“So long Branson, it was a blast.”

Those were the words I chose when I first said goodbye in 2015,  when I was an intern facing his last semester as an undergrad at Missouri State University. It was a time when I was looking ahead to the future thinking those would be my last words to the community.

Oh, if 2015 John Robinson could see me now. I’ve often pushed back against the belief that a reporter stands as an objective pillar of the community they reside in. 

Of course, the reporting is objective, but it’s impossible to stay neutral in the place you call home.

Time has flown by since I’ve returned to the Branson-Tri Lakes News in 2017, and it’s been a roller coaster from the day I arrived. My first byline upon my return was announcing the promotion of then Police Chief Stan Dobbins to the position of then interim city administrator. For my final paper, I wrote a story on the assistant city administrator joining the city.

(Editor’s note: Although John’s final day was July 26, some of his work will not appear in print until the July 31 edition.)

I’ve written about the debut of time-traveling roller coasters and proposed developments at Yakov Smirnoff’s theatre. I watched as work stopped on the 76 project and began on an aquarium at the site of the former Grand Palace Theatre.

I’ve made lifelong friends at places like Comic Force and seen the meetings of those who connected through loss and war.

Like so many others in this community, I remember where I was the night of July 19, 2018 as the duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake and 17 people died. I also saw how the community responded, and the love and support thrown behind the survivors.

The Tri-Lakes area has been my home now for most of my adult life, and I’m sad to leave it behind once again, but I leave knowing the paper is in excellent hands. Cliff Sain, Tim Church, Natalee Long, Joshua Clark and Jim Connell are working their butts off to report on this community. The same goes for the wonderful folks working the front desk, in advertising and the unsung heroes in the back of the building who print and deliver the words I’m typing now.

Without them, this paper wouldn’t be what it is today. 

If you’re still curious about what’s going on in your community though, I encourage you to get out there and see for yourself.

The Branson Board of Aldermen hold meetings each month, on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and give the opportunity for residents to speak their mind, regardless of whether the item in question is on the agenda or not. If you can’t go in person, the meetings are streamed online and the audio is available the next day. 

The access to the discussions shaping your community are right there, and the people at this paper will get it to you.

In 2015, the Branson Tri-Lakes News was my last stop before graduation, my final test before “real life” began. Now, it’s the last chapter in my life story before I return to Missouri State University to pursue a masters degree.

So I’ll leave you with this Branson: So long, it’s been a blast and I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.

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