As we hit the reset button at the start of a new year, most of us likely have hopes that things will turn out better in the next 12 pages of the new wall-calendar.
But just like a book that flips to the next chapter, the old chapter doesn’t disappear. It’s still there, the plot already played out, open for re-reading at any time – but not available for editing.
Around here, 2011 is one of those years in which we’d probably like to burn the pages of that calendar and move on.
Sure, we had plenty of high points: Opening the Towne Center Park was cool, and the Lady Antebellum homecoming concert was fantastic. It was nice to see Animal Control get a new place, and the geek in me was thrilled to see Rachael Cundey win the county and regional spelling bees for the third year in a row.
But losing Probate Judge Pat Hardaway was just plain hard. Like a lot of people, I dearly loved that lady, and more than anything appreciated that she was never shy about telling me what she thought. Her successor, Alice Padgett, is one of many public officials up for re-election this year.
Likewise, the death of Matt Miklas was a shock. He’d interned with us during the summer and would have graduated last month from Augusta State University.
And the whole saga with Scott Dean, while the really ugly part started in 2010, turned much of the year into the equivalent of a rutted dirt road: Difficult to travel, with yet another bump coming just when you think it’s smoothing out. And it still isn’t over: The next bump comes soon when he gets hauled back to court for sentencing on two counts of child molestation.
For good or bad, though, and with a few exceptions – such as construction projects we knew would end last year, and the Dean case, which we were pretty sure would go to trial – many of the memorable events from 2011 largely were surprises.
Who knew, for example, that a Harlem girl would be the county’s first murder victim just as the new year started? Or that the year would see its most spectacular car crash, ever, with more than 60 vehicles colliding on Interstate 20 (without a single fatality)? Or that multiple agencies would stage a raid on an Evans home in an illegal-immigration case?
That latter item, by the way, will be one of many stories from 2011 coming back up in 2012. Federal prosecutors are saying little about the arrest of Hugo Diaz, his wife and a half-dozen or so illegal aliens; once it gets to the courtroom, we can expect to hear far more about the details of his alleged operation.
Recent public opinion polls say that respondents expect 2012 to be a year of economic improvement. That’s good; Columbia County did pretty well overall in 2011, but more stability would be nice. Steady as she goes into 2012, and best of luck to us all.
Turn the page.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/