Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday December 18th 2018


Winners & Losers 2016

2016 Winners

Blue Wahoos
Baseball America named the Pensacola Blue Wahoos the winner of the 2016 Double-A Bob Freitas Award.  Since 1989, Baseball America has recognized excellence in Minor League franchise operations with the Bob Freitas Awards. The awards are designed to recognize the long-term excellence of minor league operations. Franchises are not eligible for nomination until their fifth season of existence.

Pensacola Area Beaches
Our beaches earned accolades in 2016. The Gulf Islands National Seashore was voted the “No. 1 Best East Coast Beach”, beating out a diverse list of shorelines in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Johnson Beach was voted “No. 2 Best National Park Beach”, recognized for its pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters located within U.S. National Park land.

Temple Beth El
The oldest Jewish congregation in Florida completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its synagogue and the 200-seat Max L. Bear social hall. The congregation was founded in 1876. The synagogue on the corner of Palafox and Cervantes streets was destroyed by fire in 1895 and 1929. Temple Beth El was constructed in 1931 by Wessell Construction in an Art Deco style, which was preserved in the renovation.

ECUA and Escambia County
Two years ago, the two local government entities were battling over recyclables. The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority completed a new materials recovery facility on land adjacent to the Escambia County Perdido Landfill.  The Escambia County Waste Services Department and the ECUA are working together toward the achievement of Florida’s 75 percent recycling initiative and the creation of a long-term recycling solution.

Harold E. ‘Hal’ Marcus
The University of West Florida received the largest gift from a living donor in its history. Long-time supporter Hal Marcus allocated $5 million to the College of Science and Engineering. The College was renamed the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering in his honor, marking it the University’s first named college.

The station celebrates its 90th anniversary. WCOA debuted Feb. 3, 1926, at Pensacola City Hall with City Clerk John E. Frenkel, Sr. as its first host. Its call letters stand for “Wonderful City of Advantages.”

Debbie Ritchie
Studer Group promoted Ritchie from chief operating officer to the role of president. A former state representative, Ritchie was the founding president of IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area and serves on the boards of Gulf Coast Kids House and the University of West Florida Foundation. She has been named “Quality Floridian” by the Florida League of Cities, Woman Business Leader of the Year, Community Leader of the Year and “Civic Leader” by the Kiwanis Club of Pensacola.

Chip Simmons
The Escambia County Assistant Administrator Simmons is the new chief deputy of operations for Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. Simmons retired as Pensacola Police Chief in August 2015 after 29 years of service. While with the county, Simmons has supervised the county jail operations after a series of jail deaths led to the firing of Corrections Director Michael Tidwell.

Tom Garner
The local historian found the Luna settlement, the first multi-year European settlement in the United States, in a developed neighborhood in Pensacola. The artifacts discovered are evidence of the Spanish settlement by Tristán de Luna y Arellano from 1559 to 1561, which predates the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine, Florida, by six years, and the English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, by 48 years.

Pensacola Young Professionals
The group this year celebrated its 10th anniversary. It’s difficult to imagine where this community would be without PYP banding together for the greater good.

UWF Center for Cybersecurity
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated the University of West Florida as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education through the academic year 2021-22. The National Centers of Academic Excellence program promotes higher education and research in cyber defense and increasing the number of professionals with cyber defense expertise.

Palafox Market
The farmer’s market and bazaar have become a fixture of downtown Pensacola, drawing people to the area every Saturday.  A brainchild of former DIB executive director Kim Kimbrough, the farmer’s market evolved from a small group of locals to more than 120 weekly vendors selling fresh produce, handmade goods, art and much more. The DIB celebrated Palafox Market’s ninth anniversary on May 6.

Escambia County Marine Resources
Anglers caught 14,067 lionfish in Florida seawaters during the state’s second annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Last year, the event only netted 2,975 lionfish statewide. The majority (8,089) were caught in Pensacola, where 7,000-plus people attended the two-day tournament and public festival that was held May 14-15.

Jacob Hebert
The Florida Student Association, a board made up of the 12 Student Body Presidents from Florida’s state universities, elected Jacob Hebert, University of West Florida SGA president, as its chair for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Kaitlin Santiago
The Pensacola State College student was elected head of the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA). Santiago, a sophomore majoring in international business, was recently elected FCSSGA president

City of Orange Beach
Patience paid off for the City of Orange Beach, Ala. On June 24, the city and BP finalized a $15 million settlement over the coastal town’s economic loss claim related to the 2010 BP oil spill. The net was about $10 million after deducting the attorney fees and the $3.6 million already paid to the city. Orange Beach’s settlement is the largest for any municipality in the area. The City of Pensacola settled for $4.3 million last summer. In 2012, Gulf Shore settled for $6.5 million and Foley received $875,000.

Diane Lea
To celebrate turning 50 years old, Lea decided to ride her bicycle from San Diego to Pensacola in 50 days while bringing awareness to 50 different causes. On Saturday, Aug. 20, she completed her 2500-mile ride at Plaza Deluna. Two children with Angelman Syndrome, who the cause was for on Day 11, rode the last two blocks with Lea to join in the celebration.

Martin D. Holley
Pope Francis appointed the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington D.C. and an advocate of minority issues the new Bishop of Memphis, Tenn. Holley graduated from Tate High School where he was captain of the basketball team and named to the school’s Hall of Fame. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1987.

Jesse Earle Bowden
The iconic Pensacola newspaperman was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. For more than 60 years, Bowden was the cornerstone of journalism in Northwest Florida. He began working at the now-Pensacola News Journal in 1953 and worked until his death on Feb. 15, 2015. He led the fight for the establishment of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and pushed for the creation of the Pensacola Historic District.

Julian MacQueen
The founder and CEO of Innisfree Hotels was named to the Hotelier Hall of Fame by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. The Hall of Fame Award recognizes an industry professional with a personal record of achievement over at least 20 years, attainment of career distinctions and distinguished service to the industry, community, charitable organizations and family.

Jean Wallace
The Florida Scenic Highways Program honored Jean Wallace, Scenic Highway Foundation Vice President, with the Gary Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award. This is the highest honor they can bestow and recognizes the significant and lasting impact Wallace has made on Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway. During more than 18 years on the Scenic Highway Foundation Board of Directors, Jean Wallace has participated in projects ranging from land purchases to park enhancements in the highway corridor.

Martha Saunders
The state university system’s Board of Governors unanimously confirmed Dr. Martha Saunders, Provost of the University of West Florida, as the Pensacola school’s president. On Jan. 1, Saunders, who previously served as president of the University of Southern Mississippi, will replace outgoing President Judy Bense.

Matt Gaetz
The Republican state lawmaker easily won the First Congressional District seat, beating Democrat Steven Specht 69%-31%. Gaetz embraced Donald Trump early and never looked back on his endorsement. In the GOP debates, he said, “My whole bet in this campaign is that you want a conservative champion representing you in Congress. I’m ready to fight Washington and restore America.” Gaetz won that bet big time.

Levin Papantonio
The law firm won the Special Litigation (Environmental) category in the 2016 Elite Trial Lawyers recognition program and was named to the third annual list of America’s Elite Trial Lawyers by the National Law Journal and Partner Mike Papantonio has led the trial team to victories in cases against DuPont that dumped the toxic chemical, C8, into the Ohio River from the Washington Works facility in West Virginia. The America’s Elite Trial Lawyers list recognizes U.S.-based firms for their exemplary work on behalf of plaintiffs.

Sherri Hemminghaus-Weeks
The Friends of the Saenger honored Sherri Hemminghaus-Weeks for her 30-plus years of outstanding service to the historic Saenger Theatre. Since 1981, she has been instrumental in every major project to save, restore, and expand the “Grand Dame of Palafox.” To commemorate her service, the Friends commissioned a special bronze plaque that will be installed on the “Wall of Fame” in the Palafox entrance to the theatre.


2016 Losers

Pam Bondi
The Florida Attorney General endorsed GOP front-runner Donald Trump on the eve of the Florida presidential primary. Two years ago, she made the decision not to investigate complaints from Floridians concerning Trump University, which the state of New York recently filed a lawsuit alleging that it had “scammed” people out of millions of dollars. We now know that Bondi’s political action committee, And Justice for All, received $25,000 from Trump’s foundation.

Enterprise Florida
Less than a month after the Florida Legislature denied his request for a $250-million business incentive fund, Gov. Rick Scott began a shake-up at Enterprise Florida, the state’s principal economic development organization. The board cut $6 million from its budget and Enterprise Florida CEO Bill Johnson resigned.

Youth Services International
After years of controversy, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice ended its relationship with Youth Services International, a for-profit firm with state contracts totaling roughly $90 million to run seven juvenile lockups. In 2014, the state agency closed the Santa Rosa Substance Abuse Treatment Center, which YSI operated in Milton, because of concerns over the safety and security of juveniles committed there.

Jeb Bush
Any talk of a Bush family dynasty taking control of the Republican Party died when South Carolina cast its primary votes.  Jeb Bush suspended his campaign after garnering less than 8 percent of the vote. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s endorsement and a $100-million campaign war chest failed to persuade Republicans that a third Bush deserved the White House.  The world of politics had changed more than he realized since he was governor of Florida a decade ago

Santa Rosa County Commission
Milton city leaders want desperately to keep the county courthouse in their downtown. The rest of the county? Not so much. In a 2014 non-binding referendum vote, 31,743 voters rejected the idea. However, three county commissioners are set on downtown Milton, because it got the fewest negative votes. That’s not a mandate for a project that could cost taxpayers as much as $50 million. In August, voters rejected a tax for a new courthouse by 819 votes.

Veterans’ Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General finally released its report on the allegations of wait-time manipulation at several VA clinics. The investigators found the manipulation at 40 VA facilities in 19 states. Congressman Jeff Miller pointed out that almost no one has been seriously held accountable for any of this wrongdoing.

Pensacola’s Health
This 2016 edition of The Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on Local Health System Performance ranked our overall state of health care in the bottom quintile, 266 out of 306 systems across the country. Using the most recent data available, the Scorecard ranked 306 regional health care markets on four main dimensions of performance encompassing 36 measures. Our area ranked 248 for Prevention and Treatment and 262 in Avoidable Hospital Use and Cost out of 306 markets.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
The Florida congresswoman stepped down as Democratic National Party chair. She got booed in front of her home-state delegation during a breakfast at her party’s national convention and pushed off the convention stage entirely. The spiral began when leaked internal party emails raised questions about her impartiality in the presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The emails are believed to have been obtained by Russian hackers.

Mike Hill
Political karma is a bitch. Hill won his seat in 2013 by slamming his opponents, Ed Gray and Jack Nobles, with mailers to voters in the district. This time, it was Doug Broxson and his supporters that hit Hill with an onslaught of mailers. Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Chamber, and the NRA came out big for Broxson. Their message was that Broxson could be trusted. Hill? Not so much. Broxson soundly defeated Hill for the State Senate seat.

Corrine Brown
The Congresswoman from Jacksonville was the only incumbent congressional member of either party to lose a primary.  Al Lawson beat Brown by nine percentage points. He represented the Sixth District in the Florida Senate from 2000 through 2010. It didn’t help Brown that she was under federal indictment, and her district boundaries had been redrawn. Instead of stretching through North Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando, her district lines moved west through parts of Leon County.

ITT Technical Institute
The for-profit, post-secondary school has officially shut down amid a federal investigation, leaving 8,000 employees out of work and an estimated 40,000 students without degrees. ITT blamed the closure on the “actions of and sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education have forced us to cease operations.” DOE said ITT’s accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) determined that ITT “is not in compliance, and is unlikely to become in compliance with (ACICS) Accreditation Criteria.” The federal government had heightened financial oversight measures over the past two years due to significant concerns about ITT’s administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability, and ability to serve students.

Patsy D. Blackshear
The former Planning Director for the Walton County Planning Department entered a plea as charged to Perjury in an Official Proceeding and Perjury in an Unofficial Proceeding. Circuit Judge Ross Goodman withheld adjudication of guilt and sentenced Blackshear to five years of probation and the ability to terminate her supervision after two and a half years if there are no violations of probation.

City of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Due to massive rainfalls during Hurricane Hermine, St. Petersburg sewage treatment systems began discharging partially treated sewage, commingled with rainwater, into Tampa Bay. Over 111 million gallons of sewage overflowed into the Bay. Unfortunately, residents were not notified of the sewage contamination until Sept. 7, a day after the sewage pumping into the Bay was stopped. City officials have said the water is clean, but environmentalists questioned their facts.

Flomo Klown
Law enforcement agencies in South Alabama and Northwest Florida had to handle complaints of clowns terrorizing their communities.  A woman, age 22, and two juveniles were arrested for making a terroristic threat in connection with the “Flomo Klown” incident. Students at Flomaton High School had received threats through a Facebook account. The school was put on lockdown for several hours as 30 law enforcement officials made a sweep of the campus looking for any possible threats.

Florida Electric Utilities
The League of Women Voters of Florida called Amendment 1 a “Trojan Horse” that “Florida utilities have brought into our gates, under the cover of night during the chaos of a major presidential election, a cleverly masqueraded vanguard to upend the Sunshine’s State’s efforts toward clean solar energy.” The group believed the amendment would slow, or perhaps even kill the solar momentum in Florida. It paved the way for barriers and punitive fees to solar and had worked in other states to stop solar in its tracks, such as Arizona and Nevada. Fortunately, the amendment failed to get the necessary 60-percent to win approval.

Navy Federal Credit Union
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against Navy Federal Credit Union for making false threats about debt collection to its members, which include active-duty military, retired service members, and their families. The CFPB also found the credit union unfairly restricted account access when members had a delinquent loan. Navy Federal Credit Union is correcting its debt collection practices and will pay roughly $23 million in redress to victims along with a civil money penalty of $5.5 million.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The federal agency had its own problems. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the structure of the agency is unconstitutional. In a legal challenge to a $109 million CFPB enforcement action against mortgage lender PHH, the three-judge panel determined the agency’s structure, with a single director accountable to the President and only removable for good cause, violates constitutional and historical precedents applied to federal regulators. They directed the statute that established the agency be amended.

Media and Pollsters
On Monday, Nov. 7, all the news networks had polls showing that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency by margins ranging from four to six percent. As the polls closed that Tuesday, the political pundits began to talk about the “Clinton Big Blue Wall,” a line of states along the eastern coast expected to vote for her. The distrust of the Beltway was greater than they realized. Maybe we will listen more and talk less in the future.

State Budget
The leaders of the Florida Legislature understand that the 2017-18 state budget will be tight, but differ on how it may hamper their legislative agendas. Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase the funding and bolster the quality of Florida’s state university system. He expects lawmakers to reallocate $2.46 billion of the $82 billion state budget to meet that goal. House Speaker Richard Corcoran believes the financial outlook is dire and projects there could be a budget shortfall of $500 million or greater.

Friend Finder Networks Inc.
Login credentials for over 412 million users of adult websites run by Friend Finder Networks Inc. were compromised last month in the largest hack of 2016, according to Some 78,301 of the accounts were registered to .mil email addresses, which are used by the U.S. military, and another 5,650 were .gov addresses used by U.S. government agencies.