Editor Letter: Building a Healthy Community

T. Michele Walker takes us down memory lane!
Michele Walker, Orlando Magazine Editor, Photo By Roberto Gonzalez

Michele Walker, Orlando magazine editor (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)

While my children were in college between 2004 and 2010, I spent an excessive amount of time driving through the small towns of rural America. My car made it through the winding roads of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Western Maryland, and West Virginia. I bought homemade pies at pie stands, fresh corn and fruit, and met an interesting array of strangers. They were fascinating adventures, discovering America while traveling to visit my children as they worked their summer jobs.

I remember two summers where I found myself in Findlay and New Philadelphia, Ohio, quiet corners where you could see the remnants of old-time America. These former bustling communities reminded me of fictional places like Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” The difference was that these towns were mostly closed, windows boarded up with graffiti, “Out of business.” Monuments to communities that were once the backbone of our country now bordering on ghost town status.

I remember when Downtown Orlando was on the verge of becoming one of these ghost towns. It was in the early 80s. I was in college and trying to locate a specific address on Orange Ave. While the windows weren’t boarded, most of the business doors were closed. One could walk from one end of Orange Ave. to the other without seeing a soul.

After a 30-year absence, it thrills me to see that Downtown Orlando is now a vibrant place. How fortunate for all of us that the leaders of Orlando took the steps to revitalize Orlando, creating a thriving destination for tourists and people wanting to call Central Florida home. You can read about this in “Reimagining Downtown Orlando,” which explains Project Downtown Orlando 2.0, Orlando’s master plan for the future.

One sign of a successful community is the quality of health care. Orlando magazine’s Susan Jenks sits down with Dr. Kirk Erickson, Director of Translational Neuroscience at AdventHealth’s Neuroscience Institute in Orlando. Dr. Erickson is doing groundbreaking research in brain health and Alzheimer’s.

It wouldn’t be a March issue without a look at the local St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawls. Orlando magazine has taken it a step further, featuring “Cocktails and Speakeasies,” a deep dive into the hidden and not-so-hidden gems in Central Florida.

It’s time to vote for Orlando magazine’s Best of Wedding (BOW) Awards. Winners will appear in the June issue. We thank our BOW 2023 sponsor, Dr. George Pope of Pope Plastic Surgery. To place your vote for the Best Wedding Vendor in Central Florida, go to orlandomagazine.com/bow-awards-ballot.

Healthy communities begin with a healthy downtown. Successful businesses, engaged citizens, cultural events, and employment are all signs of a booming community. When cities neglect these areas, it’s not just the loss of business, but losing a once-vibrant town. How fortunate we are to live in Orlando, with leadership that looks to the future.

T. Michele Walker


Categories: Column