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View from the Beat: The prosperity of Gadsden County

In early May, the Tallahassee Democrat reported on the recent emergence of the Trulieve medical marijuana company in Gadsden County.

For the most part, it was a straightforward article dealing with this growing industry in Gadsden County. However, what was most troubling to me was the choice of headlines for the articles for this story both online and in print, as follows: “Impoverished Gadsden County pins hopes on Trulieve, medical marijuana” and “For struggling Gadsden County, medical marijuana and Trulieve ‘may be our future.’ ”

These headlines, and a number of similar references within the article to Gadsden County being a poor county, point out to me a consistent characterization by the Tallahassee Democrat of Gadsden County in a negative light with the use of words like “impoverished” and “struggling” to describe the county.

While I understand there could be many statistics that could be used to paint such a dim picture of Gadsden County, what I’ve found in my nine months living and working in the county is a prosperity and richness of spirit that also has to be taken into serious consideration when judging the county.

I’ve lived in several areas in my life much materially wealthier than Tallahassee, including Palm Beach County and New York City, and to me they did not have anywhere near the prosperity in terms of community dedication, and spiritual maturity and connectedness, that I have observed in Gadsden County.

Gadsden County residents should no longer allow the Tallahassee Democrat, or any other outside media outlets or residents, to make disparaging remarks about the county without being challenged. And we also shouldn’t allow fellow Gadsden County residents, who may have forgotten or never known what makes this county great, to put down Gadsden County.

We all have a responsibility to change the narrative about Gadsden County, both in the surrounding areas, as well as in the rest of the state in general. When Interim County Administrator Dee Jackson took her current position on October 31, 2017, she soon after encouraged all county employees to begin answering the phone with the phrase, “It’s a great day in Gadsden County.”

Perhaps that’s a phrase all Gadsden County residents, and anyone who works here, should begin all our phone and one-on-one conversations with to let people know that there really are so many great things going on in Gadsden County. I think this could go a long way in shifting the media and public perception of what is really going on here in Gadsden County.

To follow up on this idea, every Gadsden County resident should have in their minds a list of the top five or ten or a dozen things they like about Gadsden County in case someone asks them, “What’s really so great about Gadsden County?”

Here is my list to perhaps help the reading audience get started on their own lists:

• A great community newspaper in The Herald
• Friendly, caring people
• Lovely neighborhoods to live in
• Dedicated county, municipal and school district administrators, board members and employees
• Strong, welcoming churches
• Beautiful scenery and natural locations
• Havana Winter Festival and Lawnmower Parade
• Quincyfest/Porchfest
• Oscar’s, English Rose Café and the Havana Eatery
• Havana’s Shade Tobacco Museum
• The Quincy Music Theatre
• Diverse municipalities such as Havana, Quincy, Midway, Chattahoochee, Greensboro and Gretna.

Randall Lieberman is a reporter with The Herald who has lived in/covered Gadsden County since September 30, 2017.

Column by Randall Lieberman