Our Best of the Coast issue is a celebration of the best our community has to offer. This summer, I visited with Spring Hericks, who created the first Best of the Coast survey in July 2000.
Hericks lives with her family in Colorado and is the section manager for communications and public affairs at National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In the summer of 2000, she had seen what reader surveys had done for other alt-weeklies and sold us on bringing the idea to Pensacola.
The issue was published Aug. 31, 2000, with 136 categories spread out over 40 pages. We bragged that more than 500 ballots were cast. The 2019 version is more than twice that size, and we had over 25,000 ballots completed this year.
Reviewing the 2000 BOC issue is a walk through our area’s past. Our rock ‘n’ roll congressman, Joe Scarborough, won best politician, with Democratic State Rep. DeeDee Ritchie in second place. Joe is the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and DeeDee heads the winner for Best Commercial Realtor, NAI Pensacola. Joe’s political views are more aligned with DeeDee’s today than 20 years ago.
The Best Local Scandal was Escambia School Board Member Vanette Webb. In 1999, Webb was convicted of withholding public records. Governor Jeb Bush suspended her. Janice Gilley, then a legislative aide to Jerry Maygarden and currently the county administrator, was appointed as her replacement. Webb’s conviction was later thrown out, and Bush reinstated her. She ran for reelection and was eliminated in the 2000 primary election, receiving only 17% of votes cast. Our BOC survey turned out to be a good predictor of Webb’s political future.
Several 2000 winners are no longer in operation. The winner of Best Art Gallery was Soho Gallery, an early supporter of Gallery Night. The Best Golf Course winner was The Moors, home to the Senior PGA Tour’s Emerald Coast Classic. Renaming the event the “Blue Angel Classic” didn’t save it or the golf course. However, its logo remains on the ECUA water tower seen from Interstate 110.
We’ve also dropped several categories over the past 19 years. We no longer track Best Video Rental Store (Blockbuster in 2000) or Best Phone/Pager Service (Cellular One) or Best Travel Agent/Planner (Gulf Breeze Travel). Under the leadership of our editor, Joani Delezen, we expanded the categories and created the Weddings section, which has become one of our most competitive areas.
Our Best of the Coast issues have become snapshots of our area’s progress. Its success is due to our readers’ love of the local spots that make Pensacola special, the care Joani has put into protecting the voting process and the creativity she uses in presenting the winners.
I hope you enjoy the 2019 edition of Best of the Coast.