Area Christmas Events And Parade List: Some Have Been Rescheduled Or Canceled

December 5, 2019

Here is a schedule of area Christmas parades and events. Note that some events have been canceled or rescheduled as noted below.


A Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. Friday at the Century Chamber of Commerce. The event was moved from Nadine McCaw Park to the chamber building due to the threat of rain. A chamber open house will begin at 4:30 p.m. Santa will be there for pictures, plus there will be live music and refreshments.

The Century Christmas Parade will be Friday, December 20 at 5 p.m.


The Molino Christmas Parade is Saturday, December 7 at 11 a.m. from West Crabtree Church Road to the Molino Ballpark. Santa will be at the park after the parade.


The Atmore Chamber of Commerce has postponed Thursday night’s planned Jingle Bell Walk due to a death in the community. Jingle Bell Walk has been rescheduled for Thursday, December 12 from 4-7 p.m.

The Atmore Twilight Christmas Parade themed “A Dr. Seuss Christmas” will be Saturday, December 14 beginning  at 5:30 p.m.


The Flomaton Christmas Parade will be Saturday, December 7 at 10 a.m. from Flomaton High School through downtown.


The Joy in Jay celebration is Saturday, December 7, 2019.  The Christmas parade from Highway 4 to Commerce Street is at 10 a.m. Santa available for photos after the parade, and there will be vendors on Commerce Street and the Gazebo Park There will be games and rides for the kids to enjoy and caroling horse drawn wagon rides for all.  Events end at 5 p.m.


The PCI Christmas Parade Scheduled for Friday, December 6 has been canceled.


The Pensacola Christmas parade starts at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, December 14 at Spring and Garden streets.

Pictured: Last year’s tree lighting ceremony in Century. photos, click to enlarge.

Bratt, Jim Allen And Molino Park PATS Classes Provide Christmas Cheer Around The World

December 5, 2019

The Program for Academically Talented Students (PATS) classes at Jim Allen, Molino Park and Bratt Elementary schools made a real difference this holiday season through Operation Christmas Child.  They worked hard to fill 42 shoe boxes with school supplies, hygiene necessities and toys.  The Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes will to be delivered to children who live in poverty around the world. Photo for, click to enlarge.

FDLE Charges Escambia Man With 30 Counts Of Possession Of Child Porn

December 5, 2019

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested an Escambia County man on child porn charges Wednesday.

Alexander Macalpine Vicha, 33, of 408 Pou Station Road, was charged with 30 counts of possession of child pornography.

FDLE agents initiated an investigation in October 2019 when child pornography activity was identified on the internet. Agents executed a search warrant at Vicha’s residence Wednesday. While on scene, computer forensic examiners conducted forensic previews on a computer belonging to Vicha and located 30 images containing child pornography, FDLE said. These images depicted children as young as two years old.

Vicha was booked into the Escambia County Jail. He could face additional charges upon completion of forensic exams, according to FDLE.

Escambia Woman Pleads No Contest In Double Fatal Easter Sunday Wreck

December 5, 2019

An Escambia County woman has pleaded on two counts of DUI manslaughter in connection with an Easter Sunday wreck.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said Marie Ann Simpkins pleaded no contest and accepted responsibility for two counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing property damage, DUI With a minor in the vehicle, and possession of less Than 20 grams of marijuana before Judge Jan Shackelford on Wednesday.

The charges stem from a traffic crash which occurred on April 21, 2019, in the intersection of Fairfield Drive and W Street in Pensacola which claimed the lives of 49-year old Randy Riley and his son, 22-year old Nelson Riley. Simpkins’ vehicle also hit a Nissan Murano drive by Gladys Taylor, who suffered minor injuries. Two passengers in Simpkins’ car, 19-year old Jobe Simpkins and a 4-year old, were also transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

Prior to the crash, concerned motorists observed Simpkins driving in an unpredictable and reckless manner on Fairfield Drive The motorists had called 911 to report their concerns when the defendant ran the red light at the intersection at W Street causing the collision.

Simpkins’ son and 2-year-old grandson were occupants of her vehicle at the time of the crash. A small amount of cannabis was
found in her belongings. A legal blood draw revealed Simpkins was under the influence of hydrocodone, citalopram, trazodone and tramadol at the time of the crash.

Simpkins will be sentenced on January 8.

Escambia County Hires Four New Department Directors

December 5, 2019

Escambia County has hired four new department directors in recent weeks.

The are:

  • Laura Coale — Director of Communications and Public Information
  • Tonya Ellis — Director of Mass Transit
  • Bart Siders — Director of Information Technology
  • Jana Still  — Director of Human Resources

Biographical information for each is below.

Laura Coale, Director of Communications and Public Information

Tuesday, Nov. 19 marked Coale’s first day with the county as the director of communications and public information.
“I’m honored to work with such a talented team and look forward to an exciting career serving the people of Escambia County,” Coale said.

Coale brings 20 years of communications experience in private and public organizations to Escambia County. Most recently, she served as executive director of strategic communications at Northwest Florida State College and Aims Community College in Colorado. Coale also served as the media relations director at Denver International Airport, communications director at the city and county of Denver’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and public information officer at Gainesville Florida Fire Rescue. Coale developed and implemented many award-winning strategic communications campaigns, including recognition for outstanding achievement in design and communication at community and technical colleges.

Coale graduated magna cum laude with a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Kent State University. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Miami University.

Tonya Ellis, Director of Mass Transit

Tonya Ellis was approved and promoted on Tuesday, Nov. 19 as the new mass transit director for Escambia County Area Transit.

“I am truly excited about this opportunity, and I am looking forward to collaborating with our elected officials, community leaders, stakeholders, customers and employees to improve ECAT and paratransit’s overall operating efficiency,” Ellis said. “I feel that mass transit in Escambia County has the potential to be transformed to be the best transit system for this community.”

Ellis has worked in the transportation industry for more than 15 years where she has shown leadership skills with the ability to involve, motivate, and empower employees by building rapport and providing excellent customer service. Under her leadership she has developed connections with a variety of regional governmental entities to providing technical planning assistance to local and state governments. The Mass Transit operation provides more than 1.4 million ECAT public transit trips and 95,000 paratransit services in the Escambia County area.

For 13 years, Ellis served in the United States Army Reserve as E-5 Sergeant in Multi-Channel Radio Operations as a member of the 842nd Signal Company, United States Army Reserve. In 2000, she was awarded Unit Soldier of the Year.

Ellis obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of West Florida. She is very active in numerous community outreach activities as well as professional organizations such as serving as a board member for the Florida Public Transportation Association and a member of the Technical Coordinating Committee of the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization.

Bart Siders, Director of Information Technology

William Bart Siders joined Escambia County on Monday, Oct. 21 as the director of information technology.

“I am very excited about joining the IT team who currently provides quality IT products and services to the employees of Escambia County,” Siders said. “I look forward to building on the team’s current success by establishing a culture of innovation and collaboration.”

Siders most recently served as Gulf Power IT technology leader with NextEra Energy. He directed and managed the planning, development, implementation, maintenance, and operation of all end-user environments for Gulf Power, Mississippi Power, APC-Mobile Division and Sequent Energy Houston. He also served as a coastal workplace support manager, regional IT manager, applications services manager, CSS lead analyst and corporate systems analyst at Southern Company Services from 1988 to 2018.

Siders obtained a bachelor’s degree in system science from the University of West Florida. He has been a member of the IT Technical Advisory Board for George Stone Vocational School, the Cyberthon Planning Committee, UWF Code-A-Thon Planning Committee and the Gulf Power Technology Innovation Team.

Jana Still, Director of Human Resources

Wednesday, Nov. 6, marked Jana Still’s first day as director of human resources.

“I am very excited about the opportunities I see for growth and change that can positively impact all employees as well as Escambia County as a whole,” Still said. “I feel that the current county administration is very progressive and open to change, so I am looking forward to working with everyone. I think as a team we can accomplish great things.”

Most recently, Still served as senior personnel classification and assessment specialist at the Mobile County Personnel Board, where she advised city and county municipalities concerning personnel selection, leadership, EEOC compliance, organizational development, employee relations and retention. She has also worked as a consultant for some private sector organizations. Still is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Alabama where she teaches industrial/organizational psychology, behavioral neuroscience and general psychology.

Still earned a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from the University of West Florida and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of South Alabama.

Pensacola Gun Task Force Makes 117 Arrests In Just 90 Days

December 5, 2019

Well over 100 arrests were made through the efforts of the Protect Pensacola joint task force established by the City of Pensacola, Pensacola Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office, with multiple local, state and federal agencies partnering to address gun violence.

The task force encompassed multiple operations over approximately 90 days, with a goal of working proactively to stop gun violence and maintain public safety in the Pensacola community. Task force operations led to the arrest of 117 criminals for primarily felony charges, including assault, robbery and harboring fugitives.

“We are incredibly proud of the partnerships and hard work that went into making this joint task force a success, and we are grateful for the willingness of our federal, state and local partners to assist us in tackling gun violence in our city,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “Because of the efforts of all agencies involved, the City of Pensacola and surrounding community are now safer with these criminals behind bars.”

“This joint task force was an incredible success, targeting and apprehending violent felony offenders who were committing serious crimes in our community,” Pensacola Police Chief Tommi Lyter said. “I can say with confidence that Pensacola is safer today because of this operation – but our work isn’t finished. We will continue to work in partnership with the DEA, U.S. Marshals, ATF and all of our law enforcement partners to apprehend dangerous criminals and keep residents safe.”

The task force also sought to make additional arrests in the deadly shooting of Elizabeth Harris, which took place on May 27, 2019 near the Platinum Club in Pensacola. A fourth arrest was made on Oct. 22, with United States Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force arresting Cordellious Lashawn Dyess near Atlanta on a warrant charging him with Felony Murder, Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Shooting a Deadly Missile into a Dwelling or Vehicle.

“One of our primary priorities in federal law enforcement is an active level of cooperation and collaboration with local law enforcement agencies that serve on the front lines of protecting public safety every day,” said Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “We’re pleased to have entered in such a positive and productive alliance with our local partners here to Protect Pensacola with resources that have been effective and helpful in attacking gun violence.”

Participating agencies included the Pensacola Police Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, Office of the State Attorney, 1st Judicial Circuit, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“I appreciate the participation of all agencies in this matter,” State Attorney Bill Eddins said. “It is particularly refreshing to see our federal agencies participate.”

The Protect Pensacola joint task force partnering agencies will continue to work together on operations addressing crime and gun violence.

As part of the task force partnership, the Pensacola Police Department will also receive VALOR training in January through the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance Survive & Thrive program. The program includes training on safety and preparedness, officer-citizen encounters, leadership and critical decision making. The training will take place in Pensacola Jan. 22-23, 2020.

Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Tate High Graduate Wins Food Network’s Great Cookie Challenge

December 4, 2019

A Tate High School graduate has won a national cooking baking championship.

Stephanie Torres, who graduate from Tate in 2009, won the $10,000 grand prize in the “Christmas Cookie Challenge” that aired Monday on The Food Network.

Torres and the other bakers face challenges that included making Christmas cards and tree toppers from cookies.

“This experience was surreal. When I was contacted last December to see if I was interested in interviewing, I really didn’t think I would want to even try to be on the show,” Torres said. “I really didn’t think I would want to even try to be on the show. I was unsure of leaving Addie for 5 days, I wasn’t even sure if I had the personality to be in a competition like this, and I was unsure of how my mental health would respond if I utterly failed! Thankfully, with the help of my friends and family, I took the leap and went through the crazy interview process and found out I was casted.”

The show was filmed last February, but she had to keep the results secret until the final episode aired.

Torres now lives in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, with her husband and children where she operates the Little Love Cookie Company. She was a culinary specialist in the Coast Guard for six years, and her husband is still active duty.

Photos courtesy Food Network for, click to enlarge.

Family Members Identify Fiery Fatal Crash Victim As Atmore Native

December 4, 2019

Family members have identified the victim of a fiery fatal crash as an Atmore man.

They say 28-year old Randell Gordon Nichols, Jr. passed away in the crash about 3:30 a.m. Friday, November 29 near Brushy Creek on Deere Creek Road, just north of Alabama-Florida state line. Nichols only person found inside the burned vehicle.

Nichols’ obituary says he was an Atmore native now living in Birmingham and was in Atmore for Thanksgiving.

Alabama State Troopers did not immediately release Nichols’ name following the crash as they worked to make a positive identification.

Jim Allen Fifth Graders Decorate Escambia Sheriff’s Office Christmas Tree

December 4, 2019

Fifth grade students from Jim Allen Elementary School decorated the Christmas tree in the lobby of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.

It’s an idea that started with Jim Allen’s school resource officer. Over the last few weeks , the students worked to create the handmade ornaments to trim the tree.

For a photo gallery, click here.

“We’ve got some folks that the holidays are a huge deal at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. They are people that, guess what, reach out to our community. So, when we can draw the school systems into this, itjust  makes it that much better,” Sheriff Morgan says.

This was the first year students have decorated the ECSO tree, but Morgan says they will invite the students back year.

The Jim Allen students also got a behind the scenes tour of the ECSO including the dispatch center, and they also saw a K-9 demonstration and met the people and horses of of the mounted posse.

Photos for, including photos courtesy NewsRadio 92.3/1620, click to enlarge.

Pensacola Beach Lifeguards Holding Tryouts

December 4, 2019

Pensacola Beach Lifeguards will host two tryout events in December for a job with a starting pay of $14.57 per hour.

Tryout dates:

  • Saturday, Dec. 7 at 11 a.m
  • Saturday, Dec. 14 at 11 a.m.

The tryouts will take place at the University of West Florida Aquatic Center, located at 11000 University Parkway, Bldg. 72. Applicants are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes early and to bring all relevant certifications to the tryout event.

Position requirements for employment include the following:

  • Able to swim 600 yards in a pool in 10 minutes or less
  • Able to run 1.5 miles on a track in 12 minutes or less
  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification is preferred

Attending and passing a tryout is required to be considered for employment. If you pass the physical tests in the allotted time and meet all of the other requirements, you will be scheduled for an interview. If selected to be hired, you will receive paid training. Training includes, but is not limited to, successfully passing 80 hours of open water training and emergency medical training.

Click here if you are a student at an accredited secondary school, vocational school, college or university to fill out an online application prior to the tryout. Students must be currently enrolled or have intent to enroll next term.

Click here if you are a non-student to fill out an online application prior to the tryout.

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