BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks
As you read this wonderful, insightful, inspiring weekly column by your hometown newspaper editor, I will be starting my fourth year here at the Monticello Express! Yes, four years… my how they have come and gone…
Why, just yesterday I remember sitting in the back office here at the Express, being interviewed as a possible candidate for the job by co-owners Mark Spensley and Dan Goodyear and Sports Editor Pete Temple. That day now is a blur (sorry guys), but I do remember being asked what my weakness is as reporter. My answer: agriculture. Well, not anymore. I don’t consider myself an ag expert by any means three years later, but I certainly have gotten my feet wet in the process.
Ah… three years here in Monticello. That’s three years of Beef & Dairy, National Ag Week, Corn & Soybeans and the Pork issues. Ag, ag and more ag!
That’s three years of covering the Great Jones County Fair and Food Fest (including three fair souvenir issues). Cows, pigs and poultry… Oh, my!
While we’re on the topic of special issues, let’s not forget three Today’s Women, three Industry issues, three Wedding Album, three Home & Garden and two Senior Lifestyles.
As far as special events are concerned, I have covered three years of Treats on the Streets, five elections, three O’Reilly Auto Parts Rod & Custom Car Shows, three MHS proms (who knew I’d still be going to prom at my age), three Camp Courageous classic car shows and three Fourth of July parades and festivities.
In three years, we have seen a wide array of political figures come through the area, whether they stopped in town for a speaking engagement or simply drove past Monticello, much like President Obama did recently. The list includes: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Tom Hancock, Rep. Steve Lukan, Rep. Lee Hein, Rep. Nate Willems, presidential candidate Ron Paul, presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Congressman Bruce Braley, Gov. Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats, Gov. Chet Culver, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ben Lange and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
That’s quite a list!
I have also interviewed and helped to tell the stories of several local heroes who have served their country over the years: Ben Byers, Charlie Cigrand, Lucas Hinrichs, Tyson Haas and Anthony Weir. Each had his own story to share, but are similar in that they took pride in serving the U.S.A.
I had the privilege of going on a trip to Washington, D.C. with the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight in April of 2011. Since then, I have done stories on many of our own local WWII veterans who also went on the Honor Flight. This is a well-deserved trip for our men and women who served in WWII. Many have never been to D.C. to see the nation’s memorials and monuments, especially the WWII Memorial, dedicated in their honor. Those from the area who have gone include: Frank Smith, Leonard Joslin, Ed Brokens, Ted Freese, George Nieters and brothers Louis and Ed Folken.
I’ve also gotten the opportunity to meet well-known, or famous, people in my three years at the Express. These opportunities have afforded me some bragging rights: Obama’s visit to Peosta (invite only), Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz of “American Pickers” fame, Henry “The Fonz” Winkler and John “Bo Duke” Schneider.
I’ve done features of people in our own town and surrounding area who have gained fame due to certain circumstances. Joel Althoff, owner of ITS, had breakfast with the President before his visit to Peosta last August. The guys from H&H Homecrafters here in town got the chance to work on a home in West Union as part of the “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” TV show. Mike Deutmeyer, Weber Stone, flew his personal plane to Haiti after the earthquake to help deliver supplies and needed goods to the quake victims.
In the past three years there has literally been multiple groundbreaking events: new GJCF stage, new Public Safety Building housing our police and ambulance services, new county hospital in Anamosa, new Kirkwood facility, new Jones County Youth Development Center on the fairgrounds and the 9/11 Memorial.
Unfortunately, on the flip side, we have also seen some staples leave town: Family Foods, Sunset Nursery, Balster’s in Scotch Grove, Georgia Pacific and Skateway. When doing these articles I found out my grandfather, who grew up in the Greeley area, would ride with his father to Scotch Grove to buy needed items from Balster’s. My mom would come to Monticello to go skating when she was in school.
I have covered too many Starlighters Theatre productions to count. I have been to multiple fires and accidents, some with tragic endings.
I recall coming to work on a Monday morning, ready to get the week’s paper out and hearing about Gary and Marcia Fisher’s plane crash in Cedar Rapids. Thanks to their daughter, Nichole, I was able to get a story put together and on our front page for that week’s edition.
There was the failure of the Lake Delhi dam in July of 2010 during fair week. That was my first GJCF experience as the “press,” and it will now be unforgettable. That next year, the 2011 GJCF kick-off event celebrated with a flood theme. Funny enough, a bad thunderstorm swept through the area that night, a bad omen as we kicked off the fair season.
It’s been great seeing the changes here at the Express as well: a new website and a new sign business.
Looking at all that I have been doing to keep busy, there’s still much more to come down the road…