Meredith Linley Bleakley/Guest Column to the Chronicle
When I moved back home to Crystal River in 2009, I had been out of college for just five short years. I had spent the previous decade attending Florida State University, then living and working in Jacksonville Beach running political campaigns. Just about everyone in my life thought I was certifiably crazy to be (excited about) moving back to my small hometown.
If you know me at all, you know I don’t put too much stock in other people’s opinions of me, so I confidently told them I was elated to be moving home.
There was nothing wrong with Jacksonville Beach, but it wasn’t home. I was involved in the community there, but I felt as though I was just going through the motions to occupy my time. My heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be back here, and I wanted to be heavily involved in this community.
So with a preschool-aged daughter in tow and a job working with Josh Wooten at the Chamber of Commerce waiting for me, we made the move from big city to small town.
I was probably every nonprofit organizations dream volunteer that first year. I didn’t know how to say no. I wanted to be involved with every group that was doing good work in our community. I wanted to have a say in the direction we were taking Citrus County, I wanted to make sure this area held the same small town charm I experienced growing up but also that we were preparing for smart managed growth to sustain us for future generations.
Of course organizations that I had been involved with as a teen were some of the first to recruit me. One of those was Citrus 20/20; my senior year of high school I sat on that board as a student member. Toward the end of 2009, Citrus 20/20 was gearing up for Vision Check 2020, a one-day vision-casting event where any community member could participate and contribute ideas of how they wanted Citrus County to look in the year 2020.
Spoiler alert, we are four months away from 2020. Gulp!
We can look around this community and see the tangible products of Vision Check 2020, our YMCA being the most notable. My personal favorite is probably the Gary Maidhof Nature Trail off Fort Island Trail before you get to the beach. Gary was the smartest guy in town and Gary was an integral part of Citrus 20/20.
So now here we are on the threshold of 2020, I guess we should stop here. It was a good ride, we accomplished some important things ... just kidding.
Now we look down the decade to 2030! What do we want Citrus County to look like, how will we achieve it and who is going to make that happen.
Another spoiler alert: It’s you. And me. We are going to have to make it happen.
On Saturday Oct. 5, at the College of Central Florida Vision Check 2030 will be held. This is a one-day event that will brings together people from all demographics to brainstorm what we want Citrus County to look like in 2030. We really need some new voices contributing, so I’m imploring you, if you are between the ages of 22-40 would you please consider participating?
There are approximately 10,000 people living in Citrus County in that age bracket and sadly, it’s the bracket with the lowest levels of participation in many of our charitable organizations and in our government.
Trust me, I get it; I’m a wife, mom of three, run my own small business, running for office — if someone like me can find the time to get involved, so can you.
If you want to learn more about what Vision Check 2030 is all about and what Citrus 2030 (the organization that will be created out of the results of Vision Check) come join us at Lollygaggers Sports Pub & Grill on Thursday Sept. 12, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for the Vision Check kickoff mixer. Members of the steering committee, myself included, will be on hand to explain details of the Vision Check event and help get you registered to attend.
Producing the Vision Check event requires us to do a little fundraising before it, so bring along a few extra bucks to Lollygaggers to help us execute the event.
You can find out more info on Vision Check and Citrus 2030 by visiting the website www.Citrus2030.org.
The future of Citrus County won’t be the same without you; please come join us!
Meredith Linley Bleakley is a member of the Citrus 2030 Vision Check steering committee.