Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tribute to Dan Reed

One of the biggest names in MoCo blogging, Just Up the Pike’s Dan Reed, has announced that he is leaving for graduate school in Pennsylvania. Now is a good time to look back on the career of one of our county’s very best.

Dan was one of the founders of MoCo’s blogosphere in 2006. Most of the blogs back then were anonymous gossip sites, or worse yet, attack blogs. Dan was different from the start because he was not obsessed with politics. He was a thoughtful nineteen-year-old who looked around his beloved East County, tried to understand what it was, wanted to understand where it was going and had definite views on what it should be. Politics was part of that, but not all of it. Dan was interested in planning, history, architecture, and above all, people. You never knew from week to week what kind of content you were going to get from Just Up the Pike, and that made it stand out.

Dan was first and foremost a committed writer. He perfected the long, in-depth series that later spread to other blogs (including MPW). Some of his finest work covered the Purple Line, the communities near Briggs Chaney Road and redevelopment in Burtonsville. Dan was attracted to content and viewpoints that did not often appear elsewhere. Just Up the Pike was a success in part because it was one place people could go to find it. That approach heavily influenced my writing for MPW years later.

But Dan also had a big political impact. He was one of the county’s best interviewers, sitting down with every candidate in the 2008 and 2009 District 4 special elections – even the Republicans. He interviewed the vast majority of the County Council Members at the beginning of this term. His quasi-endorsement of Nancy Navarro was an important moment in the 2009 election. And his long-ago post on Eating Pho with Hans Riemer put Riemer on the map way back in 2006.

Most of all, Dan’s message of change, progress and diversity put its imprint on the county’s direction much more than mere political rhetoric. Dan took risks in pushing that message – notably targeting bigots in Burtonsville for their statements criticizing “undesirables.” Dan took some heat for that but he also earned a lot of respect – the kind of respect that politicians who claim to be leaders but never take risks rarely get.

Dan Reed has shown that a person who works hard, knows how to write, has something interesting to say and cares about his community can make a difference – even if he is a gangly, Pho-slurping kid! We will be poorer for his departure, but his example will serve as a model for all of us he leaves behind.