When I was growing up in Carroll County, I dreamed of getting out of here. I remember being a teenager and driving by the field where TownMall of Westminster now stands. There was nothing but fields where we now have Target, Home Depot, Kohl’s — and almost everything else along that corridor. Carroll was too rural and, to my mind, too boring.

I knew I did not want to spend the rest of my life in Carroll County. So after graduating from Westminster High School, I promptly left. I went to college in Ohio, and then I landed in Fells Point in Baltimore. I spent my 20s living in the city, enjoying the activity, the ability to walk to stores and restaurants and nightlife, and to hop in a cab to get anywhere else I wanted to go. I bought a house there, I got dogs and roommates, and was quite happy visiting Carroll County for holidays at my mom’s house, and then head back to Baltimore.

And then I got married. And then we got pregnant with twins. And then I didn’t want to live in the city anymore. I wanted a driveway and a bigger yard for my kids and dogs, and more privacy and a bigger house.

We looked for an area outside the city that offered good parks and recreation programs, had really good schools, robust libraries, shopping options, and a place where we could afford a bigger house with a little land. And don’t you know — as much as I hated to admit it — Carroll County had everything we wanted. The fact that my mom and other family lived in Westminster sealed the deal. We moved to Carroll County and settled into a home in Finksburg.

I feel so lucky to have raised my family here. There are so many opportunities for kids to play and get involved; there are quaint Main Streets and busy shopping centers. There is entertainment and arts and live music and colleges offering cultural and academic programs. I’ve never regretted settling down in Carroll County for the long haul.

This issue highlights the heart of Carroll County — the people and organizations that exemplify what make our community great. I have worked in surrounding counties and agree with those who say that Carroll County is unique in the way organizations work together and collaborate for the greater good. There are also so many supportive communities and groups — around schools, sports teams, and social activities — it is really a place that offers the village that we all need to raise our families.

There are many pieces to the heart of Carroll County — but we’ve scratched the surface here to bring you stories of teachers, police officers and organizations that are positively impacting our communities every day.

Happy New Year, neighbors, and please take a minute to drop me a note to tell me what is at the heart of Carroll County for you. What do you love about Carroll County life? Email me at kym@carrollmagazine.com.