Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 19th 2018


Winners & Losers 2017

By Rick Outzen


Dr. Usha and Mahadeb Kundu
The University of West Florida announced a gift in excess of $5 million from Dr. Usha and Mahadeb Kundu to rename the UWF College of Health the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health. The gift will support academic excellence for students, including opportunities for active, engaged and experiential learning. Dr. Kundu grew up in rural Bihar, India, and immigrated to the United States to complete her residency. She opened her current private practice in Pensacola in 1983.

Fred Levin
Brigham and Women’s Hospital honored the Pensacola attorney for the establishment of the Fredric G. Levin Distinguished Chair in Thoracic Surgery and Lung Cancer Research, thanks to his gift of $2 million. As part of Levin’s contribution, the chief of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s will come to Pensacola annually to conduct a conference for Pensacola area physicians and administrators. The Pensacola trial lawyer also invested $550,000 in the University of West Florida to establish the Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies, in honor of his former law partner, and donated $200,000 to Gulf Coast Kid’s House to be invested in the GCKH Future Fund, a permanent endowment for the organization.

Bubba Watson
The Professional golfer and co-owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos donated $1.6 million to The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. Watson will serve as an ambassador for the Children’s Hospital. To recognize the support and ongoing relationship with Watson, Sacred Heart will name the entrance road to the new Children’s Hospital as Bubba Watson Drive. In August, Watson also donated another $500,000 to The Studer Family Children’s Hospital as a result of winning the MetLife MatchUp, an online voting contest for the best recovery shot of the season. Watson’s shot in the opening round of The Greenbrier Classic 2017 received the most votes, earning a million dollars for charities. The other $500,000 portion of the prize went to support junior golf.

Cat Country 98.7
Pensacola’s locally owned country radio station and 2017 Best of the Coast winner has been named 2017 Radio Station of the Year by the Country Music Association (CMA). The award is the first CMA Station of the Year award for Cat Country 98.7.

Jonathan Clark
The Blues Angel Music Foundation announced the awarding of its inaugural Music Educator of the Year prize to Jonathan Clark. Clark is a team leader and strings instructor at several schools in the Escambia County School District. He is the founder of the Fifth Grade Strings Program that teaches more than 400 students per week. He is also the director of the Emerald Coast Honors Orchestra, a performance-based string orchestra comprised of local students.

Susan Davis
The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) named Susan Davis, CEO of Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola, as a recipient of the 2017 Sister Concilia Moran Award. Named for the first post-Vatican II superior of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, the Sister Mary Concilia Moran Award celebrates the memory of a woman who was a leader both in religious life and as a hospital administrator and health system executive.

Justin Gatlin
The 35-year-old Pensacola sprinter beat the world’s fastest human and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Usain Bolt, in the 100-meter dash final at the IAAF World Championships in London. Gatlin won the race in a season-best time of 9.92 seconds.

Jason Hutchinson
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has named Officer Jason Hutchinson of Santa Rosa County its 2017 Officer of the Year. He rescued a first-time hunter lost at night in the Escambia River swamp, caught people illegally night hunting, discovered a hidden alligator, snapping turtle and even apprehended one of this area’s most wanted methamphetamine distributors.

Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) was selected a winner at the 2017 Microsoft Health Innovation Awards. Microsoft established the awards to honor annually its computing clients and health organizations that best demonstrate industry leadership in incorporating technology to achieve innovation. IRIS also successfully closed a round of Series B financing. The funds raised will support the IRIS’s development the next generation of products that detect eye disease and improve the monitoring and care of patients in diabetic populations.

Bob Kimball
The University of West Florida has announced a $1 million gift from Dr. Bob Kimball, UWF professor of marketing and economics, to create the Bill and Ellie Kimball Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship Award in memory of his parents. The gift will fund $2,000 merit-based scholarships for 40 UWF sophomores each year, beginning in 2017. The contribution marks Kimball’s third substantial donation to the institution, totaling $3 million.

Mike Lanwehr and Sally Rosendahl
The co-founders of Ciclovia Open Streets Pensacola had a successful inaugural event in downtown Pensacola. Hundreds took advantage of the beautiful springtime weather and enjoyed the five-mile area. Retailers reported robust sales the weekend of the event.

Tyler Mahle
The Pensacola Blue Wahoo player pitched the Southern League’s first perfect game in 47 years on Saturday, May 22 against rival Mobile BayBears. The perfect game was also the first in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ history.

Navy Federal Credit Union
For the seventh time, and sixth consecutive year, Navy Federal was named to Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Fortune noted that 95 percent of Navy Federal employees say they feel good about the ways Navy Federal contributes to the community, and 92 percent of team members feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Stephanie Nowlin
The Florida Animal Control Association named the Escambia County Animal Control Sergeant its 2017 Animal Control Officer of the Year. Sgt. Nowlin was honored for her outstanding achievements in fighting animal cruelty and for modernizing the way that her agency conducts investigations. She serves as a field-training officer, livestock officer and helps develop policies and protocols for investigating complaints of animal cruelty.

Pensacola International Airport
The facility reached a new all-time high serving 1,668,897 passengers during FY 2017, beating its previous high of 1,660,545 passengers in 2007.

PHS International Baccalaureate Program
The IB program at Pensacola High School had a dozen National Merit Finalists: Carla Dias, Nada Eldawy, Sarah Escobedo, Madeline Hawkins, Allen Litvak, Audrey Mahon, Cody Wolfe, Katherine McCall, Lisa Liebens, Anna Neville, Madison Michles and Kelly Wu.

Pensacola State College
The Community College Futures Assembly awarded Pensacola State College the prestigious 2017 Bellwether Award in the Instructional Programs and Services category for its virtual tutoring program. The award focuses on cutting-edge, trendsetting programs that other colleges might find worthy of replicating. The last time a Florida college won this award was in 2006.

Pensacola Women’s March
An estimated crowd of over 2,000 people braved rain and tornado warnings to march in downtown Pensacola a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The event was part of a global movement that saw millions of people take to the streets in cities across the nation and overseas in support of women’s rights.

Robyn Philips and Victoria Phillips
CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, named AppRiver’s Senior Channel Sales Advisor Robyn Philips and Channel Sales Account Manager Victoria Phillips to its prestigious 2017 Women of the Channel list. Each was recognized for her outstanding leadership, vision and unique role in driving channel growth and innovation.

Troy Rafferty
The Levin Papantonio attorney won two significant verdicts against AbbVie, Inc. for users of the pharmaceutical company’s AndroGel, a testosterone replacement therapy. The first was $150 million for Jesse Mitchell of Oregon, and the second was $140 million for Jeffrey Konrad, of Memphis, Tenn. Earlier in the year, Rafferty and his wife Ashley created a college scholarship fund to be administered by the Southern Sports Youth Association. The couple pledged to donate $50,000 a year to the students in Escambia County. The first two $25,000 scholarships were awarded last week.

University of West Florida
Three years after the university was ranked near the bottom, the Florida Board of Governors announced that the University of West Florida ranked in the top three of the top-performing public universities in the state and would receive more than $20 million in new funding for the 2017-18 academic year. UWF earned a top spot in the rankings alongside the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. In 2014, UWF was ranked No. 11, receiving 21 points out of the then-50-point scale.

C.A. Weis Elementary
The Community Partnership School advanced from an F rating to a C rating in just one year. Last year, Weis was one of 11 elementary schools in Escambia County rated a D or lower. The first of its kind in the Panhandle, the school is a long-term commitment among Children’s Home Society of Florida, the University of West Florida and Escambia Community Clinics and Escambia County School District to help students overcome significant barriers to learning, from access to health care to economic instability.



Port of Pensacola
Three years ago, Mayor Ashton Hayward touted the facility as an economic generator for the region. The dream of DeepFlex and its 200 high-paying jobs have evaporated. The port’s top four revenue streams—wharfage, dockage, storage and property rental—missed their FY 2017 budget projections by $726,324. It’s once top tenant, OffShore Inland, missed its balloon payment on past due fees in September and was granted an extension on its payment plan. Councilman Brian Spencer reported that the port office at the gate only has three full-time employees in it. Its marketing budget for FY 2018 has been cut by $29,000. The hottest prospect for the Port is the proposed Northwest Center for Dynamic Ocean Technologies to be put in Warehouse 4, but the facility will pay no rent. Mayor Hayward keeps dropping hints about a “hybrid” port but offers few specifics. Meanwhile, the buzz is his buddies are drawing up plans for condominiums on the site.  You can expect the Port of Pensacola to be an issue in the 2018 mayoral election.

Hayward and the Law
Mayor Ashton Hayward topped his record for outside legal fees in FY 2017 with $1,469,685. His previous high was $1,451,388 in FY 2014. The FY 2017 fees would have been even greater if the mayor hadn’t pushed over $45,000 in September invoices into the next fiscal year. The mayor lost his appeal in the lawsuit over his 2013 allegation that the Seville Harbor Inc. and Merrill Land were in default in the lease of Pitt Slip. The Florida Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal. He also lost the federal lawsuit concerning the Bayview Park Cross.  He settled his appeal of the Local Option Gas Tax allocation that gave the city less tax revenue than the county proposed in July 2016, his lawsuit against the Emerald Coast Utility Authority over wells at the airport, and a lawsuit brought against the city by the ACLU over its anti-panhandling ordinances. Next up, the lawsuits of former Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover who he fired last year. The odds are the mayor will either settle or lose the cases.

David Alexander
The Pensacola Police Chief campaigned to keep his job after his DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) date. He and his supporters argued that CFO Dick Barker and others in City Hall had been allowed to stay on the city’s payroll after completing DROP. Mayor Ashton Hayward wasn’t interested. He refused to detour from his original succession plan that had Assistant Police Chief Tommi Lyter become the new chief this May. The pension plans for the police and general employees are different, and Hayward had no desire to amend the police DROP rules.

Department of Corrections
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found that the department and its health care contractors had for years refused to treat infected inmates with antiviral medications, known as “direct-acting antiviral” drugs, because of the cost. Between 7,000 and 20,000 of the state’s 98,000 prisoners are believed to be infected with Hepatitis C, but only 13 have been treated with the antiviral drugs since 2013. Walker scolded the agency for being “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of inmates, a violation of their constitutional rights.

Escambia Code Enforcement
In 2006, former County Administrator George Touart calculated the hard cost for code violations was $1,100 per case by dividing code enforcement’s overhead by the number of cases that year. For the next decade, $1,100 was charged to each case until the commissioners began asking questions. The review found that a 2008 Florida Supreme Court ruling may have determined Touart’s formula was no longer legal. In November, Escambia County unanimously voted to cut checks for $550 each to 647 people who have been overcharged , for a total cost of $355,850.

Escambia County’s Health
The Florida Department of Health ranked Escambia County 55th among the state’s 67 counties when it comes to health outcomes. When it comes to premature death, which is the years of potential life lost before age 75, Florida’s rate is 6,800 per 100,000 population, while the national average is 5,200. Escambia County’s premature death rate is 9,200 per 100,000. Meanwhile, Forbes ranked Escambia County as the heaviest toxic disposer in Florida, with about 34 million pounds of toxic materials released in 2016. The study listed the 50 counties across the United States responsible for discharging the most hazardous chemicals. Escambia County ranked 11th, while no other Florida county made the list. Coincidence?

FHP Ticket Quotas
This year, the second-highest ranking officer in the Florida Highway Patrol resigned after acknowledging he wrote an email in May encouraging troopers to write at least two tickets per hour. Thomas’ resignation came after Maj. Mark Welch, a troop commander who oversees eight counties near Tallahassee, stepped down for sending a July 28 memo to troopers that also had been seen as a mandate for a ticket quota. Also, Chief Mark Brown, the North Florida operations regional commander, was suspended three days without pay. Ticket quotas are illegal under Florida law.

Floribama Shore

The latest MTV reality show rips off the iconic Perdido Key bar, Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar. For 53 years, the Flora-Bama has survived hurricanes, recessions and an oil spill and provided live music, cold drinks and even a mullet toss. We agree with the bar owners that there is only one Flora-Bama and it isn’t in Panama City Beach on MTV.

Hallmark Elementary School
The City of Pensacola lost another piece of its history with demolition of the elementary school built in 1928. The Escambia County School Board closed Hallmark in 2011. The school was sold two years later for $1 million to 349 LLC, which consisted of Fred Levin, Fred Vigodsky and the mayor’s business partner Matt Pair. The mayor’s wife was once part of the limited-liability corporation but was bought out, along with Pair, when the News Journal reported on her relationship with the entity. 349 LLC flipped the school property to Dallas-based homebuilder D.R. Horton for $1.65 million. The historic school will be replaced with 76 townhomes.

Human Rights Ordinance
In September 2015, City Councilman Brian Spencer sponsored a human rights ordinance that would have afforded Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LBGT) individuals the same civil rights protections as other legally recognized minorities within the city of Pensacola. The council discussed the proposal for five hours in a workshop. Since then, the ordinance has disappeared

Derek Owens
The City of Pensacola Public Works Director is in charge of city infrastructure and the citizens aren’t impressed with his efforts. The recent poll by The Political Matrix found only about one in five voters were satisfied with stormwater improvements, a third with city sidewalks, and 40 percent with city streets. The Government Street Stormwater project has missed so many deadlines that city officials no longer give updates. The contractor, who also built the award-winning Admiral Mason pond under the supervision of Owens’ predecessor, became so frustrated working with Owens and the seventh floor of city hall that they probably won’t bid on any more city projects. Complaints over the city’s resurfacing programs also have started to crop up.

Pensacola Police Department
The Pensacola Police Department was created on July 18, 1821, by Governor Andrew Jackson, making it the oldest official police department in the state of Florida. Unfortunately, the department has lost its accreditation due to its officers dealing with the evaluators unprofessionally.  When the loss was first reported in April, city officials said they would try to work it out over the summer. Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation website does not list the Pensacola Police Department as accredited.

Sex in State Capital
State Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) was removed as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after six women alleged he inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies. Latvala has denied ever sexually harassing anyone. Senate President Joe Negron ordered a probe into the allegations. The Florida Democrats had their share of controversy. Stephen Bittel stepped down as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party after being accused of leering at female aides and consultants and generating such a generally creepy atmosphere that some women didn’t want to be alone with him. The resignation came after Jeff Clemens, who was to be the next leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, gave up his legislative seat after admitting he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.

Tau Kappa Epsilon
Greek organizations are under fire at universities around the country.  At the University of West Florida, the Tau-Psi chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was suspended for a minimum five-year period following the conclusion of an investigation into hazing as well as risk-management and alcohol-related misconduct. The activities occurred at an unregistered, off-campus bid day party hosted by the organization and included hazing, underage drinking, risk management violations, drinking games, common source containers and coerced consumption of alcohol.