Outgoing editor Howie Magner’s March letter to our readers.
You can dwell in a whole lot of houses, but only one first home.
My dad was a career Air Force man and served his country 20 years before retiring, when he mustered out as a master sergeant, and I as an Air Force brat.
Duty took our family from Michigan to Colorado to Mississippi, then almost to Germany, which was nixed for a last-minute switch to Hawaii, but not before our arms swelled from the preparatory shots. We spent four years in paradise at Hickam Air Force Base, whose buildings still showed bullet marks from the Pearl Harbor attack, then made a final stop back in Colorado.
Life as a military brat has a lot of nuances, so many of them tied to transience, to living in many different houses, but never a home. And still, moving every handful of years seems eminently normal when it’s all you’ve ever known. The nomadic upbringing was a fine one, and surely influenced an early journalistic career of job-hopping like a millennial. I was in my 40s before I’d lived in one place for more than six consecutive winters.
That was here, in my ninth state of residence, with winters a tad harsher than Hawaii’s, but not bad enough to prevent my first home purchase. This is where my wife and I started a family, where we’ve lived for nine years, where we’ve adopted identities as Milwaukeeans. On so many levels, Milwaukee is my first true hometown.
I moved here to work at this magazine, but I trace that hometown mental leap back to the home purchase. It’s the anchor from which everything else stems, a tangible connection to the city and a stake of ownership of its future. I almost don’t even mind the property taxes. Almost.
That’s the prism through which I view our real estate package, “On the Move.” Sure, it contains the type of real estate info you expect from such pieces, including nuggets on home prices and those property taxes.
But it’s the first-time homebuyers who caught my eye. Millennials who, through conscious choice or economic circumstance, are only now starting to buy homes en masse. People staking claims in foreclosure-downtrodden neighborhoods with a vested interest in reviving them.
Revival is also a theme in freelance writer Zach Brooke’s “Behind the Walls,” his inside look at restorative justice, which unites crime victims and prisoners in a common cause. Before you dismiss it as some “wacko liberal idea,” know that a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice once did just that, and now she runs the program.
It’s been an honor to serve our readers for nine years, the last few months as interim editor. You’ll not find a staff more committed to telling this area’s stories, which is why it’s so hard to leave. Life is made up of chapters, though, and my next one is as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s publications manager. But I’ll always be grateful for how Milwaukee Magazine brought me home.