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LaFollette Press veteran returns 'home'

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By Dwane Wilder

 I’ve come full circle during the past 14 months.After leaving the LaFollette Press last July for what I thought would be forever, here I am again. Tuesday was my first official day back at the paper where I built my career in community journalism the previous two decades as sports editor. Appropriately, it was also my 48th birthday.

The past year seems more like 10 years. I enjoyed my brief stints at the Roane County News and WLAF Radio/TV 12, but my heart never left The Press

It’s where I made a name for myself, raised my family and watched the children of countless other families grow up.

Sometimes you can stay in a place so long that it grows on you. It becomes a part of who you are. That’s the way it’s been for me with The Press. I still vividly remember the first day I stepped through the door in August 1992 only two weeks before the birth of my youngest daughter. 

Publisher Larry Smith, who was in the middle of a family trip to Australia, had left advertising manager Larry Dilbeck in charge. More than six-feet tall with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, Dilbeck was an imposing figure that made me a little nervous until I got to know him. Over the next few years, both of them guided me along the path to becoming a better newspaperman. 

As sports editor of The Press, I had the pleasure of covering an entire generation of Campbell County schoolchildren. I was introduced to them as youngsters and watched them grow into young adults right before my very eyes. In many cases, I ended up covering two generations of the same family. It was really a neat thing to watch an athlete and compare them to their mom or dad at the same age.

So, when I took another newspaper job last summer at Roane County it felt as though I was leaving a member of my own family behind.

But now I’m back home again, and it feels good to be reunited with the paper where I spent so much of my life. 

Though I won’t be in charge of the sports section again, you may occasionally see me covering a game or two for Sports Editor Chris Cannon. My primary news beats will be the Campbell County Board of Education, and the municipal boards of Caryville and Jacksboro. 

I’ll also pitch in with columns, enterprise stories and features.

So, what I’m saying in a roundabout way is that you’re apt to see me anywhere between Lake City and Jellico, Pioneer and Speedwell.

Like the old John Denver song, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”