When the Herald & Review came up with a new method of counting down the top 10 stories of the year, it was quickly obvious what No. 1 would be.
And when it was decided that a new category would be created, called “Newsmaker of the Year,” for the person who made the biggest impact on 2017, it too was obvious who that person would be.
And Howard Buffett.
Buffett’s unconventional rise to Macon County sheriff was easily the biggest development of these past 12 months.
For the region, it was a year of twists and turns, of victories and challenges, of new beginnings and new opportunities.
Three-hundred and 65 days.
In a year of numbers, here are some that stand out looking back on 2017:
Homicides in Decatur this year. Each one is a story of tragedy, of a life snuffed out, of horror. The latest was on Christmas of all days. Marvin T. Murphy, 39, was shot dead.
That case and others are under investigation. There will be arrests. There will be prosecutions.
But equal focus and energy must be put on identifying the root cause of this violence. Then we as a community must solve it. If we don’t do that, the risk of repeat is staggering. It is a trend that cannot continue.
Candidates who ran for four seats on the Decatur school board in the spring elections. It seems like an eternity now that Kendall Briscoe, B.A. Buttz, Courtney Carson, Beth Creighton, Janice Gavin, Alida Graham, Beth Nolan and Al Scheider were on the ballot.
It was a heated election, but the election of Briscoe, Carson, Creighton and Nolan, as well as the hiring of Superintendent Paul Fregeau, mark a critical turning point for this district.
There are encouraging signs about mending divisions and creative solutions. The success of this school district is central to the success of this entire community.
The number of months since Buffett – former Archer Daniels Midland executive, son of fabled investor Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway board member, prolific philanthropist of various local causes – became Macon County sheriff.
Buffett, who had spent several years as undersheriff, hasn’t let up in his financial contributions to the region. The most recent is the incredible creation of a new agriculture education program in the Decatur public school system, fulfilling a need that has unfortunately gone unmet for too long.
The troubling deficit included in the $67.9 million general fund budget the Decatur City Council approved in December. The approval sets up a challenging situation in coming months, with the prospect of program cuts or tax increases.
The city made noteworthy strides on several fronts this year, including the ambitious and incredibly important neighborhood revitalization plan. Even the demolition of the dangerous Aaction Equipment warehouse on East Grand Avenue is a signal to the community steps are being taken.
We’ll be closely watching the spending plan as it takes shape.
What will the next 12 months hold for our region? We are optimistic. We’re looking forward to learning from any missteps and creating a better 2018.
Our trust in the community spirit and solving problems is strong. And we are better together.
Happy new year.