It seems to me…it is always difficult to say goodbye to an old friend and neighbor. And, sometimes the old neighbor is not a person but an institution. Human or not, it was still a friend who brought news and information about what was going on in our community. It was not a gossiper but a voice that didn’t preach.
This friend has helped me and many others stay aware of important happenings so we could be better citizens and contribute to the well-being of Stafford County.
This neighbor first moved into Stafford in 1990 and began shedding light on life in the county. In those days, we knew this neighbor simply as “The Sun.” More formally, it was the Stafford County Sun. Then in April 2015 the Sun married up with a larger voice and later took a new name, “InsideNoVa.”
But, like many voices of its kind, some of its friends and neighbors became enamored with new strange digital voices and stopped depending on its voice, no longer supporting it. Its former friends and neighbors found lots of other voices to listen to -- but none as local to the goings-on in Stafford.
Sadly, our friend and neighbor found that in order to remain a viable voice for Stafford it, too, had to change. And so it finds it necessary to reinvent itself into a new type of voice, bringing Stafford information in a new format, which has proved successful in other areas of Virginia.
My allegory or metaphor above is not just creative writing. It is how I and others have felt about Stafford’s newspaper. It has been a friend and a very good neighbor. It has told us the truth about our community in a way that let us be better citizens. It always gave us the news in unbiased and intelligent reports. It allowed all Staffordians to be better citizens -- whether we became involved or just remained better informed. It was our community voice.
I joined the newspaper 10 years ago and have contributed a column every other week. In all these years, the paper has held its writers to a high standard, with accuracy at the top of the list.
While the center of our writing was the county and its people, major issues that affected other communities as well as Stafford also became topics for our readers. Early on, I wrote several columns about an aging retired farmer who lived alone and had a pet horse of which he was very fond. Across the road from his farm a housing development was built. Some of the residents of this development complained that they could smell the horse and that flies associated with the horse were invading their surroundings.
I took up the farmer’s cause because the distance between the horse and the houses seemed to me too far for the odor to travel, and it was difficult to believe that any red-blooded fly would leave a long-time Stafford resident four-legged gourmet dinner for some skinny two-legged newly arrived snack.
We gained some support, but the newcomers’ position prevailed, and the horse was moved to Spotsylvania County family grounds.
What I learned from that little controversy was that in Stafford we could disagree and move on when a decision was reached -- a sign of a healthy community. Through the years, other controversies came and went -- some resolved, others not.
Stafford continued to grow into an increasingly diverse population in people, politics and values. This growth provided unlimited opportunities for column topics and subjects like the BPOL, school bus seatbelts, Interstate 95, U.S. Route 1, school board issues, American Legion baseball, elections, school zone speeding violations, FAMPO, SOLs, the environment, county landfill issues, student use of cell phones, and countless other topics.
I am deeply grateful to my long-time editor, Aleks Dolzenko, and more recently Greg Hambrick for their guidance, demand for accuracy, and patience. I am equally grateful to the paper’s publisher, Bruce Potter, for providing a reporting and writing atmosphere of openness and honesty, and for providing a newspaper dedicated to Stafford and its people. Above all, I am grateful to the people of Stafford for their acceptance of my thoughts and views.
I’ve been invited to write for the new format when it debuts in 2020 and IT SEEMS TO ME…I’ll continue to do my best to bring issues of interest and importance to neighbors and friends in Stafford. Until we meet again, may your holidays and holy days be times of personal renewal and joy, and may the new year bring you all you wish for to enjoy in a world filled with peace.
Harvey Gold is a contributing writer at InsideNova. Reach him at StaffordNews@insidenova.com.