anniversary, so I wanted to carry on the tradition leading up to our 25th anniversary issue slated for late August. In this issue we reflect on 2016, a devastating year in so many respects.

However, 2016 was the year Watermark Publishing Group was started and it was the year, beginning Jan. 1, that I took over as owner of the newspaper. I was so excited to see what the future would bring to me, the community and the paper; with no idea, of course, what would happen just six months in.

It’s interesting to go back and look at a past year, to see what was popular at the time and what made headlines. It’s funny, and it’s sad. I feel like Dottie Hinson packing up to go to the All American Girls Professional Baseball reunion in “A League of Their Own.” I swear I can hear Madonna singing, “This Used to be My Playground” in my head. Although I have only owned Watermark since 2016, I have been a member of the family since 2002.

Perhaps I am feeling especially nostalgic this issue because it’s our first issue away from home. Watermark moved our Orlando office July 12 from the cozy confines of Colonialtown to a nice office building in Baldwin East. The move was a mutual agreement between building owner and Watermark founder Tom Dyer. He has been very generous to Watermark Publishing Group, but with the opening of our Tampa Bay office and change in staffing dynamics, the duplex-turned-office is just too big for our needs. Tom is taking the opportunity to renovate and I’m excited about the change for him, as much as I am excited to enter a new realm for team Watermark.

Still, it tugs at my heart strings to leave the space I worked at for nearly two decades. It’s the space where I started this journey. It’s the space where my parents had their will done before my father passed away. It’s where they came to plan our trip to Houston to lay my sister to rest. It’s the building where I consoled others who just lost a loved one, or found out their positive HIV status. It’s the office where I accidentally dropped a bottle of rubber cement on my desk, got high off the fumes and giggled to myself for over an hour. It’s the office I painted after a few hours of happy hour drinking which needed a redo when I sobered up. It’s the space where we lost close staff members, our editors Dave Weithop and Billy Manes. It’s the home where we all sat around the TV to hear the president of the United States congratulate the LGBTQ community on winning the right to marry. Most importantly though, it’s the place where my spirit animal Tom Dyer was never more than 50 steps away.

The last time I stepped foot in the Ferncreek location, the building was painted and the carpet ripped off the floor. Soon it will be ready for new tenants to make their own memories, as I am sure Watermark will do at its new location. The good thing about looking back is knowing how to move forward.

In this issue we talk to Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s finest in LGBTQ officers past and present. In Central Florida news we pay our respect to local hero Joel Strack who recently passed away, for Tampa Bay news we learn that the Flamingo Resort will close after serving St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ community for more than 10 years. Our entertainment sections check in with comedian Matteo Lane and artist Omar Ramo.

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

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