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Hello SLO 

Early thoughts of a new New Times writer

After about a month of preparation and a couple of days of frantic packing, I found myself crammed into a two-door Honda Civic with as many belongings as it would hold headed toward the California coast and a new job with the New Times.

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  The journey began in San Andreas, which always spurs the same question: Where? San Andreas is the county seat for the frog-jumping capitol of the Sierra Nevada foothills: Calaveras County. There, I spent about a year and a half eyeing county government for the Calaveras Enterprise. It took 300 miles of driving, with enough caffeine and sugar to propel a bull elephant, but I’m finally here, ready to delve into SLO.

While driving down from the foothills, across the San Joaquin Valley and across more hills, I kept thinking it’s astounding how drastically California changes from place to place.

The landscapes of rolling hills may be similar but the little things, the details, truly distinguish places. San Andreas did not even have regular recycling pickup until just a few months ago. The streets are littered with trash and cigarette butts and it’s not uncommon to see an old pickup truck with a bed full of empty beer cans.

I think it’s safe to say that’s not the case here.

The entire Calaveras County population is about equal to that of SLO city. People there take pride in a relaxed atmosphere that is said to be lacking in urban areas. But I’m shocked at how relaxing it can be to take a walk downtown here, in a college town with tens of thousands of residents.

I recently bumped into someone who had moved from SLO to San Andreas for work. When he found out that I was making the opposite move, he described his hometown to me like a kid showing off a new toy.

“There’s just a good energy,” he told me.

He went on to describe the fresh food at the Farmers’ Market, the open-minded people, and even drum-circle etiquette. It’s hard not to be immediately taken in by this area. After unpacking I decided to venture for a Sunday stroll downtown. To my surprise, that excursion was cut off by a bike race, a welcome interruption. So I wandered the streets occasionally stopping to watch dozens of cyclists shoot around corners, vying for the lead.

I could go on and on about the endless things this place has to offer but you get the picture: I’m happy to be here. Let me get back to work.

My journey into government began as a political science student in San Diego. Like many other students, my career choice was settled post-graduation.

After a brief stint with the League of California Cities, I learned that actual government work is not for me. But observing government and conveying what I see exhilarates me. Sometimes governance is conducted behind closed doors. The New Times has a reputation of wedging the doors open.

A Calaveras County Planning Commissioner asked me what I believe my vocation is. Being put on the spot forced an answer I stand by: I’m the eyes and ears for people who don’t have the time to observe and a voice to explain what’s happening.

It’s a simple enough concept, but it happens with a lot of phone calls, documents, and a steady rubbing of my temples to pull it all together. Hopefully, that temple-rubbing will produce good stories. If I do my job right and call out people when they deserve it, maybe some others will have headaches of their own.

 



Tell your story to Colin Rigley and the rest of the “New Times” editorial staff, at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 24, at Blackhorse/Uptown Espresso and Bakery, 1065 Higuera St., SLO. And have a cup of coffee, our treat.

 

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