My first time as a reporter for the Northwest Florida Daily News, I worked from its brand new Navarre bureau. For about five years until 2000, it took me a dozen steps to touch the calm waters of Santa Rosa Sound.
From my office window, I could look out across the water and see Navarre Beach from end to end.
Deadlines at the waterfront office often created a conflict. Turn my story in on time or watch another awesome sunset filled with splashes of blues, purples and oranges?
During my second stint at the paper, which started five weeks ago, my first day in Santa Rosa County involved sitting in spacious room shouting distance away from others in the Santa Rosa Press Gazette office.
Thankfully, I now sit up front where I have plenty of sunshine and can easily interact with other reporters.
But my best interactions come out in the field.
For a story on Relay for Life, I met 10-year-old Melissa Joyner, a superhero who survived a handful of near death illnesses and beat a rare cancer called Acute T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma before she could talk or walk. As a toddler, Melissa scooted around on a tiny giraffe on wheels, defying doctors who said she would never walk again. The giraffe now parks in the living room of the Joyner’s Navarre home.
Additionally, this time around I have a chance to complete those stories the county first grappled with decades ago. For instance, the expansion of State Road 87 to four lanes for a 19-mile stretch north from Navarre to East Milton will be done in June. Did you hear, too, after voters rejected a half-cent tax three times between 2002 and 2016, the county finally will replace its 100-year-old courthouse in downtown Milton where you get to rub elbows with inmates?
I’m excited about this second adventure. Meeting new people, learning new things and keeping an eye on our local politicians hardly seems like a job at all. I’ve done this for more than 30 years and remain flabbergasted that you can make a living telling stories that need to be told.
Look for me right behind the counter when you enter the Santa Rosa Press Gazette. If I’m not there or out having fun on some story, find me at the Daily News office near downtown Fort Walton Beach. See you soon.
Duwayne Escobedo covers Santa Rosa County for the Daily News. You can contact him at 850-315-4489 in Fort Walton Beach, on his cell phone at 850-255-1484 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org