Pensacola, Florida
Monday June 18th 2018


BOC ’12: Community

Winner: Best Local Politician
Runner Up: Best Community Leader
Pensacola’s first strong mayor has changed the culture of city government from passive and reactive to proactive. The 2012 Quality of Life Survey shows that nine out of 10 Pensacola voters believe he has the city going in the right direction. IN readers appreciate the mayor and have voted him “Best Local Politician” for the second consecutive year.

Winner: Best Behind The Scenes Volunteer
Serving the community without any fanfare, Belle Bear is a “lifelong community volunteer and philanthropist” as the IMPACT 100 website said. “During college, my sorority required all freshmen to do a certain number of hours of volunteer work,” Bear said. “I found great pleasure in helping others.” Whether she’s serving on a board, hosting a charity event or recruiting volunteers, Bear is hands on in her good work.  Bear humbly works in the background, which is how she prefers it. “As often as possible I prefer to be an invisible worker, because it is about the needy and the work, not about the person.”

Winner: Best Rising Leader
Brian Hooper was recently named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine. Now IN readers have thrown another “Rising” title his way. The Harvard Law grad is an attorney with Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon. He’s also an active voice in community issues. Currently, Hooper is helping to shape a vision for the future of downtown Pensacola as head of the Mayor’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

Winner: Best Community Leader
Runner Up: Best Person to Have on Your Side
Collier Merrill is the community leader to whom everyone looks for leadership and guidance. Everybody likes and respects Collier. His energy and unselfish devotion to the city, its university and a host of charities has helped him win a broad base of respect, trust and support.

Winner: Best Charity Event
Over the past 17 years, the Cordova Mall Ball has raised more than $2 million in proceeds on behalf of sick and injured children at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. Over the years, the event has contributed to the purchase of a security system and the rooftop healing garden. Each year, ticket holders put on their best Mardi Gras evening wear and enjoy live music, local cuisine from over 25 restaurants and Mardi Gras activities inside the three wings of the Cordova Mall. “The impact this event has on Children’s Hospital is immense,” said Cathy Laird, annual giving coordinator. The party is hosted by the Krewe of Les Petits Enfants, which fittingly translates to the Order of Small Children.

Winner: Best Volunteer
His Panhandle Charitable Open has raised over $250,000 since he launched it six years ago. This year John received the Edward Jones Trust Co.’s Community Service Impact Award that recognizes Edward Jones’ financial advisers whose “vision, dedication and acts of volunteerism make a difference in the lives of others for the long term.” His latest initiative is to work with city, county and school officials for offices and meeting rooms for local non-profit organizations.

Winner: Best Person to Have on Your Side
During the BP oil crisis, no one spent more time on national television defending this community and the Gulf Coast than Mike Papantonio of the law firm Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor. He is the premier mass torts attorney in the country and has had a lead role in some of the biggest environmental cases in the past decade. If you have a fight on your hands, you want Pap on your side.

Winner: Best Place to Work
Runner Up: Best Credit Union
Chartered in 1936, Pen Air Federal Credit Union initially served civil service and military employees and their immediate families but has since expanded to cover other employer groups. Pen Air FCU is the best choice for its members, regardless of where they live, through worldwide service with a hometown feel. Its employees love working there.

Winner: Best Local Tourist Attraction
It’s tough to beat Pensacola Beach. It was good when it had the water slide and bumper boats, and it’s good now with the new observation wheel. Visitors to the beach can tour Fort Pickens (also a runner up in this category) at the western tip of the island, or gawk at the space ship house as they head east.

Winner: Best Parade
This family-oriented Mardi Gras parade in historic downtown Pensacola has grown to be the largest parade in the area, thanks to Danny Zimmern, Amy Newman and their volunteers. It’s truly the people’s parade with floats from segments of the community throwing beads, doubloons and moon pies galore. This is how Pensacola celebrates Mardi Gras.

Winner: Best Sports/Rec Program
This local grass roots nonprofit organization offers sports programs and activities that focus on the development of responsibility, cooperation and acceptance. Pro athletes Trent Richardson and Doug Baldwin are products of the SYSA programs. This year over a thousand children are playing on SYSA basketball, cheerleading, baseball and football teams and are enrolled in its tutoring program.

Winner: Best Local Boss
Quint understands happy employees provide the best service. The founder of Studer Group led the turnaround of Baptist Hospital in the 1990s as its president. Baptist Health Care won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award three years after he left to form his own healthcare consulting firm, which won the same award in 2010. This year, he focused on his Double A baseball team, Blue Wahoos. Fans and visitors raved about the customer service at the stadium. Quint hit it out of the park again with his staff winning this category yet again.

Back To Best of the Coast ’12