Tag Archives: KETR-FM

Here come the ‘firsts’

Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows about the subject with which I will deal in this post.

The “firsts” are on their way for my family members and me. Indeed, my granddaughter’s upcoming birthday will be her first birthday without Grandma … my beloved bride Kathy Anne.

More such firsts are going to follow and I am preparing to deal with them as they arrive. The first Easter, my bride’s first birthday, our first observance of our wedding anniversary (which will be No. 52), our first Thanksgiving, first Christmas … and on it goes.

You get my drift, correct?

As I have noted already on this blog, I am far from the first and far from the last person who undergo this level of grief. I am reading some books on how to deal with it. Part of my therapy is writing about it, as I am doing with this post.

Indeed, I am preparing a lengthy feature for KETR-FM radio’s website that will publish soon. It deals with grief and mourning and I look forward to completing that task. Heck, I even look forward just to performing the task, as it gives me a measure of relief as I continue along this dark journey.

That journey is going to contain is occasional gut checks along the way. Those are the firsts I have mentioned.

Most of you have been through it already. So have I, with the loss of my parents when I was a younger man. I remember sitting on my living room floor in late 1980 and tearing up when I realized it was the first Christmas without Dad, who had succumbed a couple of months earlier.

This one, however, is dramatically different, to be sure.

I’ll need to be ready.


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 still flies by

Time does have this way of getting away from most — if not all — of us. Why that observation? Well, it dawned on me earlier today that this is the 10th year since I walked off the last full-time job I ever would have.

It has been a marvelous ride ever since that amazing moment in an equally amazing day.

It was Aug. 31, 2012. My employer informed me the previous day that the job I had performed at the Amarillo Globe-News would go to someone else. I worked as editorial page editor at the Texas newspaper for nearly 18 years. I thought I did a good job. My employer, I was left to presume, thought differently.

So, he informed me that my task would fall to someone else. I went home that day and returned early the next day to clean out my office. The very first item I tossed into the trash can was a stash of business cards with my name on it. Gone! Forever!

I walked away. On the way out I had one final meeting with now former employer. The conversation was an unhappy one. I left the building. I called one of my colleagues on my cell phone. I said “so long” to him and hung up.

Then, while sitting in my car, I cried.

That all occurred nearly a decade ago. You know what? I have gotten over that anger, and the pain of that moment. I have moved on. I am no longer angry. I no longer hurt. I no longer miss the daily grind of meeting deadlines and writing commentary.

I have had a number of part-time jobs in the years since. I write this blog each day. I am getting more proficient at using social media to spread the musings I post. I have written for public television, for commercial TV, for a community newspaper in New Mexico, for a major metropolitan daily newspaper in Dallas, for a public radio station in Commerce, and for a weekly newspaper near the city where my wife and I moved. I also worked for an auto dealer in Amarillo and for six months I worked as a juvenile supervision officer for the Youth Center of the High Plains, a detention center run by Randall County.

I have declared myself to be a highly adaptable human being. My life has provided proof of that declaration. I am damn proud of the career I pursued for nearly 37 years, and I am equally proud of the adjustments I have made, with enormous help and support from my wife of 50 years, sons, daughter-in-law, sisters and their families, in the life I have led for the past decade.

Time is still just flying by. It does that when you’re having so much fun.


Town presents spectacular image

SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas — I got a major surprise early this afternoon as I arrived in this Hopkins County community on a story assignment for KETR-FM radio.

It was the appearance of what I consider to be one of the most spectacular small-town squares I ever have seen.

Sulphur Springs is a town of about 16,000 or so residents. It is the Hopkins County seat. I visited for a time with County Judge Robert Newsom about the impact that Cooper Lake is having on the county. What we didn’t connect was how the city and the county have combined to create a gleaming downtown district that is utterly brimming with activity, with color and personality.

The highlight of what I saw involved the massive veterans memorial in the middle of the city square.

The city has erected a memorial with specific exhibits remembering and honoring those who served — and died — in battle in virtually all the conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. I was drawn — quite naturally — to the Vietnam War segment of the memorial.

Once I took my eyes off the veterans memorial, I scanned the surrounding businesses and was struck by the absence — at least what I could see of it — of any empty store fronts.

Newsom told me about the courthouse, which the county renovated through a historic preservation grant that is a popular method of financing that counties have used for the past two decades or so. I mentioned to him how Randall County in the Panhandle acquired a grant to fix up the exterior of its 1909 courthouse building, but then left the interior of it empty. It is unused. Newsom couldn’t believe it. It’s true, I told him. The exterior looks fantastic and it has drawn many new businesses to the square in downtown Canyon.

Newsom said with emphasis that Hopkins County intended to make full use of its courthouse — which was built in the 1890s — when it was done. “It’s expensive to maintain,” he said, adding that it is worth the expense. Indeed, the Hopkins County Courthouse is a beautiful structure … that fits right in with what Sulphur Springs has done to its downtown district.

Readers of this blog perhaps know of my love for vibrant downtown districts. I have written about it many times here and when I worked for newspapers in Beaumont and Amarillo.

Man, oh man! Sulphur Springs has hit a grand slam home run with its downtown district.


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.”

Bad move in Greenville

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Allow me this bit of unsolicited advice to educators everywhere: Do not engage in “jokes” that seem to mirror hideous news events.

So it is, then, that a Greenville Independent School District teacher has resigned after being suspended over a picture of her placing her foot on the back of a Lamar Elementary School student’s neck. Sound familiar? Yep, the teacher took part in this supposedly good-natured stunt on the day that a Minneapolis jury convicted former cop Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd by pressing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in 2020.

The ”joke” went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Could the timing of this incident have been any worse?

When the picture went viral, the school district suspended the teacher. The youngster on whom the supposed joke was perpetrated said he didn’t take offense. The boy’s mother said her family has a good relationship with the teacher and she, too, spoke in support of the educator.

Then the teacher quit. I should point out that the teacher is white and the student is African-American.

Good grief.

KETR’s Mark Haslett reported: “We take this situation very seriously. It will be thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action will be taken,” Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said in an email that went out to parents of Greenville ISD students. “We have heard from many community members, and we understand their concern and anger.”

The anger apparently prompted the teacher to resign rather than face possible recrimination for her action.

The entire world’s sensitivity to this kind of conduct has been heightened tremendously by the Chauvin trial and the incident that resulted in his conviction of murdering George Floyd. Chauvin is a white former police officer who applied unreasonable force to restrain Floyd, a black man who was arrested for – get this – passing some counterfeit currency in a Minneapolis convenience store.

So, for a Northeast Texas educator to take part in a so-called prank and have the image of her foot on the back of a youngster’s neck released on the very day of Chauvin’s conviction smacks of the height – or the depth – of poor judgment.

So, there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this. I believe the world’s eyes have opened wide to people’s perception of actions intended ostensibly to be done as a good-natured joke.

NOTE: This blog post was published initially on KETR.org.

Seeking a slowdown

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson wants to slow ‘em down along U.S. Highway 380. He professes patience as he works with his City Council colleagues and the Texas Department of Transportation.

However, given his own experience as the victim of a serious auto accident while he was living in Irving, it appears that his patience might have its limits.

Robertson is proposing to TxDOT to slow traffic to 40 mph along the entire highway thoroughfare as it bisects the city. The speed limits now vary, from 55 to 45 mph. Robertson says that’s too fast, given the incredible growth and the associated increase in traffic volume.

“When the speed limit is 60,” he said, “you have little chance of getting through a wreck without injury.”

TxDOT must perform traffic studies before it decides whether to adjust the speed limits along any major thoroughfare. The city already has installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of 380 and Princeton Meadows near the city’s western boundary. Another signal is planned for the site next to the new municipal complex under construction closer to the eastern boundary along 380.

Once that project is complete, Robertson said, TxDOT will be able to conduct the requisite traffic studies to help the agency make its speed determination.

Robertson said he doesn’t drive much these days, as he works from home running a continuing education program for chiropractors; he no longer is a practicing chiropractor.

“The frequency and the number of speed-related accidents along the highway” are a great concern for the councilman. He said the Princeton Police Department responds daily to wrecks along the highway and expresses great concern about what the anticipated future growth of the city will do to the traffic volume.

Help is on the way, though, in the form of new thoroughfare construction planned for Princeton and for communities along the Highway 380 corridor. Robertson noted that TxDOT wants to build a 380 bypass that will divert through traffic to a thoroughfare north of the current highway. “The bypass eventually will relieve a lot of the traffic congestion,” Robertson said.

Moreover, the city plans to turn Myrick Avenue south of the highway into a second major east-west right-of-way.

All of that will take time. Perhaps lots of time. It’s the period between now and then that concerns Robertson, which is why he wants TxDOT to make a decision sooner rather than later on the speed limit along Highway 380. “We might get to drop the speed,” he said, “but maybe not as much as I would like.”

Traffic remains a concern along U.S. 380 through many North and Northeast Texas communities. Farmersville, for example, recently received a request for a zone change to build an apartment complex near the U.S. 380 corridor. The Farmersville City Council denied the zone change request sought by the apartment developer, citing the “density” of the housing and the potential traffic congestion that it could produce along the rapidly developing thoroughfare.

Indeed, Collin College recently opened its Farmersville campus, which was one of the possible hazards cited by the council in denying the zone change request.

Princeton, meanwhile, continues to grow at a rapid pace. Its main thoroughfare, U.S. 380, continues to have varying speed limits along its route through the city. City Councilman Robertson intends to keep up the push to slow that traffic down to what he believes is a more reasonable and consistent speed.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR.org.