After 25 years covering a beat that Google tells me is 140 square miles, I can only say it has been the ride of my life.
Now Appen Media and I are parting ways on what has been an incredible journey. When I joined Appen Media Group there was just the one little bi-weekly newspaper delivered to Roswell and Alpharetta. Roswell was the center of North Fulton’s universe with a population of 45,000, and Alpharetta was the “little brother” of about 15,000 souls.
But the winds of change were already stirring. Little did I know what was coming down the pike but I had the distinct privilege of covering it all. Ray and Christina Appen were determined to bring the best news coverage to North Fulton possible. That suited me right down to the ground.
That meant going to a lot of city council meetings and planning commission meetings because there were so many projects changing the face of North Fulton. Looking back, the landscape has changed in so many ways.
There was a lot of news to cover in those days, and I think we did a good job on the whole. We had to cast a wide net. Covering the Fulton County Commission was always challenging. There was always a clash of personalities on the Fulton Commission.
From Michael Lomax to John Eaves the Fulton chairmanship has been stable, but the one exception, Mitch Skandalakis, was a rollercoaster ride. He was bellicose, argumentative and didn’t hesitate to pick a fight.
It has been an amazing era, and I use that word advisedly. The growth has been phenomenal. In 1993, Windward Parkway consisted of some upscale subdivisions, the Golf Club of Georgia and trees. The same could be said for the newly minted Northpoint Parkway.
Westside Parkway was just a line on Alpharetta’s Future Land Use map. There were only three high schools.
It all seems like the blink of an eye now. Now, there is a thriving business district – mostly in Alpharetta – with the promise of more to come now that Westside Parkway is open for business.
But the memories I will cherish most are those of the people that I have met along the way. So many of them generously shared their stories about who they are and the things they have done. It was all grist to feed The Beast – that deadline every week. I won’t try to mention the many who stood out. Many were contributors who merely pointed me in the right direction. Space does not permit, nor does my memory which does not have a “total recall” button.
But I think most of you know who you are, and you have earned my heartfelt gratitude for all the help along the way.
When people would ask how I seemed to know so much about what was going on, I would always truthfully reply, “All I know is what people tell me.”
And what stories I have had to tell because of it. It is sufficient to say that North Fulton has been an amalgam of imagination, persistence and a willingness to buck the system. In short, the people here not only believe in the American spirit, they live it.
I won’t say your vision has always been 20-20, but I generally have had the advantage of hindsight.
I have seen transformations that only the pioneers of old could have seen. It has been that dramatic.
No city had incorporated in Georgia in a hundred years, yet two of the first three were in North Fulton.
It took energy and no small amount of leadership to accomplish all that has happened here in this last quarter of a century. I thank Ray and Christina Appen for giving me the best seat in the house to see it all play out and the opportunity to write it.
When I started out in this business I wielded a proportion wheel and a pica stick to format a newspaper. Now it all happens electronically on the computer screen. I hope the future generations do not lose their desire to get a newspaper. If folks don’t know it yet, they soon will. The real fake news comes in those anonymous posts.
The real news will always come with a byline and a reputation behind it – and in black and white.