A few years ago, I began a life transformation. I was on this determined path to do what I love, build a new life and reinvent myself. My road eventually led me here to Atascosa County, a place I’ve grown to love. I made it a mission to pursue my passion: helping others in the best way I know how, through writing.
I have witnessed many timeless moments in my time here as your local “newspaper lady.” I have seen the beauty that comes out of tragedy. The kind of beauty that leads to spreading kindness to others. I have seen the power of the words people say and ultimately how it comes back to haunt them. I haven’t always been the most popular journalist in this county. In doing what was right, telling the truth hurts and that is not always very popular. This journey has not always been an easy one here and it has been painful. I mean, I have been attacked by ants in the pursuit of a story, called not so nice words in public and even made myself sick over issues. It is all a part of the growth process. But, I am happy to say the good parts have definitely conquered the negative.
Atascosa County, you have blessed me in giving me the opportunity to tell your stories. The kind of stories that inspire others, motivate people to change for the better and the honor of writing your history in the communities you call home. I have been fortunate to get to know many of you and now call you my friend. Thank you for opening your doors to an outsider, taking me in and treating me as one of your own. Thank you for sharing your tacos with me when I walked the entire Poteet Strawberry Festival Parade, for protecting me from being run over by football players, for making me laugh and allowing me to cry with you in the toughest moments of storytelling. My hope is that you will always continue to show people the same love and kindness you have shown me. You helped me grow, find love and made me a better person on this journey.
Please continue your missions, do what is right and never forget there’s a quirky group of “newsies” on Goodwin St. who LOVE to know what you are doing in your communities. If people only knew what really goes down on Tuesday Press Day, you would realize just how hard we work to bring your news to you each and every week.
As I’ve always said, calling my time here an adventure would be an understatement. My Grandma Vela always taught me the importance of doing what was right and always said I should leave people better and happier than when I met them. I hope I have accomplished that in at least one of you.
My time to move forward on this journey has arrived. I have accepted a wonderful opportunity to further my talents at the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post. My departure is truly bittersweet. Thank you all for teaching and inspiring me. I’ll carry you and the lessons learned with me always.
I’d like to thank the Wilkerson family and the Pleasanton Express. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for giving me the opportunity to begin the process of realizing my true potential. You have listened when I used my outside voice inside this office, pursued my sometimes crazy ideas, put up with my spicy self and taught me a great deal about taking pride in the work we do. You have believed in me and helped me find my way.
You will always be my family and I will miss you terribly. You have been instrumental in my beginning and I hope to continue to make you all proud.
I could never begin to thank my family, Todd and friends enough for all the support they have shown me over the years. A few times I might have caused my sister to question if they needed to move from here because of the work I was doing. Nevertheless, they have stood by me and pushed me to pursue my dreams. I love you more!
Again, thank you all for being a part of my adventure. A part of my heart will always be here with you. If you are ever in Fredericksburg, I would welcome a familiar face anytime.
P.S. If you happen to serve Hope Garza in a restaurant, would you always make sure she has extra ice and lemons for her sweet tea, please?
Erika Vela is the Social Media Community Manager and Special Assignments Editor of the Pleasanton Express. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.