What a crazy seven months it’s been.
When Bradenton Patch , yours truly was asked to help turn this little website no one had heard of into a place Bradenton residents could go to for news and information, where they could see their community reflected online. “The digitization of small towns” is how one Patch editor calls this experiment that now boasts more than 800 sites in communities all over the country.
The ideas behind Bradenton Patch were simple. As editor, I’d live and work here, bringing you news you can use and stories you care about. I’d listen to what you had to say and interact with you. I’d invite you to become a part of Patch online and provide a forum to speak your mind, ask a question, find what you're searching for or let everyone know what's happening around town.
Fast forward seven months, and we’ve accomplished all that and more. Bradenton Patch has continued to grow as the word got out about us, and we’ve been able to form our own little community. It’s been a pleasure to get to know this town and its people, to work with other talented journalists and contributors and to create something special.
That’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
Today is my final day as editor of Bradenton Patch. I won’t be going far — I’ll still be living here (Sarasota, to be precise) and working for Patch, only in a new role, helping with this and some of our other sites in the Tampa Bay area. It’s my pleasure to turn over my title to Toni Whitt (more on her in a moment), who I know will continue to build Bradenton Patch into a community fixture.
As I look back on these seven months, the unforgettable experiences are still fresh in my mind.
I’ve stood at the 50-yard-line while the charged out of the tunnel on its way to another run at the state title.
I’ve been in the middle of and , press conferences and one-on-ones.
I’ve judged a speech contest of 4th- and 5th-graders who spoke more eloquently than I ever could.
I’ve sat through more government meetings than I probably will for the rest of my life, learning about issues that never before crossed my mind.
I’ve talked to and , and , and .
But it wasn’t just the celebrities or cool events that I’ll remember. It’s the regular, everyday people that make Bradenton so special and whom I won’t soon forget.
It’s , who took me on a tour of the crime-infested Pride Park neighborhood he loves so much, waving to the drug dealers and pointing out the crack houses as we drove along. He won’t rest until he cleans up the bad elements and puts the pride back in Pride Park. Where others see a lost cause, Mann and other dedicated community members see hope.
It’s , the director of Manasota Operation Troop Support and a tireless advocate for local soldiers and their families, I had the pleasure of meeting during my time with Patch and sharing their stories with you.
It’s , a Southeast High student who came to the United States from Haiti at age 10 and who showed me the caps she decided to knit for kids with cancer. She already speaks three languages and is working on two more. Makes me wonder what I've been doing with my life all these years.
It’s , Bradenton’s friendly fire chief, who took me into his office in one of my first few weeks on the job and told me all about his department and why he loved working here. He offered to take me on a ride sometime in the vintage 1926 fire truck he had restored and was so proud of. We never got to go on that ride. I was in the room when the mayor and city council found out , at age 55. The truck was .
And finally, it’s all of you that I’ve gotten to know, whether it was around town covering a story, on the phone, by email, through comments on Bradenton Patch or on Twitter or Facebook. I had the pleasure of meeting many of you at our tent or elsewhere around town and in interviews, picking your brain for information or sharing your stories with everyone else.
Now it’s Toni’s turn to have those same experiences as Bradenton Patch’s new editor. She’ll officially introduce herself Thursday, and you can reach her at email@example.com with your questions, story ideas, comments and even your complaints (yup, I've had my share of those, too). I'm confident she’ll do a great job, and I hope her time is as unforgettable as mine.
But ultimately, no matter who's running it, Bradenton Patch isn't just about us — it's about you. This site belongs to the community just as much as it does to any us with Patch. So in that way, I know it's in good hands: Yours.
Thanks for letting me be a part of it.