With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I would take this opportunity to thank the city that has played such a big part in my life.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I would take this opportunity to thank the city that has played such a big part in my life.

With the exception of my college years and a three-year stint in Hudson, Ohio, I have lived in Upper Arlington my entire life. I have seen the farmland north of Fishinger Road be transformed into a sea of houses, and Kingsdale go from being a central Ohio destination to a ghost town and now back to a thriving center.

Growing up, I thought life in the UA bubble was normal, but in college, I was ashamed to have come from the "Golden Ghetto." Now I'm one of those who have made their way back, to give my family all the benefits that living in this city provides.

With the work city council is doing on the master plan, I think about where Upper Arlington has been, where it is going, and how this city was once undoubtedly the premier suburb of Columbus. With its great location, easy access to Ohio State, downtown and the airport, combined with great housing stock, a desire to be leaders in education, athletics, and quality of life for residents, Upper Arlington was the standard for others to follow.

Even during this tough financial time, property values here have remained relatively stable. I know we are facing difficult issues, but with strong leadership, vision and a commitment from all, we can retain our place and reputation in the region.

However, what I am truly thankful for are the people of Upper Arlington. People like my mom and dad who scrimped, saved and worked to be able to live here and give their family an advantage. Neighbors who treated me like one of their own, caring enough to feed me, discipline me, teach me and not let me get away with anything. Men and women from the church who took time to reach out, care, and believe that I could be more than I believed I could be.

I am thankful for the many students and families that were involved with Peggy and me in the youth groups, many of whom have returned to Upper Arlington to raise their families.

It has become fashionable to demean or criticize the city in which you live, but I love our city and think it still is one of the premier suburbs around Columbus, because I know the quality of the people who live and work here. I see the amount of time and money that gets invested in organizations like Upper Arlington Special Olympics, the Homeless Family's Foundation, youth sports, the UA Community Foundation and UA Education Foundation, let alone the churches and services organizations like Rotary, the Lions club and Kiwanis.

I know God has blessed this city and the people who live here; we have been blessed to be a blessing.

So thank you mom and dad for sacrificing so much to raise us in Upper Arlington and thank you Upper Arlington for being a blessing in my life. As you and your family gather around your Thanksgiving table, remember all God has given, and honor Him by loving and caring for each other.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Joe Valentino is assistant city manager of Upper Arlington.