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SPIGOLON: It was easy to find things to be thankful for this year
Fireworks Covington Square 2014 0628fFIREWORK
I'm thankful for Newton County, even if there were no Fourth of July fireworks over the Covington Square this year. - photo by Covington News/File Photo

In a year in which there were so many things to forget, I found things to remember, as well.

In fact, it was easy to find the good things in a year filled with COVID-19, mass layoffs, the tanking of a booming economy, social unrest, a seemingly never-ending and very divisive election, and more.

I’ve got to say, I’m thankful for Newton County, Georgia. 

I’ve lived in the Atlanta area for 20 years, in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Walton counties, and worked in and around the north and northwest edges of the metro area. For some reason, I never had a reason to stop here.

I had stood in the blazing hot sun for six hours in 2000 at the Conyers office of what is now the Department of Driver Services to get my Georgia driver’s license and never imagined there was a whole world beyond Rockdale County.

I had heard “In the Heat of the Night” had been filmed in Covington but believed it was somehow farther away from Atlanta than it is. 

I thought Oxford College was sitting in the middle of farmland in rural Georgia — not situated right there on the other side of I-20 from downtown Covington.

In June, I was like all the tourists from outside the Atlanta area, showing up to ride the tram for the tour of film locations, as I looked around the Square for the first time. 

There was the famous Courthouse, shown in early episodes of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Anyway, I know very well where Covington is now — sandwiched between towns best known as the birthplace of Emory University and whose signature landmark is an imposing former mill on the banks of the Yellow River.

This year, I’m thankful someone had the foresight to spend the millions needed to renovate Covington’s famous Historic Courthouse where the county government is based and convenes.

I’m thankful for the Newton County judges and government officials and residents who reacted to national racial issues calmly and thoughtfully earlier this year — unlike some neighboring counties.

An election office that was organized and did its job well in the midst of numerous challenges resulting from fears about COVID-19 — that made me thankful and should make all Newton Countians thankful even if some have concerns about absentee voting generally.

I’m thankful that we have a republic where people can speak (or write) what’s on their minds without fear of government agents showing up on their doorsteps in the middle of the night, no matter how damning those words are to that government.

I’m also thankful for a country that will continue to operate no matter who is occupying whichever branch of the government.

I’m thankful for churches and museums and schools and businesses that don’t require you to be either Republican or Democrat, black or white, Christian or non-Christian to enter their doors.

I’m thankful Newton County seems to have gotten past some of the acrimony of its recent past, even if it does seem to rear its ugly head every once in a while.

On a personal level, I’m thankful for our newspaper’s owner, Patrick Graham, who believed enough in community journalism to buy this legendary newspaper in 2017, and for hiring me in this insane year.

I’m thankful for my co-workers who welcomed me with open arms this year.

On an even more personal level, I’m thankful for my wife who has put up with some late nights, long hours and weekends I’ve sometimes had to work since I’ve been here.

I’m thankful my son and daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren are safe and keeping themselves safe from COVID-19, even though they decided it was best to remain in the foreign country they’re living in rather than returning to the U.S. during this worldwide pandemic.

At this point next year, I hope a successful COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, and the country, state and county have moved past the wild divisiveness of the political and social events of 2020.

That’s something I hope we will all be thankful for in 2021.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at tspigolon@covnews.com.