The moment I walked into Jon Cantrell’s office on Feb. 14, 2019, I knew I wanted to work at Clay Today.
Moments after I shook hands with Cantrell and co-owner Hugh Osteen, I didn’t waste time trying to convince both I would be a good fit as the managing editor. I simply said, “I want this job. I can do this job.”
Nearly three-and-a-half years later, I’m still writing and editing stories. It’s the only thing I’ve known. It’s all I want to do.
I tried to retire after working nearly 20 years each with the USA Today chain and the Florida Times-Union, but I was miserable. I got an email from a friend telling me about the job opening at Clay Today and I quickly drove from Jacksonville to St. Augustine; I took a shower and gathered newspaper clips; and, I immediately drove to Clay Today.
I left with a life-changing opportunity.
My original goal was to work until I could retire and collect Social Security. Age 62½ soon became 63. Then 64. Now there is no planned end date. I love what I do.
It was easy to see what Cantrell meant to Clay Today. He is the epitome of being connected. He has the cellphone number of every mover and shaker in the county. He personally knows every former, current and future candidate, business owner and celebrity. He can call anyone on the Board of County Commissioners to ask a favor. Rockers Johnny Van Zant, Donnie Van Zant and Bobby Ingram answer when he calls.
He often laughed he knew every inch of the county. I quickly came to understand he wasn’t exaggerating.
After 25 years, Cantrell will leave Clay Today for his own dream job as the President of the Clay Chamber of Commerce. Our loss will be a boon for the county.
Nobody is better at making a sale. His new job will mean selling the county commerce, and he will take our businesses to new levels of success. He is masterful at connecting resources. He will always be selling.
While he’s moving five minutes away, I’m going to miss being able to step into his office to get a phone number or a name for a story. I’m going to miss his stories of how the county has grown during the 25 years he worked as our Publisher.
Jon and I had an understanding. I don’t know the advertising side of the business. He doesn’t know editorial. For the most part, we didn’t step on toes. That’s why Clay Today continues to grow. While other newspapers are losing readers at alarming rates, our subscriptions have increased in the past three-and-a-half years. Using what I’ve learned from Jon, it’s my promise to keep it going. I’ve learned being the voice of the community means being part of the community. People who read our paper aren’t customers. They’re our friends and neighbors.
We look forward to seeing Clay County, particularly our businesses, move to the next level. Jon Cantrell knows the business of the county like no other. And nobody loves Clay County more.
When you meet Jon, you’ll be greeted with a sincere handshake. And then you will get his business card because he’s always looking to promote and sell.
Good luck Jon. You left us in good hands. Now it’s up to us to keep it going.
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