A love letter to Summit County, from outgoing reporter Deepan Dutta
As with the snow melt and blossoming of the seasons, change is one of the only constants in the mountains. After nearly two and a half privileged years at the Summit Daily News, I am very sad to say that it has come time for me to hang up my reporting spurs.
In November 2017, I took a huge leap up into the High Country after spending the previous 10 years on the Front Range. When I got this job, I had just earned my master’s degree in journalism from University of Colorado Boulder, a two-year program I completed after spending five mostly unhappy years as a lawyer in Denver.
I was eager and excited and terrified of the new job as a daily news reporter covering county government, health, education, environment and nonprofits.
I had never visited Frisco before applying for an open reporter position left vacant after the departure of my predecessor, Kevin Fixler, and the big shoes he left to fill. I had barely snowboarded and never skied before. I knew nothing about the community, its people or the mountain town way of life. The only moose I ever saw before coming out here was Bullwinkle in Saturday morning cartoons; now I seem to encounter the splendid, lumbering beasts on every street corner and recreation path (and then make sure to give them a very wide berth).
As I roamed the towns, courthouses, ski areas, trails, waterways, restaurants and bars — attending the many community gatherings and celebrations around Summit County — I learned how much the people who live and work here love this place: this magnificent gateway to the Western Slope, a heaven on earth for adventurers and dreamers.
I got to know so many of Summit County’s denizens: the locals, the tourists, the workers, the politicians, the characters, the scoundrels and the legends. Every man, woman and child I introduced myself to for the past few years has treated me with respect and an easy affability that filtered out every cynical cell in my body, a mistrust of society acquired through too many years living in some of the world’s most crowded and harshest cities. Here, at the top of the mountains, I found a community I love and now, I believe, a home.
Through the people of Summit County, I learned how to love life again. I learned how to truly appreciate the majesty of the mountains in morning sunlight, to listen closely to the luscious stillness in the woods during a solitary hike, to turn complete strangers into lifelong friends with just a few minutes of conversation. The way you embraced me is the way I try to embrace everyone I meet. It’s a gift I will never stop being thankful for.
The sincere love Summit County’s people have for this land broke down my anxieties as a writer and encouraged me to be a zealous journalist, serving the people who showed me so much generosity and faith in my abilities every single day I worked here.
From the weekly meetings at the old, gilded county courthouse in Breckenridge, to the town forums and gatherings at the senior center in Frisco, to regular meetings at the County Commons with the county’s most devoted tree-huggers, I could always count on encountering and listening to people who are passionate about preserving this way of life, people who work nonstop to keep this paradise beautiful and booming.
Through my work at the Summit Daily, I did all sorts of things I never dreamed of doing before: From covering the manic frenzy of ski season opening day to reporting live from the smoldering remains of the most dangerous wildfire in Summit County’s history and nearly freezing my toes off learning how to survive the frigid elements in the forest to smelling the sweet sage out on the rambling ranches in the northern part of the county, working at this newspaper has been a lifetime’s joy in two years.
And I couldn’t have done any of it without the Summit Daily News and the people who have made it one of the most impressive success stories of newspaper publishing in Colorado. Take a look around the state and country and you won’t find many jewels of community journalism like the Summit Daily.
This is a free daily newspaper on every corner in a small resort community, with original and in-depth local reporting from three full-time news reporters, a photographer and an editorial staff that cares deeply about the work they do, funded solely by advertisements from local businesses and read by a fiercely loyal community who knows the value of keeping its local newspaper alive. It’s a unique, amazing formula for success — one that this community should be immensely proud of.
While I’m leaving the newspaper, I am not leaving Summit. I will continue to live in Frisco and am going back to being a lawyer, practicing criminal defense. While I came out here to escape life as a lawyer, I realized that life in Summit County more than makes up for whatever reservations I had about the career in the past. This place and its people have given me a new energy and optimism that will most assuredly help me in my new, old career.
I owe my time at the newspaper to the leadership and trust provided by our Publisher Meg Boyer, the guidance and mentorship from my first Editor Ben Trollinger, the motivation and steadiness instilled by our current Editor Nicole Miller, and the camaraderie and support from my current and past fellow reporters, editors and co-workers, including Eli Pace, Jack Queen, Susan Gilmore, Kevin Fixler, Hugh Carey, Sawyer D’Argonne, Taylor Sienkiewicz, Jefferson Geiger, Susan Tucker and too many more to list.
I also want to thank the hundreds of truly great people I’ve had the honor of interviewing for my stories. Everything I’ve done here at the Daily was based on the knowledge, hard work and trust of my sources.
Those to thank include current and former county Commissioners Dan Gibbs, Karn Stiegelmeier, Thomas Davidson and Elisabeth Lawrence as well as county staff including Scott Vargo, Sarah Vaine, Julie Sutor, Eva Henson, Jeff Huntley and so many others.
I also would like to thank the generosity and education about the education system provided to me by school Superintendent Kerry Buhler, school district communications manager Mikki Grebetz and the Summit School District Board of Education as well as state and federal officials who have been so generous with their time, including Reps. Julie McCluskie and Joe Neguse.
But not least of all, I want to thank you, the readers, for the endless written and verbal encouragement from the amazing people of this most extraordinary community that is Summit County. After decades of moving across the country and the planet, I think I’ve finally found a place I want to call home, and that’s because of the people here.
The mountains called me here and here I shall remain.
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