The News-Times decided in mid-1997 it wanted to start up a weekly newspaper in the Greater New Milford area.

The powers-that-be at the Danbury-based daily recognized the popularity and power of a good weekly, community-oriented publication and established an internal task force to develop a game plan for the creation, design, staffing, marketing and launch of the paper.

They knew they needed some local journalistic talent to make the paper competitive and, toward the end of the year, News-Times General Manager Bob Parks started approaching key members of the staff of The New Milford Times, which was at that time the leading paper in town and one of the best weeklies in New England.

As it turns out, Mr. Parks wound up hiring more New Milford Times staffers than he had originally dreamed he might attract: My brother, Norm Cummings, Lynda Wellman, Deborah Rose and me.

As fate would have it, The Times' parent firm, the Housatonic Valley Publishing Co., was in the process of being sold over the last half of 1997 and, after the sale to the Journal Register Co. in early January of 1998, Norm, Lynda, Deborah and I all decided -- each for our own reasons -- to make a change in our careers.

And we are all very glad we did.

Fifteen years ago, New Milford was covered pretty extensively by two dailies (The News-Times and The Waterbury Republican) and two weeklies (The New Milford Times and Litchfield County Times).

And the other six towns in the planned circulation area of the fledgling Greater New Milford Spectrum -- Washington, Bridgewater, Roxbury, Kent, Sherman and Warren -- received coverage from one or more other weekly newspapers.

It was a tough, competitive -- but lucrative and growing -- area, and there were many who thought The Spectrum wouldn't survive.

In fact, one prominent New Milford leader predicted The Spectrum wouldn't last six months.

I'm proud and pleased to say the paper has more than survived and today is celebrating its 15th anniversary in an era in which many newspapers have struggled, gone digital or disappeared.

The News-Times was willing to invest in its staff and an office right on the Village Green in New Milford.

The company also launched an aggressive marketing campaign that included an advertising blitz, billboards with a photo of the staff, and all sorts of Spectrum giveaways.

It helped The Spectrum was -- and still is -- a total market coverage publication delivered to pretty much every home in the seven-town area.

It has also helped that nearly everyone on the staff (including current reporter Susan Tuz) has been local and we have had excellent stability, including being led by just three editors in 15 years -- me for the first nine years, Jacqueline Smith for the next two, and Norm Cummings for the past four.

And the community feel of the paper -- with lots of photos, plenty of people stories, outstanding news coverage, tons of other local information and strong opinion writing -- seemed to hit a chord with the public.

We were thrilled with the immediate, strong, positive response of readers, advertisers, officials, sources and letter writers to The Spectrum.

I know I speak for the staff when I say how appreciative we are that -- 15 years later -- we continue to be blessed with support from all of those same constituencies.