I wrote a lot of political stories in 2017. If our content management system is correct (and it never lies), I have written more than 1,000 blog posts and stories this year.
I don't usually have a favorite story of the year. I love this job and my favorite story is the next one. But I am making an exception for 2017 because there was one story I covered that is, without a doubt, my favorite piece of the year. And it happened within the first couple weeks of 2017.
In January, I traveled to Washington for a ceremony at the Department of the Interior formally establishing the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn. As a credentialed member of the media, I documented the event for The Citizen. (You can read my story here.) My goal is to work as a political reporter in Washington, so this was a small sample of that dream. Adding "WASHINGTON" to the dateline of my story put a smile on my face.
But the ceremony for the Tubman park is my favorite story for another reason. I have been covering the effort to establish this park since 2011. I have easily written dozens, if not hundreds, of stories about the plans for the Tubman park and the sometimes painful legislative process.
The final passage of the Tubman park legislation, which was included in a 2014 defense measure, was a major milestone. President Barack Obama signed the bill before Christmas that year. But it was the moment on Jan. 10, 2017 that everyone was waiting for. The formal establishment of the park makes it official.
The ceremony drew a modest crowd of elected officials and supporters. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York's senior senator, was there. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's junior senator, was also in attendance. So was U.S. Rep. John Katko, whose district includes Auburn and all of Cayuga County.
Representatives from the A.M.E. Zion Church were there. And Karen Hill, president and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, made the trip to Washington for the historic occasion.
It was a straight-forward ceremony. There were speeches and then the document was signed. It didn't last long, maybe 30 to 45 minutes. For a brief moment, I questioned why I made the six-hour drive for the short event when I could have watched the department's live stream. But it didn't take me long to remember why I wanted to be there.
This is a story that's important to our community and our history. Tubman is an American icon who spent her later years in the city I now call home. I followed this story for more than six years. When I learned that the Department of the Interior would be holding a ceremony in Washington to formally establish the park, it didn't take me long to book a hotel room.
As 2017 winds down, I keep thinking back to that ceremony. There is more work to be done with the Tubman park, as I have documented over the last several months. But January 10 was a great day. There were a lot of smiles on people's faces that day. This was a real achievement. There were plenty of hurdles along the way, but they got here. As someone who has covered the ups and downs over the years, it was nice to see all involved realize this goal.