This Original Independent column is a year old within a few weeks. We’ve talked about many aspects of Denton here, things I love, things you love. We’ve explored Denton’s essence, how we think of ourselves and our home and the perception the world “out there” has of us relative to our attraction as a viable destination.

Thanks to the Denton Record-Chronicle (DRC) for allowing this platform where we are continually reminded of the attributes setting Denton apart from other places. As I have said here many times, if we don’t believe it about ourselves, no one else will. The tremendous feedback you give week after week is confirmation that we do believe in and love our city.

Great growth and good things are unfolding in Denton. I believe we all are passionate about shaping our future, sustaining these unique characteristics that make Denton Denton rather than hoping they will somehow survive without our attention as exponential growth is forced upon us.

We have a new managing editor at the DRC. Welcome, Scott Parks! After reading Mr. Parks’ introductory column last Sunday, the more appropriate salutation is, “welcome back!” Mr. Parks’ history is founded in Denton, he having spent much of his childhood here. The memories he shares in his column are fond, reflecting a deep love for Denton carried throughout his life and career.

As we often hear from Dentonites and university alumni long gone into the world, they are astounded when they visit again. The small, sleepy college town they remember has become a burgeoning city of 120,000 people plus a student population of almost 50,000. Commerce has exploded. Downtown has evolved into a vibrant entertainment district where professionals and students live, work and play side-by-side.   Both universities and North Central Texas College have massively increased and built anew. Our airport is one of the busiest runways in the state. Tourism is a definitively important industry. Our music scene is world-renown, and our emergence as a creative and tech destination is nationally recognized. Media outlets cite Denton as the cultural destination not to be missed. I could go on and on, but the point is that Denton is not the same place it was “back when.”

Many readers have commented over the past week on Mr. Parks’ opening to his column: “Visitors might take a look at Denton and see a rather unremarkable Texas town blown sideways by prairie winds and in need of a fresh coat of paint.” Denton is very happy to welcome you home, Mr. Parks, but many have taken offense to your description! Readers have urged that I respond and ask you to join this column each week to immerse yourself in becoming reacquainted. Little town on the big prairie we are no more! Like many others, you will be amazed at Denton today compared with the Denton you left four decades ago.

Some things remain unchanged. Chiefly, we are still Denton, not some suburb. We remain a close-knit community, original and independent, full of engaged citizens who care about this place. Ours is not a bedroom society. We are a diverse population focused on preserving our heritage and our essence. We do not merely sleep and work here. We live here.

I want to personally invite you to spend a day with me. Let me show you who we are now, how we’ve matured while our core spirit stayed true. I believe you will be as astounded as many others who are rediscovering Denton every day. This is not the same place you saw in your rear-view mirror the day you left town.

Mr. Parks’ closing statement in his column was, “Come see me sometime. Let’s talk about what’s great about Denton. More importantly, perhaps, let’s figure out what needs to be improved.” Certainly, there is always room for improvement. So let’s leave that door open. However, our readers feel, and I agree, that it is important to have an experiential, authentic understanding of what is real at this time before joining our work to take it further.

My sentiment truly is, “Welcome home, Mr. Parks.” At the same time, as the managing editor of our newspaper, you need to see us. Let me show you first-hand the Denton of today. We are far from a sideways prairie town in need of paint. My invitation stands and readers eagerly await your description of our city once you’ve experienced original and independent Denton.