It was fitting, I thought, that the Siesta Key Association’s annual meeting March 10 was the last event on the Key that I would cover for the Pelican Press. For five years, the SKA monthly meetings have been my primary source of news about issues of interest to island residents.
Yet, that number, five, must have a special significance for me. Just as I left the Washington Daily News in Washington, N.C., after five years as executive editor, I am signing off this week after five years of working full-time for the Pelican Press.
During the past years, when I’ve covered events on Siesta, people often have asked me whether I live on the Key. I had that privilege for 14 months, when my husband and I rented a lovely house on Avenida del Norte, right on a convergence of canals. The view was so pretty, we often found people parking in front of the dock that came with the house, just so they could look out over the water.
Living on Siesta for that period of time enabled me not only to learn how to navigate the island better, it also gave me an excellent sense of why the Key becomes so dear to its residents. Of course, I also learned to live with the annoyances those residents must endure, including the traffic tie-ups in season.
I recall vividly having lunch with my closest friend at the time, in a restaurant on Ocean Boulevard, on a balmy late-winter day in 2007. I told her my husband and I already were house hunting, and I sure wouldn’t miss the traffic when we moved to the mainland.
Funny, how statements like that one can come back to bite us. I think it was just a couple of weeks later when Anne Johnson, long-time editor of the Pelican Press, called me at home one evening to ask if I would be interested in working full-time for the paper. Of course I would!
I had been working regularly for the Pelican since February 2006, covering the Sarasota County School Board. Taking on a news beat after five years as an executive editor had been the farthest thing from my mind when my husband and I moved to Sarasota in the summer of 2005. However, Anne had been kind enough to let me start freelancing as a features writer for the Pelican in late 2005, when I started getting the itch to write again. I figured covering the School Board would be a good opportunity to get to know more people and to understand better how local government functioned in a major Florida metropolitan area.
The beat proved as helpful as I had anticipated. In fact, I kept it until Anne and I traded places in May 2008, when she was ready to step into semi-retirement.
By the time I became editor of the Pelican Press, I was well acquainted not only with the School Board but also with Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota government, as well as the Key and its people. It was a special privilege to work with Jack Gurney and Bob Ardren, then Stan Zimmerman and Rick Barry, to keep up with all the county and city issues.
In fact, I have been fortunate to have many wonderful colleagues during my tenure at the Pelican Press, both before and after The Observer Group bought the Pelican in June 2011.
As long-time Pelican readers know, the change in ownership last summer provided me the opportunity to follow news on the Key more intensively than I had been able to in the previous years. Through that work, I also have come to know numerous Key residents far better than I could have envisioned that day in March 2007 when Anne Johnson called to offer me that full-time job.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to people on a beat. In fact, I have had a difficult time making myself do that over the past couple of weeks. Thankfully, because my husband and I have no plans to leave this community, I look forward to being able to stay in touch with many of you.
The Pelican will remain in excellent hands with The Observer Group. The paper that John Davidson started more than 40 years ago as the voice of the Siesta community will continue to focus on the news and events that are so important to everyone who calls the Key home.
As of the March 22 issue, Nick Friedman, whom many Siesta residents already have met, will be taking on my responsibilities with the Pelican. Don’t hesitate to call him (366-3468, Ext. 330), or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your news, just as you have been calling and emailing me these past years.
I feel sure that if Nick hasn’t already fallen in love with Siesta Key, it will be just a matter of time.