On February 25, I will be celebrating my 30th anniversary of owning the Neighborhood News. I bought (with a former partner) an 11-month old monthly publication that had little more than stories about advertisers written by those advertisers themselves. 

I published the 12th monthly issue in April 1994 (photo), which we considered to be the first issue of the publication’s second year in business. That’s why this issue is Issue 1 of Volume 32 of the Neighborhood News, rather than Issue 1 of Volume 31. 

When we purchased the publication in February of 1994, the total direct-mail circulation of the Neighborhood News was 6,500 homes, apartments and businesses — all of which (unbeknownst to me) were located in New Tampa’s 33647 zip code and which included the existing subdivisions in Pebble Creek, Tampa Palms, Hunter’s Green and the first two communities (closest to Bruce B. Downs Blvd., or BBD) of Cross Creek. 

Although my predecessor claimed to also be mailing to Wesley Chapel, it turned out that all he was doing was dropping about 500 copies each month at the Meadow Pointe I clubhouse. So, as soon as I took over, I added about 2,500 total addresses in Meadow Pointe I, Williamsburg and, a few issues later, an additional 500-700 or so single-family homes and condominium units located in the community around Saddlebrook Resort, where I was living with my family at the time. We began mailing new issues every two weeks, to all of those households, before the end of 1994 and didn’t split into separate New Tampa and Wesley Chapel issues until 2005, when Wesley Chapel’s three zip codes had zoomed past 10,000 residential units, as New Tampa was closing in on 20,000 units of its own. 

Although I always knew how many units were approved for Wesley Chapel, I had no idea that it would catch up to, and pass, New Tampa in terms of the number of units and people living in them by sometime in 2021. 

From those first 10,000 total homes (and less than 30,000 total people) in May 1994, our all-direct-mail circulation is now 34,000+ homes, apartments and businesses (and more than 90,000 total people) in Wesley Chapel’s three zip codes (33543, 33544 & 33545) and 29,000 residences and businesses (and about 80,000 people), almost all of which is located in New Tampa’s 33647 zip code — although we do also directly mail to the 750 residential units in the Lake Forest subdivision off BBD (south of Tampa Palms), which has a Lutz zip code (33559). 

That means our total circulation has grown, with our communities, by at least 600% in 30 years — or by nearly 1,000% if you use the 6,500 units I inherited from my predecessor as our starting point. 

But for me, this is much more than just a numbers game. I have given everything I could to the communities of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel, and although many outstanding people have come and gone from our ranks, I am proud to say that I have been the publication’s one constant these last 30 years. 

The growth of electronic media throughout the world — did you foresee most people getting their news and information from their mobile phones 30 years ago? — has meant that we have had to change the ways we cover the news of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel, but nothing has stopped or even deterred me from continuing to provide more news and information about the communities we serve than any other local medium, print, broadcast and/or electronic. 

Although I would be lying if I said that being the big media “fish” in a relatively tiny little pond was a lifelong dream of mine — my degree from the University of Florida was in Broadcast News and I always hoped to own and program a radio and/or TV station and write and produce TV programming — serving as the editor of the Neighborhood News the last 30 years has been one of the absolute joys of my life. And, while I don’t think anyone else would hire me at my age, despite my decades of experience, if I didn’t still love what I do I would definitely try to find some other way to make a living. Although I love singing and acting, anyone who has heard me sing karaoke or seen my stand-up comedy act at the Tampa Improv or Sidesplitters will tell you that I never had a future in those fields. 

Another thing people who know me will tell you about me is that I love to throw a party — my 25th anniversary event five years ago at Bayscape Bistro on Cross Creek Blvd. was a blast, as was the “Grease” cast party I threw last year at Joe Whiskey’s on S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel — and I am planning a doozy for my 30th anniversary celebration. 

And yes, there will be an opportunity for at least some of you wonderful readers to attend and share in that celebration. After all, although I owe my livelihood to the thousands of advertisers who have supported my business these last 30 years, I owe a large portion of my happiness to all of you who have been reading and responding to my work since I first took the reins at this publication. Stay tuned for more info! 

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