A winding path led me to Gainesville. The many great qualities of this community kept me here, while the frustrating parts gave me plenty of material for opinion pieces.
But I am now leaving The Sun to pursue different challenges. For my last column, I wanted to share my hopes for the place that I am proud to call home.
Gainesville has certainly changed since I moved here in 2005. My perspective on the city has changed as well: After marrying my lovely wife Colleen and having two wonderful children, Kate and Sam, my priorities are much different than when I arrived here.
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Sure, I still want interesting cultural events to be held here and a lively downtown scene. But a top-notch school system, safe streets and a wide array of jobs are now higher priorities. I don’t expect my children to remain in Gainesville for the rest of their lives, but want them to have the opportunity to raise their own families here if they desire to do so.
We have all the ingredients here to make Gainesville an even better place to live and work, including more highly intelligent people per capita than most cities in the country. But we sometimes can’t seem to get our act together as a community, squabbling over minor issues rather than focusing on larger goals. People too often seem more interested in protecting their own turf rather than collaborating on common interests.
My greatest hope is for the incoming leaders of the city and university to truly commit to marshalling their resources and bringing people from all walks of life together to solve Gainesville’s most persistent problems. Gainesville’s wide and well-documented racial and socioeconomic disparities should top that list.
Working with James Lawrence on the Gainesville for All initiative has been an eye-opening experience. It showed me there are no quick fixes for Gainesville’s inequities, but many people willing to roll up their sleeves and work on lasting improvements if given the chance.
My time as The Sun’s opinion editor offered a similar lesson. While writing columns and editorials was always a great joy for me, my most important role was providing a platform for other residents to offer their own views and potential solutions to Gainesville’s challenges. To everyone who has written guest columns and letters to the editor over the years, especially our regular contributors, I give you my heartfelt thanks for making my job so rewarding.
My departure from The Sun means that columns and letters will no longer be accepted for publication, with today marking the last edition of the Issues section. Readers can instead offer their opinions on news stories in the comments section on the online versions of those pieces and through social media.
The Sun has gone through its own changes since I started here, reflective of the challenges facing the newspaper business as a whole. But the reporting being done by its staff remains critical and serving of support through your subscriptions, whether for the print edition or digital only. If you’re not a subscriber already, I encourage you to visit www.gainesville.com/subscribenow to sign up.
While national journalists get all the attention, reporters at smaller publications are responsible for less glamorous but even more vital work. They are needed to act as watchdogs over local government and other community institutions, sitting through public meetings and sifting through public records. At a time when the very notion of objective truth is up for debate, we need journalists committed to fairly documenting the world around us now more than ever.
I have been fortunate to work with some giants in journalism in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and here in Gainesville. I’ve also been lucky to live in some fantastic places along the way, but found the place I wanted to marry and raise a family in Gainesville.
While my departure from The Sun will likely mean the end of my career in newspapers, I don’t plan on saying goodbye to Gainesville and will seek other job opportunities here. And I hope that the many contributors to these opinion pages channel their energy into offering solutions to our community’s problems in other ways.
I won’t be reading from my editorial-page perch about these problems any more, but have confidence in community members putting aside their differences to solve them. Gainesville is a great place to live, but it could be even better if we worked together.
Nathan Crabbe can be reached through social media at twitter.com/nathancrabbe and facebook.com/nathancrabbe.