The third year of the new century will be remembered as a time of progress for Valdosta and Lowndes County.

We were designated an urban area by the Census Bureau. An urban area is considered a prelude to metropolitan status, as dubbed by the federal government.

A majority of voters OK'd the extension of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes for both public schools and municipalities. This tax burden is shared with many people from outside Lowndes who come here to shop in our stores, enjoy Wild Adventures, visit their children in college or simply to buy gas on the way to Florida.

The Valdosta Board of Education and Valdosta State University reached an agreement to build a new stadium to replace Bazemore-Hyder. Together, they can avoid the costs of duplicating effort by building separate facilities.

These were some of the events chronicled on the front page of this newspaper this year, but inside the paper you could find more signs of progress.

Sunday's business section was filled each week with news of development and growth. Look at the new motels built this year, and ones still coming. Take a drive in the commercial districts, and you'll find restaurants and stores that weren't here a year ago.

In 2002, downtown Valdosta continued to attract new businesses, new residents and even a church. A new state Department of Labor building will soon be added to the mix.

Inside the Homefront section weekly were long lists of real estate transactions and building permits. Each one represents an investment in the future.

Existing industries expanded, and new ones were announced. Jet service is coming to the airport. A new hospital opened this year.

The Living pages have chronicled this town's devotion to the arts, both performing and visual, and culture. Many people have worked hard to create the new center for the Lowndes Valdosta Arts Commission, which will open in 2003. The university offers a wealth of opportunities for people of all ages to learn and enjoy music, art and all forms of enrichment.

Many stories have reflected the area's commitment to preserving its past, especially through architecture. We are blessed to have highly active groups committed to historic preservation.

The city will take a huge stride toward eliminating substandard housing because of the Jimmy Carter Work Project, which started its first phase in December with six houses built in two weeks.

Although the 50 houses that will be built in 2003 might not seem like much, the positive impact will come in the ability to build on those investments in the future. Those mortgage payments will be used to finance the construction of more homes.

The many businesses and clubs that are donating major amounts of money to sponsor these houses are making contributions to the community that will reverberate for decades and generations.

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Inside Wednesday's paper, readers will find a list of top 10 stories as chosen through a voting process by newsroom staffers.

Let me preface its publication by saying that news judgment is far from objective, and every journalist injects a little bit of himself or herself into the decisions.

That's why I poll the staff and count the stories that get the most votes. In the case of a tie, I compare their weight by adding up the rank each was given.

Readers will see it's an interesting combination of news that came both early and late in the year.



Ron Wayne is editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at 244-3400, ext. 229, or e-mailed at ron.wayne@gaflnews.com.



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