We’ve seen more than our usual share of changes within our communities over the past three months or so.
I don’t mean changes in our landscape, or significant changes in terms of community development — at least not yet. I mean what seems to be a higher-than-usual turnover among some of our community leaders and institutions — and that’s not even including any elected or appointed officials.
Within the last several weeks, we’ve presented Page 1 stories and photos about Robert Heidt’s pending departure as CEO of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, the retirement of the Rev. Wendy Fitting as head of Gloucester’s Unitarian Universalist Church, and the pending departures of Andrew Burgreen as managing director of Gloucester Stage Company and longtime Rockport National Bank President and CEO Peter Anderson, who was featured at the top of our front page Friday morning.
We’ve also featured some new arrivals, spotlighting the Rev. Jenny Rankin, who has stepped in to serve as two-year interim UU pastor after Rev. Fitting’s retirement, and the Rev. Cindy Antonuk, who took the reins of Gloucester’s First Baptist Church, and is showcased on Page 1 today, noting her plans for advancing that church, which was without a pastor for two years.
Deciding which of these type of stories to do — or not to do, in the true Shakespearean tradition — is not always an easy choice. After all, chief executives and leaders of all sorts of businesses and community institutions come and go on a fairly regular basis, with such changes with private companies usually noted in our Tuesday “Business Briefcase” package, and even some municipal or other local government appointments sometimes mentioned in brief news stories or almost in passing, as community issues arise.
Are these stories worthy of Page 1? What makes them different from other business of institutional changes? Shouldn’t all such comings and goings be treated equally?
So why, when it comes to covering these stories, did your community’s newspaper do that?
Because these changes, in my view, extend beyond impacting the business or institution involved, and can be seen as throughout the entire community.
Now I’m the first to admit that’s not always easy to define. But I also recognize, for example, the roles that churches and religious congregations play in many residents’ and readers’ lives, and the roles that local churches play as a whole — especially in Gloucester, where a group of local churches also host the movable Grace Center day shelter and its programs, and with Revs. Rankin and Antonuk both talking about continuing and/or expanding community outreach programs.
The head of the Chamber of Commerce can always serve as a community leader, and Heidt has kept up and advanced that status, taking a stand on political issues like Gloucester’s hosting of this weekend’s cyclocross races and expanding the Chamber’s role in local candidate debates — like the early-morning exchange over coffee, doughnuts and pastries among those running for two Manchester selectmen’s seats last spring.
Burgreen has not only done an outstanding job in his leadership role at Gloucester Stage, but headed the nonprofit arts company at a time when it provided a pivotal component for the city’s first designated cultural district on Rocky Neck.
And, in leading Rockport National Bank for more than two decades, Anderson has not only led that financial institution through a period of significant growth, but through a critical time when he and other local banking leaders helped steer Cape Ann through a mortgage crisis that gobbled up other much larger and overly-aggressive banks across the state and the nation.
The comings and goings of all of these folks to and from Cape Ann no doubt affect their own institutions first. But their exits and entrances will also mean changes for our communities as a whole, too. That’s why they and their comings and goings earned their place on Page 1.
As always, let me know what you think.
Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3432, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.