As we approach the final days of 2022, I thought it would be useful to put out one final blog post summarizing the year. I find it beneficial to take stock both personally and professionally and occasions such as the end of a year, seem like a reasonable place to do so.
The first community visit of the year was to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania to work with Mayor Justin Hummel. Justin returned home a few years ago to take over his father’s business and found himself answering the call of public service. He and his wife Kim run Brewskis Coffee & Bar, where I had a better-than-average round of pub trivia. Later we took a tour of town and then we stayed up late into the night talking shop while I pet his adorable dogs. Getting to work with passionate public servants is the best part of the job and I am very much looking forward to what Justin’s leadership will bring to Bloomsburg.
A week later, Amber and I made our way to Nicaragua to visit with some close neighborhood friends that relocated to San Juan Del Sur. It was like stepping back in time. Nicaragua hasn’t quite embraced the modern economy, which is fascinating to experience. No sprawl, no national chains, the country has experienced very little development in recent decades. While there is no denying the country’s problems, it’s also refreshing to experience a place that doesn’t feel a constant need to grow. While locals do not have much in terms of material wealth, the sense of community is incredibly strong and everyone was so warm and welcoming, which I wrote about here.
In March, I made my way to Houma, Louisiana to conduct a Civic Pride Workshop. It was an incredible visit and one that left me feeling so pumped up about the town and all those dedicated to making it better. The workshop was fantastic and my hosts had me out for a crawfish boil and local whiskey afterward. Thank you to Melissa Durocher and all for the incredible hospitality. When in the area, make sure to pick up some Bayou Terrebonne Distillers.
At the end of the month, I was in Tekamah, Nebraska for a presentation on community apathy. Just a few days later, my daughter joined me for a series of community visits and workshops in New England. We had a ridiculous amount of fun touring around the region together. We managed to hit four states, visit a handful of colleges, indulge in all the maple syrup, and even treated ourselves to a couple of fancy dinners.
In April, it was off to Conway, Arkansas for a Main Street training. The afternoon rain thwarted our plans for a public improvement project, but we made do with an impromptu “Bad Ass Your Board” session. It’s possible we made our way to the bar a little early. For Easter, Amber and I spent the weekend in Toronto and attempted to eat our weight in Chinese food. We succeeded and I gotta tell you, hot pot is worth the hype. In early May, It was down to Panama City and DeFuniak Springs to deliver a couple of presentations. Thanks to Allan Branch for all of the oysters and beer and the wisdom of his “simple, not easy” philosophy.
Come mid-May, I was off to the Main Street America Conference in Richmond, Virginia, where I presented on the Community Heart & Soul program. In early June, I visited Skowhegan, Maine to deliver the closing session at the CNU New England Build Maine Conference. The month wrapped up with Civic Pride Workshops in Defiance, Ohio and Sterling, Illinois, which I wrote about here and here, respectively.
After a quiet 4th of July, Amber and I took the kids on their first big trip. We rented a house in the mountain village of Gaucin in southern Spain for a week. The community was picture-perfect, with views of the Straights of Gibraltar and the Rift Mountains of Africa. It was everything we could have hoped for in an adventure. After years of boring the kids about walkable communities, they finally had a chance to experience it first-hand.
We took some day trips, but most of the week was spent strolling around the village, eating at cafes, and sipping coffee and spritzes in the town plazas. It is so calm and quiet when the public right-of-way is not given over to cars. The boys played soccer in the streets with some local kids and the girls explored every inch of the town on their own. It’s funny how people try to instill fear in you of foreign places, but in the end, because all the streets in town were designed for people, we felt such a sense of freedom and safety.
We had an absolutely magical time, I can’t even begin to explain how fortunate we felt for being able to take such a trip. The food alone was worth the voyage. It was a revelation to experience a place that put residents’ welfare first and it was hard to return to a place that doesn’t.
In late July, I joined Ben Muldrow and Bernice Radle in DeLand, Florida where we put on the Place Recipe Workshop as part of the Preservation on Main Conference for Florida Main Street. In addition to working with two of my favorite people, the town of DeLand was an incredible host and held lots of surprises for us.
August was quiet and left me extra time for home improvement projects. September and October had me on the road nearly every week with visits to Colfax, Washington, Wichita, Kansas, Little Rock, Arkansas, Burlington, Vermont, Front Royal, Virginia, and Glenwood, Iowa. Thank you all for having me and an extra big thanks to Niki Foster and Whitney Bond.
Having the last months of the year free from travel has allowed me to make some editing progress on my book. And even though I paid an editor, had my sister and mom assist, and checked it over 2 or 3 times myself, there are still some errors hiding in there. Please don’t insist on sharing them with me when you find them, thank you. As I write this, the book is being formatted by my hero, Ben Muldrow, and Amber and Ben are working on the cover design. I am hopeful Your City is Sick will be ready to print in the next month or two.
Currently, I am booking trips for the first quarter of 2023 and expect to be in Kansas, Michigan, Kentucky, and Washington. I will make sure to share the dates as they get nailed down. I am also looking to make some changes to how I use my social channels. For the past couple of years, I have posted a new blog nearly every week (this is the 45th this year!) but I have done a poor job of interacting with everyone. So I am launching a subscribers page through Facebook. I plan to do a weekly live stream on the page, use it for content suggestions and members will be given access to all my older blog posts. You can sign up here.
I also plan to get away from just writing and try my hand at more video content. It seems like the right time to change things up a bit. I will be Tiking and Toking here and posting the videos on Instagram as well.
All in all, 2022 was quite a spectacular year. It was so rewarding to have the chance to work with so many of you and get to experience your passion for your communities. I feel so fortunate to get to make a difference and help struggling towns navigate a new path forward. Personally, it was a pretty phenomenal year as well. Amber and I had more fun than should be legally allowed, the kids have all remained free from prison, the house is coming along nicely and Leon remains overly fuzzy.
This will be my last post of the year as I plan to spend next week immersed in family shenanigans and away from my computer. Thanks to all of you for your support and for following along on this adventure, but more importantly, thank you for all the amazing work you do for your towns. Your communities are so lucky to have you.
Happiest of holidays to you all!