Reporter Lauren Blair says goodbye, again, sort of | CraigDailyPress.com

Reporter Lauren Blair says goodbye, again, sort of

Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions, as mine did when I was asked to return to Craig last November as a temporary stand-in for the government and energy reporter.

Little did I know at the time that one to three months would turn into nine months and counting. This place has a way of getting into a person, such that it makes it hard to leave.

Though once again, my supposed "last day" at the paper has come and gone, I will be staying on part-time to continue covering the government, energy, crime and environment stories that still need to be told.

When I returned last winter, I was thrilled to sense a growing optimism and feeling of possibility about Craig's future. There was a new cohesion and focus amongst our civic leaders that was only just beginning to coalesce when I left my post at the Craig Press a year earlier.

Craig is at an exciting crossroads, and I feel privileged to get to tell the stories of a rural community that's driving hard to build a bright future for itself in the midst of seemingly endless challenges.

In recent months, the challenges have come to an even finer point as both the city and county are forced to make difficult cuts to the budget due to dwindling revenues, as meth and heroin continue to threaten the health and stability of the community and as the number of empty storefronts only seems to grow.

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But efforts to combat these issues are gaining steam, and grant applications are flying out the door for everything from broadband development to a new master parks and recreation plan. Should these funding requests be successful, they will enable local leaders to build key pieces of infrastructure to support Craig's future. Some requests have already born fruit: from in-kind support for community brand-building to funding for market analysis and new business recruitment.

It's the people of Craig I admire and believe in the most. I've never met such a hard-working, unpretentious and kind bunch of folks, from our neighbors and friends to our local law enforcement to our tireless executive directors to our government officials working to lead this community forward.

Though I won't be at every meeting going forward as my husband, Yuri, and I return home to Paonia (where our house and our stuff still lives), I'm excited to continue writing about the twists and turns, the challenges and the triumphs ahead for Craig. And I'm sure now more than ever that ours will be a lifelong relationship with the wonderful community of Craig.