Tag Archives: Farmersville Times

Twists and turns on journey

This retirement journey I’ve been on for about the past decade keeps twisting and turning along a strange ride toward, well … I’m not entirely sure where it’ll end.

You might know that I have been working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times for the past couple of years. The newspaper is part of a group of suburban weeklies owned by husband and wife who live in Collin County.

Well, beginning just the other day, my assignment changed. I am going to cover city government, school issues and writing features for Princeton, where my wife and I have lived for nearly four years.

Yes, the Princeton Herald is my new assignment headquarters. An opening occurred at the Herald, so I asked my bosses if I could be considered to fill the hole on the staff. They said yes. That was that.

This is an exciting new challenge for me, inasmuch as I do not yet know all that much about the politics that drive policy at Princeton City Hall. I now will get to learn about policymakers who determine the taxes I pay to live in my new hometown. I also will get to examine — and report on — the politics that drive public education policy in this rapidly growing community.

This is an exciting new venture for me. I have told my bosses how much I appreciate the faith they place in me. I won’t let them down. Furthermore, this post-full-time-journalism retirement will proceed along this course for as long as my bosses want me to keep reporting or — God forbid! — I am no longer able to do what I love to do.


Home rule for Princeton … finally?

Well, those who serve us at Princeton City Hall are possibly asking: Will the umpteenth election to create a home-rule charter for the city be the one that sticks to the wall?

Actually, what is coming up on Nov. 8 will be the fifth city charter election for Princeton. Count me as one relatively new Princeton resident who wants the measure to succeed and I intend to vote “yes” when the city presents it in just a few weeks.

The charter has failed four times at the ballot box. Opposition to annexation policies torpedoed previous efforts. The 2017 Legislature took care of that issue by declaring that cities cannot annex property without property owners’ permission.

A citizens committee has been working non-stop for seemingly forever on a draft document. The panel finished the work, and the City Council ordered the election to occur this fall.

The draft city charter has a couple of fascinating aspects that should appeal politically to residents. It sets term limits for council members and the mayor; it also creates single-member districts for four council members. The current council does not have any limits on the number of terms members can serve and the current council also is elected citywide. As the Princeton Herald reported: “No city officer will be able to serve more than eight consecutive years as mayor or council member. A total cap of 16 years of cumulative service will also take effect.” 

I covered — as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times — a similar election earlier this year in Farmersville, which also drafted a city charter. That city’s measure passed by a wide margin. My hope for Princeton is that its voters, too, will approve a charter, which to my way of thinking gives the city much greater say in setting the rules by which we all should live. What’s more, there’s a whole lot more of us living in Princeton than there were during previous citywide charter elections.

I have been covering this story as well for KETR-FM radio. I wrote this piece for KETR.org:

Piece of Mind: A Charter For Princeton? (ketr.org)

Princeton’s status as a general-law city means our council’s hands are tied to following state law. It’s fair, therefore, to ask: Would you rather have those rules set by those who live here among us or by those who live in faraway corners of our far-flung state?

State law does require something quite useful as we ponder this upcoming election: It requires the city to send copies of the draft charter to every registered voter in the city. It’ll come in the mail and I encourage all Princeton voters to look it over … with care and discernment.

Our city continues to grow in large leaps and bounds. Our elected City Council needs the power to set its own rules. I hope we have the wisdom to grant our fellow Princeton residents that authority.


Take the man’s money, play by his rules

A friend and former newspaper colleague once told me after I left daily journalism and got my blog going full blast that my blog proved something about me he suspected from the day I began working with him at the Amarillo Globe-News.

It was that “you didn’t believe half the stuff you wrote for the newspaper,” my friend said.

Well, my friend — who’s also out of the daily journalism grind — is every bit as astute as I knew him to be when we first met in early 1995.

I make no apologies for writing editorials and for editing pages for a newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, with a strong conservative tradition. My friend was right, that I didn’t adhere to much of what I wrote on behalf of the publisher, to whom I reported directly.

I told my then-boss that there were some lines I could not cross. They dealt with capital punishment, gun control and abortion. The newspaper opposed gun legislation, it favored capital punishment and was anti-choice on the issue of abortion; I tilted in the opposite direction on all three issues.

He hired me anyway and for that I am grateful.

I made a brief return to daily journalism at the end of 2021. The Dallas Morning News hired me as a temporary, part-time editorial writer. To his great credit, the editorial page editor for whom I worked told me he “never would ask” me to submit an editorial with which I disagreed in principle.

I am grateful also for the leeway he extended.

This is all part of what I have known since another ex-colleague and still-friend told me years ago. “If you take the man’s money,” he said, “then you have to play by the man’s rules.” 

Fair point. I now work for myself writing on High Plains Blogger, although my freelance work for the weekly Farmersville Times and for KETR-FM public radio allows to go back to what I learned how to do at the beginning of my journalism career. Which is to write straight news stories.

I learned that skill a long time ago. I also have learned that one never loses one’s touch.

And so … this gig keeps on producing more fun than I ever thought was possible.


Time of My Life, Part 61: In it for the duration

I have written about all the good times I had while practicing my craft as a journalist.

Today, I am having more fun than I could have imagined more than nine years ago when my print journalism career came to an abrupt end in the Texas Panhandle.

I have made a commitment to my wife and to my other bosses that I intend to keep writing for a weekly newspaper and for a public radio station for as long as I can string sentences together.

I am having the time of my life once again.

These days I consider myself to be retired. In fact, it’s a sort of semi-retirement. I get up each morning not having to report to work. That part of my life is perfect.

I get to cover city government and school issues for the Farmersville Times, a weekly newspaper that is part of a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County, Texas. The group, C&S Media, is owned by a husband-wife team for whom I work. I have pledged to them that I intend to keep working for as long as I am physically — and mentally — able to do the job.

Then there’s the other job I have. I write for a website published by KETR-FM radio based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. My assignment there recently changed. I had been writing opinion columns for KETR.org, but my boss at the station, news director Mark Haslett, assigned me to cover two water projects in Fannin County exclusively. They are Bois d’Arc Lake and Lake Ralph Hall. Bois d’Arc Lake is filling up with water as I write these words; Ralph Hall remains more of a long-term project.

I made the same commitment to KETR that I did to my bosses at C&S Media: I intend to do this for as long as I am able.

My career took me to many places around the world. It enabled me to cross paths with famous and infamous individuals. I was able to do things that most folks do not get to do … such as flying over an erupting volcano, landing and taking off from a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and visiting the place where I once served during wartime.

That was then. The here and now allows me to learn more about the place my wife and I now call home.

I am living the dream.


Will stay at it … for the duration

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Walking through the ‘hood this morning with my wife and Toby the Puppy, I made a declaration that I want to share here.

It was simply this: I do not miss going to work every day, meaning that I enjoy this retired life. And I also intend to keep working part-time on my two reporting gigs for as long as I am able.

I need to lay down an important marker: The length of my reporting gig well might not be totally in my control. I do work for someone else in both instances. They might decide down the road that they no longer need my meager writing and reporting skills. If they bid me adieu, well, that’s the way it’ll have to be.

However, I am getting no indication that will occur. At least not today or perhaps even next week.

That all said, I have learned quite a bit about myself as I have trudged into this world of being a Retired Guy. I hated the way my working life came to an end. I have ditched the anger and have embraced fully the life into which I was thrust.

I have learned that I simply enjoy stringing sentences together. I write my blog daily (which I am doing at this very moment). I also write for a weekly newspaper, the Farmersville Times, which circulates in the community that sits just seven miles east of us in Collin County, Texas. And then there’s the blog I write for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce.

I just cannot stop writing. Nor can I stop meeting people and learning about the communities where my wife and I frequent these days. Indeed, my wife recognizes that in me and she acknowledged that desire when I declared my intention to keep writing for the duration. “It’s what you do,” she said.

So, with that I hope to keep doing it until I no longer am able.

Time of My Life, Part 59: Still in the game

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was an angry dude for some time after my daily journalism career ended abruptly in August 2012.

The anger has vanished. I decided some time ago to write a blog series highlighting all the good years I had reporting on and commenting on the communities where I lived and worked. I have done so.

This is the 59th edition in that series but I want to tell you briefly about why I am still having “the time of my life.” You see, I am a freelance reporter who gets to write news stories for two media outlets here in North Texas where my wife and I have lived for the past nearly three years.

I write for a weekly newspaper in Farmersville, a community about seven miles east of us in Princeton along U.S. Highway 380. My bosses at the Farmersville Times allow me to cover city council and school board meetings there. I also get to write occasional feature stories about the people who live in Farmersville.

This gig represents a return to where it all began for me. My first part-time reporting job was in Portland, Ore., working for the weekly Community Press. I covered sports events there. I don’t do any sports reporting these days, but my task is straightforward: attend the city council and school board meetings and report on the decisions that affect the community.

In short, I am having a blast.

I also have a second gig. I write a blog for KETR-FM, the public radio station at Texas A&M University/Commerce. That freelance gig is a freewheeling affair. My boss there allows me to write blogs in which I get to express my opinions on issues of the day. He also asks me to write what he calls an “original reporting” piece for the website, ketr.org.

The best part of all of this is that my wife and I get to take time off whenever we want. We recently returned from a nearly monthlong journey out west. My bosses at the Farmersville Times knew I would be gone. No problem, they said. We’ll cover the meeting in your absence, they assured me. And so it goes.

I have told folks many times in my retirement years that “separation anxiety from full-time work is greatly overrated.” I believe it now more than ever. I have been blessed to have been able to stay “in the game” with these part-time jobs.

Thus, I continue to have the “time of my life.”

Let the lights shine brightly

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We are going through one of the grimmest years imaginable, with thousands of Americans dying of a viral infection, an economy being shattered and with human beings learning new ways to interact with each other.

However, I want to offer a shout out to a young man who took over as mayor of a community with which I am becoming increasingly familiar.

Farmersville Mayor Bryon Wiebold took office this past spring and he is, shall we say, finding ways to cope with the “new normal.” Weibold has talked the City Council into approving a “Farmersville Lights” event at the end of this tumultuous year. The city is going to light up during Christmas, along Farmersville Parkway from Texas 78 to Main Street. The city’s downtown square will becoming a festive site. Merchants will compete in a Christmas decoration competition. There will be horse-and-buggy rides.

Wiebold’s effort is to end the year on a high. How can it end any worse than what many of us have experienced already?

Farmersville is not unlike many communities across the land in that it has had to cancel events left and right. The COVID crisis has taken a terrible toll on people’s emotions and Farmersville has felt it along with all sorts of cities and towns. I mean, the State of Fair of Texas was canceled in Dallas, and they played the Texas-Oklahoma football game before a sparse gathering of folks scattered throughout the cavernous Cotton Bowl; too bad, as well, because a lot of football fans missed a heck of a game.

Farmersville wants to put a smile on people’s faces and Wiebold, along with Main Street manager Kevin Casey, are crafting an event that the mayor hopes becomes an annual happening.

I have the pleasure of covering the Farmersville City Council for the Farmersville Times, a weekly newspaper that circulates in the Collin County community. I have been pleased to watch this event unfold in real time.

I have to say that Mayor Wiebold’s idea to collect corporate and community sponsorship to fund the Farmersville Lights project is as capital an idea as I can imagine, given the circumstance with which the city is dealing.

At least one Texas community is working actively now to put smiles on the faces of residents who need a reason to smile. May other cities and towns follow suit.

As Wiebold said after getting some push back from one resident who objected to the city proceeding with this effort: “How can you argue against Christmas?”

Time of My Life, Part 48: Still able to keep up with fast-paced story

I have returned to the game of print journalism, even if it isn’t daily print journalism.

Still, writing for a weekly newspaper presents a whole new set of challenges … such as trying to keep pace with a story that is changing damn near hourly.

Forgive the boast, but I am happy to report that I still am able to remain nimble enough to hit a fast-moving target.

The target is the coronavirus, aka COVID-19. They’ve declared it a worldwide pandemic. It is killing thousands of people daily.

How does that affect my freelance gig? The Farmersville Times covers a lovely community in Collin County, Texas, about seven miles east of where my wife and I live in Princeton; I write for the Times. I have spent the past few days keeping pace with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Farmersville.

I was assigned a story to write for the Times that looked at how the community’s first responders — namely firefighters and police officers — are coping with the pandemic. My initial story said there had been no reported infection in Farmersville.

Then it changed. Rapidly.

The publisher, my boss, notified me that Collin County Public Health officials reported several cases in Farmersville. I had to make contact with the police and fire chiefs for updated information. I was able to do so quickly. They provided the information I was seeking.

However, the story likely continues to move even as I write this brief blog post.

Indeed, I have no idea how many — if there are any to report — new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Farmersville just since I filed my amended version of the original story.

By all means, we are experiencing a crisis that tests us all. I just have to stay nimble.

This virus crisis is getting to at least one local official

I placed a phone call today to the office of Collin County Judge Chris Hill. I left a message with his secretary, asking if he could call me back; I didn’t specify the issue about which I wanted to talk to him.

A couple of hours later, my phone rang and it was a spokesman for the county who was calling me back. He said the judge was concerned that my call dealt with the coronavirus. I told the spokesman my call was on another issue relating to a story I am covering for the Farmersville Times, for which I am working on a freelance basis.

The spokesman laughed. He said Judge Hill has been “bombarded” with calls about the coronavirus outbreak, so he passed the call off to the county staffer. Indeed, Collin County has reported a handful of positive coronavirus test results … so there’s that.

My point is that this crisis seems to be stressing local officials out, if Chris Hill’s reaction to my phone call is any indication.

I cannot realistically insert myself into their roles, or walk in their shoes … to borrow a phrase. However, this is why folks such as Judge Hill sign on to serve the public. They simply take an oath to deal with crises as they emerge.

Happy Trails, Part 176: Rediscovering anonymity

Ahh, anonymity is grand.

It is one of the joys I have discovered on this retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked.

We relocated more than a year ago to Collin County, Texas, after spending 23 years in Amarillo and nearly 11 years before that in Beaumont. I don’t want to oversell or overstate anything, so I will take care when I write these next few words.

The craft I pursued in the Golden Triangle and then in the Texas Panhandle — as opinion page editor for two once-fairly significant newspapers — gave me a bit of an elevated profile. I was able to write editorials for both newspapers as well as publish signed columns with my name and mug shot along with the written essays. Readers would see my face on the pages and then would greet me with, “Oh, you’re the guy in the newspaper!” 

I went through that little ritual for more than three decades in vastly different regions of Texas.

We now live far from either place. I do write for a couple of weekly newspapers these days — the Princeton Herald and the Farmersville Times. It’s a freelance gig that I sought out. The publisher of the papers has been kind enough to put me to work — but on my terms!

I now blend into the scenery. No one recognizes me on sight. I’m unsure whether my name will remain anonymous, given the exposure it will get by appearing on top of news features I hope to write for the Herald and the Times.

One more point I want to make. In Beaumont and in Amarillo, I occasionally found myself discussing politics and public policy in the most unusual locations. I would encounter friends and acquaintances who seemed to presume that since I wrote about politics at work, that I live and breathe it when I am off the clock. They are mistaken.

I once vowed that I would not discuss work in some places, such as at church. More than once I have told folks in the pew next to me that “I came here to talk to God, not to talk about politics with you or anyone else.”

So far, so good here in Princeton. Anonymity is a joy I intend to cherish for as long as humanly possible.