It was a roomful of Citrus County’s movers and shakers.
Some, local politicians. Others, longtime or lifelong Citrus residents who recall the old days. And several more who, maybe not as outgoing, make things happen in their neighborhoods.
They gathered to commemorate the Citrus County Chronicle for its 125th anniversary, and to thank the community newspaper for helping to make Citrus what is today.
“We help the community. The Chronicle helps the community,” said Sandy Price, president of Friends of the Citrus County Library System. “The Chronicle helps us help the community.”
Hundreds showed up Thursday evening at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum in Inverness to view the newspaper’s 125th anniversary display, which features decade-theme panels of the Chronicle’s history.
Also popular — old photos, mostly black and white originals, that appeared in the Chronicle over the decades.
Charlie Dean, the former sheriff and state legislator who grew up in Inverness, said the photos brought back memories.
“Now I get to walk around and see people’s pictures on the wall, and I know who they are,” he said.
The display is available for viewing at the Old Courthouse through the end of July.
Visitors had varied backgrounds — lifelong residents and those relocated from elsewhere — but those interviewed said they stick with the Chronicle because of its focus on the community.
“I like the hometown feel. It’s much less political,” Jeff Shields, who moved to Inverness in 2006 from Pembroke Pines, said.
Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek, who grew up in Crystal River and is a former two-term county commissioner, said the Chronicle is fair but also persistent.
“You hold folks accountable,” he told a reporter.
Inverness businesswoman Linda Van Allen, whose late father Walt Connors was clerk of courts and her sister, Sandra “Sam” Himmel, is superintendent of schools, worked at the Chronicle as a teenager with Sam stuffing newspapers for then-publisher, David Arthurs.
“The Chronicle will always play an important role in the community,” she said.
Even in Ozello, civic association members Abigail Morrison and Don Whitehead say their community is not ignored.
“In general, when we send something to you, you send a reporter out there,” Morrison said. “We get quite a bit of coverage considering our size.”
Publisher Gerry Mulligan, whom Arthurs hired 40 years ago as editor, told the crowd the Chronicle has kept its local flavor even as metro newspapers zeroed in on the community’s growth for their own business purposes.
“It was an incredible fight — but we’re the last man standing,” he said.
Mulligan said he isn’t shy about the newspaper’s role — promote the best of Citrus County, point out the worst and offer direction on what’s lacking.
“We do have a slant — we’re pro Citrus County,” he said. “We are always clouded by what is best for the community.”
Arthurs, who bought the then-weekly Chronicle in 1964 and sold it two decades later, noted that newspapers are struggling with some shuttering their doors.
“Times were tough but we never considered closing the Chronicle,” he said, then added: “I don’t believe the Chronicle will ever close in our time.”