MANAGING EDITOR MARKS 10TH
Libby Found Love, Work,
Heartbreak — And Home
Editor’s Note: What a decade! Her friends and colleagues celebrated Manager Editor Libby Cudmore’s 10th anniversary among us on production day, Tuesday, Dec. 10, and agreed to write this memoir.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com
There’s a lot for Ian and I to celebrate in December. Our families do Christmas, Yule and Hanukkah, our original anniversary, the New Year’s Eve to cap it all off.
But this December, I realized that I had another anniversary to celebrate – 10 years with the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and, most recently, AllOTSEGO.com. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed with a job, but in 10 years, I’ve realized that it’s more than than a job – it’s a way to give back to a community that has welcomed me so graciously.
When I moved to Oneonta in May 2007, I wasn’t sure if I would stay. This was my husband’s hometown, after all, but I wasn’t sure that there was a place for me yet. But that changed when Jim Kevlin hired me as a freelance reporter in April 2009.
My first story was about a bridal fashion show at SUNY. My second was an interview with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, who was playing at the now-defunct Oneonta Theatre, then re-opened and full of promise.
I was hired full-time that December, Monday the 14th, given a desk and the business cards I’ve been passing out ever since. If you look in your drawer, chances are you have one. If it was before 2017, it said “Reporter.” Since then, it has said “Managing Editor.”
Our new reporter, James Cummings, asked me: What’s the favorite story you ever written? How do you even pick?
But a few come to mind: getting to travel to Oneonta, Ala., and see the similarities (and a few differences) between our cities, and declaring actor Cuyle Carvin “Oneonta’s Heartthrob.” As an obsessive music fan, I still get giddy knowing that, at any time, I can pick up the phone and call Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for comment.
I love being able to support the good deeds at the Susquehanna SPCA, see the rise and revitalization of the Milford Methodist Church, to be a first-hand witness to all of the change in Oneonta as the DRI gets underway. I absolute agree that we’re “Onta Something.”
Of course, there has been plenty of heartache too. The sudden death of Mayor Dick Miller was when I felt it the most profoundly. I was tasked with not only covering the tragedy, but also processing my own grief privately. I had seen Dick that Thursday evening at the Future for Oneonta Foundation reception. He gave me one of those sideways handshakes I knew so well, the quick “how ya’ doin’” in passing. We’d had our disagreements over the years – par for the course in both our professions – but I respected and enjoyed him immensely, and still miss him.
The murder of 11-year-old Jacelyn O’Connor still haunts me. I’ve written about far too many brutal deaths in our county, but in some ways, I’m honored to do so, because I task myself not with writing about the killer, but letting my readers know who the victim was to their family, their friends, their community. They’re stories I wish that I didn’t have to write, but I am always honored when I get to speak with survivors like Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Erika Heller, to be trusted with their loved ones’ legacies.
I am always in awe of the support that the people of Otsego County continue to bless me with. From the packed house at the Green Toad for the launch of my debut novel, “The Big Rewind,” to the votes that came in for my guest conductor bid at the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s cabaret concert. Many of you were there to cheer when Ian proposed to me in the 2013 Halloween parade, and some of you came to our wedding in 2015.
But you have also been with me in the darkest times to. In 2017, we lost MJ Kevlin, my dear friend and mentor. The outpouring of love and support from all of you was overwhelming, and if I didn’t thank you then, consider this a much delayed appreciation for the kindness you showed me, the grief we shared.
Recently someone asked me where I was from. For the first time in my life, I didn’t reply “Oklahoma City,” where I was born, or generic “Upstate New York” to compensate for a hometown I don’t particularly associate myself with. “Oneonta,” I answered without hesitation.
I didn’t grow up here. But if home is where you hang your hat (and, as you know, I wear many of them) then it stands to reason that your hometown is the town where your home is located – and thus, your hat hangs.
Writing for the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and AllOTSEGO.com has made me feel more a part of this community here than any career I thought I would have. Every week you welcome me into your home and your lives, you call me with good stories about graduations and strange collections and upcoming meetings, you allow me to lament with you when you send in obituaries and when we stand at the scenes of loss. It’s a position I do not take lightly, and I pledge to continue to my best to tell your stories accurately and honestly.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve traveled internationally and cross-country. But when I come off I-88 and turn onto the Lettis Highway, whether after a few days or a few weeks away, I always get the same feeling as the lights of Main Street greet me.