2019 Winners & Losers
Over the past two decades, the “Winners & Losers” column has been the first article scanned by many of our readers. In the beginning, the very thought of choosing winners and losers every week set us apart from other media outlets, which is why we did it. Politicians loved and feared the column, while readers couldn’t wait ti read it.
The annual issue offers us a chance to reprise some on the most significant winners and losers of the past year. We hope you enjoy it.
The University of West Florida President Emeritus was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, which honors up to three women each year who have made significant contributions to the improvement of life for women and all Florida citizens. Bense is the first inductee from Northwest Florida. This past year, she also was named the 2019 recipient of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Evelyn Fortune Bartlett Award.
The League of Women Voters Pensacola Bay Area presented the Pensacola native its Making Democracy Work Award. Blackmon has been a champion for more than 30 years in the African American community to ensure its inclusion as an integral component in the leadership and decision making of local government. She has worked to educate the general public on the role of African Americans, who have contributed to the prosperity, growth and positive direction of the area.
City of Pensacola Public Works
The City of Pensacola’s Public Works and Facilities Department repaired approximately 9,350 linear feet of sidewalk and installed 215 curb ramps as part of the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act Sidewalk Assessment. Another 18,750 linear feet of sidewalk is expected to be repaired by 2023, along with an additional 1,806 curb ramps.
The Pensacola Council of the Navy League presented the 2019 Margaret Flowers Civic Award to NAS Whiting Field Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Clark. The award recognizes military members who contributed volunteer time to local religious, civic, educational, fraternal and other service organizations and whose work “greatly enhances the quality of life” in the communities in which they live and serve. Clark, the NAS Whiting Field volunteer program coordinator, volunteered at 96 community service events and served more than 533 hours with local charities.
The medical pioneer and patron of local arts and a proud son of Pensacola passed away at the age of 94. At Baptist Hospital, Dr. Fleming helped to establish the first intensive and cardiac care units in the region. At Sacred Heart Hospital, he started the hospital’s first open-heart surgery unit. Dr. Fleming joined forces with Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Ken Ford to establish the region’s first nuclear cardiology department. He and his wife, Carolyn Fleming, wrote the award-winning musical “Seaplane” and helped create the Evenings in Olde Seville Square.
The director of marketing, public relations and events for Great Southern Restaurants led the successful effort to get a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker for Belmont-DeVilliers, only the second marker along the trail in Florida. Goldberg worked with the Belmont-DeVilliers Neighborhood Association and local African American historians to complete the application that documented the area’s rich musical heritage.
Navy Federal Credit Union hired Hoskins to serve as senior vice president of the credit union’s Greater Pensacola Operations. USN Ret. Captain Hoskins served as the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola and was a Blue Angels pilot. Most recently, Hoskins served as the general manager of Gulf Power’s western district.
Governor Ron DeSantis appointed the former state representative, who had served as the Greater Pensacola Chamber’s CEO for the past four years, to be his Volunteer Florida CEO. Volunteer Florida coordinates volunteer organizations across the state and administers more than $30 million in federal and state funding for national service and volunteer programs.
The Pensacola Allstate agent convinced more than 27 Allstate teammates to volunteer for a backpack drive. Her group project was a success, with nearly 250 backpacks collected. It also allowed Keener and her fellow Allstate agents to earn a $20,000 Allstate Foundation grant for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.
The American College of Health Care Administrators presented the 2019 Eli Pick Facility Leadership Award to the executive director of the Life Care Center of Pensacola. The award, named in honor of visionary ACHCA member Eli Pick, is based on criteria ranging from facility census to survey results.
The attorney and University of Florida alumnus was honored at the University of Florida Levin College of Law in recognition of the 20th anniversary of his $10 million donation to the law school—the largest cash gift in the history of the University of Florida and the second-largest cash donation ever to any public law school. In March, Levin donated an additional $6 million to the law school to be used for scholarships.
The McGuire’s Irish Pub owner contributed McGuire’s 5K’s sign-up fees to help the family of Pensacola Police Department Officer Stephen Grogan, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Martin and his family, members of the Irish Politicians Club and PSC student scholarship recipients later this year celebrated the most recent gift of $35,000 from IPC members to the Molly McGuire Culinary Arts Endowed Scholarship fund, plus the donation of $25,000 from McGuire Martin and his family.
Ron and Jan Miller
The couple named Pensacola State College as the beneficiary of their $2.5 million Charitable Remainder Unitrust. The Millers have long been active leaders and have supported such groups as Manna Food Pantries, Pace Center for Girls, Pathways for Change, Pensacola Opera and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida.
Pensacola Beach Elementary
The U.S. Department of Education presented the charter school with a plaque commemorating its selection as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Only four other elementary schools in Florida also received the designation. The award marked the second National Blue Ribbon for PBES. The first was in 2007 during the Bush administration.
ESPN visited Booker T. Washington High School to celebrate Roberts making it into SportsCenter’s iconic Top 10 plays list. Roberts, a three-time Player of the Year as selected by the Pensacola News Journal, made the SC Top 10 for a spectacular shot she nailed last January to win a game against Pine Forest. She is now in her freshman year at the University of North Alabama.
Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund
One of the largest CPA-led business advisory firms in the Southeast announced celebrated its 75th anniversary. Founded in Pensacola in 1944 by Thomas Saltmarsh, Harold Cleaveland and Charles Gund with only a handful of employees, today, the firm has more than 150 employees and offices in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Nashville.
Augusta M. Simon
The University of West Florida’s first African American instructor co-founded the UWF Black Student Union. Dr. Simon was the first African American resident hall advisor and was on staff for The Voyager, UWF’s student newspaper. In February, she received the UWF Alumni Trailblazer Award at a ceremony hosted by the Office of Equity and Diversity.
The Pensacola Young Professionals hired Speight as its executive director. Speight graduated from the University of West Florida with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2014 and her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology in 2016. She has worked for the Studer Group and Studer Education. She has been a PYP member since 2015, and she served on its board for this past year.
Dona and Milton Usry
Pensacola State College received a $100,000 donation from the Usrys to establish the Dona and Milton Usry Endowed Accounting Scholarship for full- or part-time Pensacola State students majoring in the field of accounting with a 2.5 or higher grade point average.
The University of West Florida received a $50,000 gift from UWF alumnus Jeff Weeks to establish the William J. “Bill” Weeks Endowment Scholarship in honor of his father. The scholarship is reserved for first-generation college students majoring in fine arts, performing arts or communications within the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.
GOPAC, a Republican political training organization, named the state representative to its 2019 Class of Emerging Leaders. The class is made up of promising legislators selected for their potential and ability to impact their state. He was honored as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida’s 2017 and 2018 Legislator of the Year, Florida Farm Bureau’s 2018 Champion for Agriculture and Americans for Prosperity 2017 Champion of Economic Freedom.
The Junior League of Pensacola (JULEP) inducted Woods to serve as the 2019-2020 president. She is the first African American and woman of color president in the Junior League of Pensacola’s history. Woods has been a member of the Junior League of Pensacola for four years and is a past recipient of both the Member Merit and annual Ray of Sunshine membership awards. Woods also serves as president of the Escambia County Council of PTAs/PTSAs.
The husband of Maria Calkins, legislative assistant for State Representative Mike Hill (R-North Escambia), protested what he claimed to be Hill’s exclusion from the signing ceremony of SB 168 in Okaloosa County. He said it was particularly shameful because Hill was the “first black Republican representative.” The irony is Hill doesn’t refer to himself by his race. On “Morning Joe” in 2013, Hill said, “I’m not an African American. I’m an American.” The state lawmaker has repeated that statement over the years.
Century Natural Gas
The Town of Century’s gas department has lost over $1 million since Oct. 1, 2015, because it couldn’t track its natural gas resales due to inaccurate meters, users not receiving bills and billing inaccuracies. According to Town Manager Buz Eddy, the town couldn’t account for 45% of natural gas purchased for resale. The future does appear to be brighter. Pensacola Energy is replacing 10 commercial gas meters, and the Florida Public Utilities has proposed a plan to replace the remainder of the meters to increase billing accuracy.
The newly appointed Florida Secretary of State abruptly resigned after the Tallahassee Democrat obtained photos of him in blackface and dressed as a “Hurricane Katrina victim” at a 2005 Halloween party that was held two months after over 1,800 people died when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s hard to believe Ertel was the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections for 14 years before DeSantis appointed him.
ECSD Reading Gap
When the Spring 2019 FSA English Language Arts Grade 3 Assessment State Report were released, the scores revealed the Escambia County School District’s difficulty in teaching its economically disadvantaged students. The schools in the higher-income neighborhoods had the largest percentages of students scoring a Level 3 or higher. The west side and inner-city schools struggled, and 10 schools scored less than 40%.
Santa Rosa School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick recommended that Gulf Breeze High School Principal Danny Brothers be suspended for five days and Assistant Principal Tori Baker be fired after an investigation revealed Baker allegedly changed her daughter’s grades for the 2018-19 school year to bump up her ranking to second in the class. The changes were made without informing or consulting with the child’s teacher, according to district records. Baker later resigned.
NorthEscambia.com revealed the Century mayor paid $1,751.70 to fly from the West Coast to his community two potential vendors, Tyson Diaz-Lapham with ADC Energy and Mark Endo of Emesgy Consulting. The men wanted to sell Century $200,000 worth of energy-saving upgrades at three town properties. The town of Century had refused to provide unredacted documents showing the names of the travelers after the town council had reimbursed Hawkins for the trips. Hawkins later reimbursed the town.
Interim County Administrator Amy Lovoy hired Kilgore to assess the “root issues in EMS/Fire that led to the vote of no confidence” by the firefighters’ union, determine “the communication chain for information dissemination” and identify “cause/causes of the perceived divisiveness and tribalism within the department.” She was also to seek any evidence of retaliation or a climate of favoritism. Instead, she gave a verbal report primarily on aging equipment, staffing, pay ranges and funding for the departments. The board had no interest in her continuing her work.
Milton High Athletic Department
State Attorney Bill Eddins investigated alleged violations involving athletics at Milton High School, primarily supplements paid to sports coaches. It was alleged that these supplements were being made improperly and in some cases, paid to individuals who did no work associated with the supplement. Based upon its review, the state attorney’s office determined that there was insufficient evidence to establish that a crime had been committed. However, policy violations had been committed and were referred to the Santa Rosa County School District.
An Alabama circuit judge sentenced the former CEO of the Navarre Beach Chamber of Commerce to five years in prison for her role in defrauding an elderly woman and another couple out of $300,000 to pay her own personal debts. Morehead was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution, according to the Alabama Securities Commission. Morehead served as the head of the chamber from October 2015 until her resignation in June 2017.
Santa Rosa Zoning Board
Three board members were criticized for their comments at a meeting Oct. 10, two days after a sales tax referendum was defeated. The board members said voters who voted down the tax were sending a message that traffic on Woodbine Road wasn’t a problem, so they approved a rezoning request for 10 acres that would put the road over its traffic capacity after developed. The Santa Rosa County Commission later voted to remove all the board members.
Save Our City
Fourteen years ago, the political action committee attacked Quint and Rishy Studer for being greedy carpetbaggers for pushing for the Community Maritime Park. The group was convinced the park was a boondoggle that would bankrupt the city. For the past three years, the city’s property values have increased by 21.5%, according to Mayor Grover Robinson.
On Mar. 1, the mayor’s office announced that its chief human resources officer had resigned. Following the contract given to him by former Mayor Ashton Hayward, Sisson received a $60,000 severance package. Before being hired by Hayward in 2014, Sisson had never held an H.R. director or assistant H.R. director position. He wrote his own job evaluation a year later, asking for a grander job title and pay raise after taking credit for his ability to get rid of city employees. No tears were shed when he walked out of city hall. Mayor Grover Robinson hired Ted Kirchharr to fill the Human Resources Director position. The pompous “chief human resources officer” title has been discarded.
Christopher Gene Summers
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office arrested the pitiful “Bonnie & Clyde” duo of Summers and Angela Christine McKinney in under 10 minutes after Summers exited the Wells Fargo bank on Nine Mile Road and got into a vehicle where McKinney was waiting, according to media reports. Deputies recovered all the stolen money after the briefest bank robbery getaway in county history.
United Way of Santa Rosa
The nonprofit, formerly led by Milton Mayor Guy Thompson, had its charter jerked by United Way U.S. Board of Trustees based on a review by the Membership Accountability Committee. Effective Mar. 6, the Santa Rosa County chapter was later absorbed by United Way of Escambia County.
In April, the former Escambia County public safety director told the county commissioner that the nearly $6 million write-off of uncollected ambulance bills was because of a “software glitch.” However, an internal investigation has revealed there was no such “glitch” after no testimony or documentary evidence was found to support the claim.