When I walked into this week’s Hillsboro City Council meeting, settled into a seat and got all my things in order, then looked around the room, I almost chuckled to myself. I knew it was coming, but all the new, younger faces in seats of authority still kind of caught me off guard. It gave me a good feeling to see a new generation stepping forward, yet at the same time reminded me that I am not as young as I once was — in a good sort of way.
There was one of my nieces, Brianne Abbott, sitting in the safety and service director’s seat. I don’t think I need to explain that one much.
There was Alex Butler in the auditor’s seat. I have known Alex since he was one of the most quick-witted and hilarious little kids you could ever meet. He has been a source of spiritual encouragement over the years, and I consider him a good friend. I also graduated from high school with his mother.
There was Dane Allard in a city council member’s seat. I have known his family since he was a kid, too. I watched Dane play sports in school, then become a pharmacist and father, and work on a project to help kids around the world. I consider him a friend too.
Then there was Justin Harsha in the mayor’s seat. I do not know him as well as the other three, but my wife babysat him when she was in high school, I used to fish with his brother and one of my brothers a bit, and over the years I have worked on many stories with his mother and late father.
And that’s just touching the surface.
So you can see why it was a bit odd when I looked around the council room the other night, but good, too.
It would be reasonable to think those relationships might put me in a compromising position as reporter and editor. But it won’t. It might make things a little more easy, but The Times-Gazette will still report things straight down the middle, trying to get both sides of every story, regardless of whom we might offend.
I have worked on stories with all four of the above of on past occasions. Knowing them did not change the story then, I don’t expect it to in the future.
Being a reporter in your hometown, you run into those situations. I have some type of past connection with most of the other city council members and administrators. All those in small-town elected or appointed positions have the same issue. It’s just the way is.
I want to make one thing clear: I am not trying to say that I was happy the other night because some of the people from last year’s council meetings are no longer there. I respect each of them for the time and effort they put into their positions, and thank them for their service.
I was just tickled the other night when I sat down, looked around, and thought to myself, “Ole boy, you’re not a youngster anymore.”
And I saw a reason for hope. Not only in the new four, but in the other council members, too. I believe it’s a good group. They have issues to face and problems to tackle. I hope they serve our city well. I think they will.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.