Year Inducted: 2023
It was a Friday in November 1978, Gerry Mulligan’s first day as editor of the Citrus County Chronicle. Back then, the paper came out two times a week and work was finished by noon on Fridays. At noon, Mulligan asked his boss, David Arthurs, “What’s next?”
Just then, a woman pushed open the door of the Chronicle office in downtown Inverness, handed 24-year-old Mulligan a piece of chalk and said, “Come with me.” The woman, the late Nancy Dodge, wife of local physician Ed Dodge, was with the Art League, and the chalk was to mark off spaces on the sidewalks around the courthouse square for booths for that weekend’s Festival of the Arts.
That’s the moment Mulligan learned that the role of a community newspaper and its editor – and later its publisher – was more than just getting the news out. It’s also about being part of the fabric of the community by rolling up your sleeves and doing everything from marking sidewalk spaces with chalk or sweeping up an auditorium after a political forum to providing leadership and encouragement to various local organizations and citizens. “You have to care about your community,” Mulligan told the Chronicle recently. “By developing relationships and working shoulder to shoulder with people, to me, that’s critical. The connection to the community has always been critically important. “Not only because that’s how you find out about stuff – that’s where news comes from – but because, as a newspaper, you can be a tool to make the community a better place by supporting the good things that are happening,” he said.
Mulligan believes that when newspapers tell stories of people, they can help make people’s lives better. And although he retired as Chronicle publisher in August 2021 after a 43-year career, Mulligan hasn’t retired from his caring involvement in the community.
For his influence and his role in making Citrus County a better place, Chronicle Publisher Emeritus Gerry Mulligan was nominated as Citrus County’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.
From newspaper carrier to newspaper publisher
“As his older brother I have known Gerry longer than any person alive,” wrote Kevin Mulligan in an email to the Chronicle. “We grew up on suburban Long Island, he a Mets fan and me a Yankee. We were both Boy Scouts, Newsday paper carriers, and students in local Catholic elementary and secondary schools.” Both brothers left New York to attend college, Gerry to St. Leo College in Florida and Kevin to college in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; both went into journalism.
“Gerry ran the student newspaper at St. Leo and received some notoriety by writing critical editorials of the college president, which got him suspended and then reinstated,” Kevin Mulligan said. “He graduated, married, had two children and became editor of the Sun-Journal in Brooksville in 1976. “I moved to the area and worked under him as a reporter for two years before moving on to the Citrus Times of the St. Petersburg Times,” Kevin Mulligan said. “Meanwhile, David Arthurs attracted Gerry to head the Chronicle and we became rival journalists, each with offices on the Inverness Courthouse Square.” Although big brother Kevin moved on to a career as a paramedic/firefighter, Gerry stayed with the Chronicle for over four decades.
“His contributions to Citrus County became legendary,” Kevin Mulligan said. “He became a champion of dozens of causes which benefited the community. He is still celebrated for his support of Citrus United Way, the YMCA, Crystal River Main Street and countless other good causes. “His steady stewardship at the Chronicle made it a voice in state politics and led to the demise of three metro daily newspapers, which had established Citrus bureaus. His sense of fairness helped keep the Chronicle a neutral and objective voice in local, state and national politics….Gerry knows that a newspaper must value its credibility, integrity and truthfulness in order to remain viable. He strived to maintain that approach in leading the Chronicle. I think he has succeeded in that expectation,” he said.
Champion and cheerleader
Of the organizations in Citrus County that Gerry Mulligan has been instrumental in starting, the local United Way and the YMCA are two of the largest.
The United Way began back in the mid-1980s when Mulligan cornered his friend, Steve Lamb, and another guy, Wilson Burns, and told them, “We don’t have a United Way here,” Lamb said. “So, Wilson and I said, ‘We’ll make this happen.’ I was campaign chairman and Gerry had the most important role of all: He was the cheerleader. “He was there saying, ‘This is going to be awesome; we’re going to make this happen.’ Gerry was there, pushing, pushing, pushing, but in a good way, in a way that made sense,” Lamb said. “Gerry and I are personal friends, and I have the utmost admiration for him. He has always set the benchmark for community involvement, making sure things were going right. He has a passion for that, and it’s been a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be a part of. “He and I have been involved in a lot of things together in the community, and if it was something that was good for the city or the county, Gerry was right there,” Lamb said. “If it was right for the citizens, Gerry was for it.”
As for the YMCA, Mulligan was there from the start when it was just an idea. A small group of people began meeting at the Chronicle for a couple of years, dreaming and planning. “The main thing the Chronicle and Gerry provided for fledgling, just starting out organizations was leadership,” said Johnny Cash, local businessman, community leader and YMCA chairman, the position Mulligan had for about 11 years. “Gerry’s steady hand, his wise words and his reputation in the community was a huge part, especially for the Y when we were trying to raise $6 million. “Gerry had influence, and the influence of the Chronicle was very important in getting people to respond,” Cash said. “They knew Gerry and the Chronicle were invested in this community and cared about the community. “I can’t think of a nonprofit event that I’ve gone to that didn’t have the Chronicle as one of the major sponsors,” Cash said. “All the things he’s been a part of, his incredible wisdom, incredible calm in times of uneasiness is a must-have for these organizations to be rooted. Gerry also knows when it’s time to step away and let other people lead, and he’s done that, too.”
The Rev. Doug Alexander, pastor of the New Church Without Walls, called Mulligan an “absolute blessing.”
“Gerry’s been a friend to the church and has promoted our food ministry that enables us to feed all the people like we do,” Alexander said. “Without Gerry Mulligan’s help and support announcing all of our activities and events, we wouldn’t be where we are. Gerry and I have worked together as a team to help people in Citrus County.”
Mulligan said a newspaper generally stands back as an observer and reports the news.
“You’re not supposed to get involved,” he said, “but when you’re in a small town and you’re the oldest business in Citrus County and one of the most important institutions that people look to for leadership – as a newspaper, when we say, ‘The Art Festival is a really good thing’ or the United Way or the YMCA, people say, ‘Yeah,’ and they get involved.”
Last year, Sandra Ingram, a Chronicle newspaper carrier for more than 30 years, fell on hard times, trying to raise her grandkids after the death of her daughter.
“Mr. Mulligan asked people in the county for help, and did I ever get it,” Ingram said. “I know he was the driving force behind everything. He will never know how much I appreciate him.”
Because of Mulligan’s influence in the community, more than $73,000 was raised and Ingram and her grandchildren are now in a clean, comfortable, safe home.
“A newspaper is hard work,” Mulligan said, “but it’s a wonderful place to be when what you do makes people’s lives better.”