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Josh Bergeron: Post will seek to build on strong foundation

In 2014, excited and adventurous, I arrived in Rowan County ready to get to work as soon as possible as the Salisbury Post’s county government and politics reporter.

After a year working at the Selma Times-Journal, in an Alabama city well known for its role in the civil rights movement, I moved to Salisbury in one weekend, with all my belongings in my 2007 Dodge Caliber, ready to get to work. And, within a couple hours of arriving at the Post on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, I was in the Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ chambers for a meeting focused on discussion of a new county manager.

Retiring manager Gary Page’s last day would be that week, and commissioners aimed to get the new person in the office by Oct. 1.

Little did I know at the time, the top two candidates were then-Yadkin County Manager Aaron Church and then-County Commissioner Chad Mitchell. On Aug. 26, 2014, commissioners emerged from closed session, with then-Chairman Jim Sides saying the board had settled on a candidate. Church was the eventual choice.

That story, saying commissioners had picked an as yet-unnamed a candidate, was my first for the Post in what would be an exciting, eventful three years — writing about water quality concerns in the Dukeville community from coal ash ponds, issues with access to health care through the VA Choice program, and traveling to Richmond, Virginia, to attend arguments in the commissioners’ prayer lawsuit.

A new group of county commissioners — still Republican but not quite friends with the old commission — swept into office in 2014. An interstate widening project that’s expected to jumpstart Charlotte’s growth into Rowan County began. Salisbury grappled with the reality that gangs were the culprit in much of the city’s violent crime. High Rock Dam gained a new owner. Significant reform occurred in animal welfare within Rowan County.

In just over three years in Salisbury, I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,100 stories and, through those, I was fortunate to explore Rowan County’s many parts, from Woodleaf in western Rowan to Pooletown in the southeast. I’m thankful to have met people from Rowan County’s many communities during that time — from the late William Peoples in Salisbury to Barbara Doby in China Grove.

Roughly four years after the first story and after spending 14 months in Frankfort, Kentucky, as managing editor of The State Journal, a newspaper affiliated with The Salisbury Post through Boone Newspapers, I’m returning energized by the opportunities that lie in the years ahead for the Post.

What’s more, I’m excited to return to the state I’ve come to call home — North Carolina — to become editor of the Salisbury Post.

For me, the answer when people ask “where are you from” is often “it’s complicated.” I’ve lived in 14 cities during my 26 years — from the Texas plains to the Kentucky bluegrass in the U.S., and southwestern Germany, too. Still, the answer to “where are you from” increasingly seems to be North Carolina. It’s where I was born, and my time living here exceeds my time anywhere else. I’m grateful to have such a diverse array of experiences to draw upon.

Too often, our differences define who we are and serve as a jumping-off point to disagree with one another rather than a means for us to learn about and embrace what makes us unique.

On social media, we follow or “like” accounts that confirm our opinions instead of seeking out those that challenge or provide a broader lens through which we form our beliefs. Frequently, we move in the same social, political, economic and ethnic circles, failing to gain new perspectives on life.

Fortunately, in Salisbury and Rowan County, we have a diverse array of communities of people and places. Because of that diversity, from Kannapolis to East Spencer, we are better.

And, as I settle in Salisbury as editor of the Post, I hope to continue the newspaper’s long tradition of being the best source of news, whether it’s a well-reported investigative story or carefully crafted feature, for those who live in Rowan County and surrounding communities. We’ll also seek to build on the degree to which we serve as the voice for all who live, work, pray and play here through the news stories we write and the opinion columns that readers submit.

Much has happened in Salisbury since I left, and, in what’s a busy news town, much will happen in the years to come.

Thursday was day one, and I look forward to re-introducing myself to the many people I met during my time as a reporter and meeting the many folks I did not.

Josh Bergeron is the incoming editor of The Salisbury Post. Email him at josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com.

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