By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
Of all the beautiful, stupid, heartwarming, hilarious things people have said to me during the two and a half years I have lived in Glasgow, there is one quote I enjoy repeating more than any other.
“If that’s fair and ethical journalism, then there’s not a cow in Texas.”
For those of you who missed that gem, it was a comment Barren County Magistrate Chris Steward made about me during a televised fiscal court meeting on June 5, 2012. It was, sadly, not the only verbal abuse directed toward me by Steward during a public meeting. There was a time in the summer of 2012 when Steward actually spent more of his time talking about me during fiscal court meetings than conducting county business.
Barren County, you are such an incredible community with so much to celebrate. You should celebrate veterans such as Evans Bowman, who through World War II only wanted to return home to his farm in Temple Hill. You should celebrate Sarah and Brian Shirley, doing what they can to take care of their children and their land. You should celebrate Marianna Irving, who believes in miracles. You should celebrate St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, simply loving everyone. Celebrate your children learning new subjects and your businesses expanding. Celebrate our farmers growing the food that nourishes us. Celebrate our doctors developing new methods for taking care of us.
But instead of celebrating all those people and organizations making positive impacts on our community, too often you turn to bullies like Chris Steward, you elect them to office and you clamor to the newsstand when he’s on the front page. You seem to think you’re better off looking the other way when a public official is not doing his job, rather than go to the effort of finding an official who will be a positive influence on the community.
We live in a place where a person like Chris Steward is elected and re-elected, and then allowed full reign to terrorize the public from his throne of government office.
While Steward or another magistrate can spew defamation from his magisterial bench without the slightest repercussion from fellow court members or the community, the average citizen is not allowed to speak at a court meeting unless he or she has been given advance permission. You would think these rules apply to the public because the fiscal court has some sort of standard of decorum or standard of what is worthy to be discussed in a government meeting. But no, Steward has clearly demonstrated the lack of standards in the Barren County Fiscal Court.
There are, in fact, very few standards in Glasgow and Barren County – I certainly don’t want to limit my criticisms to the fiscal court.
There is no standard of critical thinking in a city council that rarely has an in-depth discussion during its open meetings, no matter how important the topic to their constituents.
There is no standard of ethical behavior in a police department that picks and chooses which crimes committed by its officers are worth investigation.
There is no standard of leadership in a community that allows this to go on. Where are you, voters? Steward has been on the fiscal court before. Many of our local public officials continue to be elected again and again after doing nothing productive.
Is that our message? Is that what we want the state, the nation, to think of Glasgow and Barren County? That we are so indifferent to our community’s potential we’d rather re-elect someone who thinks studying employees’ toilet paper-buying routines is the most important use of his time? That we are so complacent we accept having a city that can’t punish a police officer for perjury simply because so many other officers have committed acts “unbecoming an officer of the law?”
You are better than this, and you should demand better. It’s time this community starts examining its criteria for who you trust, and who you put in a position of authority.
When I came here two and a half years ago, with an unknown last name and a lack of twang that told you all I wasn’t “from around here,” I was often judged. It was decided that I didn’t know the community, would never know the community and couldn’t possibly be of any benefit to this community. The Glasgow Daily Times is constantly criticized because we hire people from outside Barren County. But have you ever stopped to look at us? Watched us volunteer with local organizations, enroll our children in schools, shop locally, pay taxes and make friends here?
What makes you think, Barren County, that you are better off uplifting native-born people who drag this community down, rather than transplants who are working themselves to the bone to better this community? What makes you think you are better off lazily re-electing people who have no respect for our citizens rather than seeking out all of our wonderful, forward-thinking, intelligent citizens, born here or not, who could do great things in leadership roles?
My challenge to you, Barren County, and to everyone, is to stop and examine your standards for excellence. Is a person excellent and worthy simply because he or she was born here? Do government officials deserve to be elected because their grandparents did great things for Glasgow? Do they deserve re-election simply because you physically survived their first term?
When will you speak up, Glasgow? When will you raise the bar?
If you think I have spent two and a half years giving you unfair or unethical journalism, then I simply feel sorry for you. I may not be a Pulitzer winner, but I have put my heart and soul into this community and this newspaper. I have given you some damn good work, and I thank God for the supportive people I have found in this community who appreciated my fair and balanced coverage.
As of July 27, I will no longer have a mailing address in Barren County. I will leave, and start my adventure in England with my husband. But Barren County will always be home. This community will be filed away in my heart, next to each of the other places I have lived. One day, I will put my children in the car or on a plane and I will bring them here. I will show them the first newspaper where I worked, where their father proposed and the only home I ever lived in by myself.
I pray that during that trip, I will also be able to tell them how Barren County had slipped into a bit of a dark place while I was here, with some corrupt politics and low standards, but the people stepped up and realized they deserved better. And I will pick up a copy of the Glasgow Daily Times and read stories of the incredible people who live here, doing good work.
Amanda Loviza Vickery’s last day at the Glasgow Daily Times will be July 26. After her departure, you can follow her work and travels on Twitter, @alovizavickery, and on her blog, amandalovizavickery.wordpress. com.