In today’s edition, we begin publishing sections of our annual Progress edition.

We hope you enjoy reading the first section and all that will follow throughout the month of March. Our whole staff puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into producing these annual Progress editions, which represent an opportunity to look in greater depth at issues affecting DeKalb County. I thank everyone for that hard work and dedication to excellence.

I’ve contributed to many Progress editions over the years, but this is my first time producing one as the publisher. It has given me a bird’s eye view of the entire process, including the efforts of our outstanding advertising team, led by Linda Stiefel and including Emily Brown, Leann Stallings and Pam Evett. I’ve watched them in awe, going to city council meetings and local businesses to sell this special edition.

Of course, the stories inside are the result of a lot of hard work by our editorial and composing team as well. Managing Editor Emily Kirby spent many hours laying out the pages you’ll read, giving a presentation to the words assembled by myself, Sports Editor Glendon Poe, and staff writers Cinthia Rico and Bonnie Walters. Emily Wooten is tying it all together with beautiful graphic design as well.

I am very proud of all of them and excited about the enthusiasm with which they took on this year’s unique theme of rounding the corner, stronger together.

Progress always involves a lot of the same repeating themes. Most notably, economic development, tourism, the efforts of local people to make our schools and public services as good as they can be. It’s always satisfying to learn more about these perpetual topics, which are always vital to the prosperity of our local communities.

This year presented a rare opportunity to look deeper at a truly profound experience that has impacted all of our lives so deeply: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long after the last person is vaccinated and we achieve herd immunity, the disruptions of the coronavirus to our way of life will linger. Such an event happens once in a century – if we are fortunate – last striking in 1918 during the Spanish flu epidemic that claimed millions of lives around the world.

You’ll read a good bit about COVID in this year’s Progress edition, but we looked at it as a rare chance to recognize people who faced the challenge head on and found solutions to real, often life-threatening dilemmas.

At the start of 2021, when the time came to decide on the theme to begin our stories, we gambled that the situation would start to improve, although the epidemic remained dire at the time and continues to be very serious. Our faith that things would improve seems to be rewarded as hope returns to our county, state and nation. We can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against this modern plague.

There are many lessons to be taken from the pandemic and experiences that need to be preserved for history. We have embraced this responsibility. We hope you enjoy reading the stories of unsung heroes and local people overcoming great adversity to endure and embrace a brighter, wiser future.

— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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