Gulf Power Named Among Nation’s Top Ten Utilities

April 23, 2017

Gulf Power has been ranked among the top ten investor-owned utilities in the nation according to a new ranking which compares capital investment to the benefits customer receive in reliability and overall satisfaction.

Gulf Power garnered the eighth spot from a pool of 100 investor-owned utilities evaluated across the country by the Wired Group, and second place in Florida. The Colorado-based consulting firm used an internet-based Utility Evaluator that calculates customer value rankings based on a variety of metrics, including efficiency of spending on capital investments, operations and maintenance, reliability and satisfaction ratings.

The Utility Evaluator simplifies credible utility performance evaluation and benchmarking, enabling standard and custom comparisons on costs, reliability, capital effectiveness, and more against user-defined peer groups. It compiles and compares performance data from multiple public sources including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, JD Powers and Associates’ annual customer satisfaction surveys and state regulatory filings.

Gulf Power also received multiple accolades in sub categories in the rankings, claiming the 9th spot out of 98 utilities evaluated in customer satisfaction based on overall customer rankings published annually by JD Power and Associates.

Unemployment Rate Drops

April 22, 2017

Governor Rick Scott announced Friday that the Pensacola area added 3,800 new private-sector jobs over the year in March. The area’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent, down 0.5 percentage point from a year ago. In the last year, Florida businesses created 233,800 new jobs, bringing the total number of new jobs added since December 2010 to 1,353,000.

Governor Scott said, “I am proud to announce that Pensacola businesses created nearly 4,000 jobs for families in Northwest Florida over the past year. We will continue fighting to support business growth all across our state so every Floridian will have the opportunity they need to find a great job.”

The industries with the largest job gains in Pensacola over the year were leisure and hospitality with 1,700 new jobs and trade, transportation and utilities with 1,100 new jobs. The Pensacola area had 4,733 job openings in March, including 1,437 openings for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations.

Statewide, Florida businesses created 60,600 new jobs in first quarter of 2017 and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent. For the fifth consecutive year, Florida’s annual job growth rate of 3.2 percent is exceeding the nation’s rate of 1.7 percent. More than 26,844 Floridians were placed in jobs by CareerSource Escarosa and the state’s other 23 regional workforce boards.

Jim Allen Elementary Celebrates Principal With ‘National Watts Day’

April 22, 2017

On Friday, the faculty and staff at Jim Allen Elementary showed their appreciation and love for their principal, Rachel Watts, by declaring the day “National Watts Day”.   All grades, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade were involved in honoring Watts for her surprise celebration.  All throughout the day, students and faculty showed their admiration for her.

The day began with messages posted on the school marquee and lawn signs with slogans such as “Happy National Mrs. Watts Day” , “#wattsday”, “#1 Principal” , “You’re the Best”, “We Love You!”.  Even her parking space was reserved for “The Best Principal Ever”.

The front office and Watts’ desk were decorated with her favorite flowers and balloons of her favorite color.

The faculty and staff gathered in the front hall to kick off the festivities with a proclamation that declared that this day was to honor Watts for her outstanding leadership, her love, patience, kindness and goodness.  Then she was presented with a crown to wear for the day.

A large sign in the hallway was mounted to allow students, faculty and staff to write a ‘thank you’ or simply sign their name.

The school’s “Friday Shout-Outs”, which is a weekly email highlighting faculty and staff for going above and beyond, was dedicated completely to Watts.

Every 15 minutes of the day, students arrived in the office to deliver apples and message cards to Watts with sayings like “You are the queen of our castle”, “You Rock!”, and “You are the type of leader others love to follow”.  She collected the apples in a decorated bucket and posted the cards all over her office.  Other students arrived with handwritten notes that said things like “You are my favorite principal!” and “You are the best principal ever!”.

Every 30 minutes, each school department or grade level came to give a variety of gifts such as;  baskets of goodies, gift cards, chocolate, flowers, lunch from a favorite restaurant, beach bag, t-shirt stating “Most Special Principal in the Area” (from the special area department), cleverly written poems, and even a massage.

For Jim Allen Elementary, it was a day to show Watts what a wonderful leader she is and how much she is loved and appreciated for all that she does for the school.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Forestry On Alert For Local Fires

April 22, 2017

Nearly two dozen firefighters and support personnel from the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center have been sent to other parts of the state to help fight the ever-increasing number of wildfires. With a reduced but adequate number of resources remaining to protect Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties, officials have increased the Fire Readiness Level and temporarily suspended the issuance of burn authorizations as a precautionary step only. There are no burn bans in place.

“Our fire activity has been held in check because of overnight moisture and early morning fog,” said David Smith, Operations Administrator for Blackwater. “We’re not seeing the number or size of fires that they are in other parts of the state so it’s safe to send some of our people out to help. With that said, we’re keeping the people and equipment we need here to respond to any fire we get in our coverage area.”

There currently are 104 active wildfires in the state of Florida that have burned more than 24,000 acres. Since January 1, 2017, there have been 1,627 fires for 80,335 acres. There are two fires in all of Blackwater currently for a total of 2.1 acres.

The Blackwater district includes Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

Ernest Ward Middle SAC Honors Culinary Academy Members

April 22, 2017

Students in the Ernest Ward Middle School Culinary Academy were honored Friday morning during a meeting of the EWMS School Advisory Council.  The EWMS Culinary Academy was recently named the Escambia County School District’s Middle School Career Academy of the Year. The culinary academy students provided a waffle breakfast for attendees. photos, click to enlarge.

FHP Cites Driver After Mobile Highway Crash

April 22, 2017

An Escambia County man was cited by the Florida Highway Patrol after a Friday afternoon crash at Mobile Highway and Eight Mile Creek Road.

The FHP said 45-year old Michael Ray Herron was southbound on Mobile Highway about 3:30 p.m. when he attempted to avoid a vehicle stopped in the roadway. His Ford F700 truck left the road, crossed the center line and overturned.

Herron was cited for driving too fast for conditions, no proof of insurance and no tag.

Northview’s Emily Brown Places In Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition

April 22, 2017

Emily Brown, a sophomore at Northview High School, won honorable mention Friday night in the Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition And Show at the Pensacola Museum of art.

Each spring, a nation-wide high school arts competition is sponsored by the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition and Show was an opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent. There were about 100 pieces of art submitted for the compeition from high schools across the 1st Congressional District.

Other winners were:

Clarissa Vidaurri, Honorable Mention Milton High School, Senior
Kana Pitts, Honorable Mention, Fort Walton Beach High School, Junior
Alyssa Payne, Third Place, Fort Walton Beach High School, Freshmen
Dakota Voyce, Second Place, Crestview High School, Senior
Carly Cromwell, First Place, Gulf Breeze High School, Senior

Cromwell’s winning artwork will be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol. The exhibit in Washington will include the winning artwork from all participating districts from around the country. The winning artwork is also featured on’s Congressional Art Competition page.

Northview Falls To Freeport (With Gallery); Tate Falls To Escambia

April 22, 2017

The Freeport Bulldogs beat the Northview Chiefs 8-4 Friday night in Bratt.

Freeport took a 4-0 lead in the top of the third, but the Chiefs responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the third. After a scoreless fourth inning, Freeport added four more runs in the top of the fifth for an 8-4 lead.

The Northview Chiefs will travel to Central on Monday before returning home for a Senior Night game Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Pensacola Christian.

The Chiefs will wrap up their regular season next Thursday on the road against the Pine Forest Eagles.

For a photo gallery, click here.


Escambia 3, Tate 0

The Escambia Gators upset the No 1. Tate Aggies 3-0 Friday night.

All three of Escambia’s runs came in the bottom of the third.

For Tate – Logan McGuffey 1-3; Blake Anderson 1-2. Gabe Castro took the loss for Tate.

Escambia 10, Tate 2 (JV) photos, click to enlarge.

Blue Wahoos Sweep The Jumbo Shrimp

April 22, 2017

Pensacola Blue Wahoos starting pitcher Austin Ross and Jacksonville starting pitcher Chris Mazza dueled to a 0-0 tie for seven innings.

But in the eighth the Blue Wahoos put up two runs on a walk, error and sacrifice fly and wild pitch to sweep the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the five-game series Friday in front of a sellout crowd of 5,038 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Pensacola manager Pat Kelly compared the game to a tennis match.

“A game like that the first team that makes a mistake gets beat,” he said. “If you’re the one to break the serve, you got a chance to win.”

It’s not often teams sweep five-game series. Last season, Pensacola swept the Birmingham Barons on the road to end the season and in 2015 it swept the Montgomery Biscuits at home.

The Blue Wahoos have now won seven straight games and own the best record in the Southern League at 12-3. It’s the best start since the franchise began in 2012.

This year in three starts for the Cincinnati Reds, the 28-year-old Ross is 2-0 with an 0.86 ERA. In 21 innings, he has allowed 10 hits, two earned runs, walked seven and struck out 13. Friday night, he pitched seven scoreless innings to up his scoreless inning streak to 18 innings.

He gave up just three hits, three walks and struck out seven Jumbo Shrimp hitters.

“Good pitches are good pitches,” the 28-year-old Ross said. “It’s all about just executing your pitches. It was fun going back and forth like that (with Mazza). With the flow of a game like that, sometimes guys just feed off each other. Each run matters.”

Fortunately for the Blue Wahoos, they scored first when left fielder Leon Landry walked and advanced to third when Joe Hudson came into pinch hit and bunted to Jacksonville third baseman Brian Anderson, who overthrew first baseman Taylor Ard.

With runners on second and third and no outs, Pensacola shortstop Blake Trahan hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right center to score Landry and put the Blue Wahoos up, 1-0. Catcher Devin Mesoraco then hit a line drive shot that was too hot for the pitcher to handle for a single and Hudson moved to third base where he scored on a wild pitch by Jacksonville reliever Tyler Higgins to give the Blue Wahoos ahead, 2-0.

Before the eighth inning, the highlight of the game was when right fielder Aristides Aquino chased down a single by Jacksonville right fielder John Norwood in the second inning deep in the outfield and then gunned a throw to Trahan to get Norwood out.

“That play changed the inning and changed the game,” Ross said. “It could have been first and second with no outs.”

UWF Celebrates Inauguration Of New President

April 22, 2017

The University of West Florida formally installed Dr. Martha Saunders as its sixth president during the inauguration ceremony held on April 21 at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

“I am truly glad to be here today the inauguration of a new president is really a celebration of the university she serves,” Saunders said.

Trustees, faculty, staff, students, board members, community leaders and delegates from institutions across the globe attended the celebration, which included a reception at UWF on the Emerald Coast on Tuesday, a distinguished guests reception on Thursday evening and an inauguration procession, ceremony and reception on Friday. Honored guests included Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, Madeline Pumariega, chancellor of the Florida College System, the Honorable Ashton Hayward, mayor of the City of Pensacola, Connie Crosby, representative of first UWF president Harold Crosby, past president Dr. John Cavanaugh, and Drs. Morris Marx and Judy Bense, presidents emeriti.

“This is an extraordinary day for the University of West Florida and I am thrilled to install Dr. Saunders as the sixth president of this remarkable institution,” said Mort O’Sullivan, chair of the UWF Board of Trustees. “She is the leader we need to take the University to the next level and help us grow our impact on our community, region, state and beyond.”

Saunders was selected as the sixth UWF president in September 2016, following a unanimous resolution passed by the Board of Trustees and confirmation by the Board of Governors in November. She assumed the role on Jan. 1, as the University launched its 50th Anniversary milestone celebration.

Saunders’ career in higher education began in 1984 at UWF, where she served as an instructor in the communication arts department. She quickly rose through the ranks, taking on roles including public relations program coordinator, director of the University Honors Program and dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Saunders also served as vice president for academic affairs at Columbus State University and as the first female chancellor for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She then led the University of Southern Mississippi as its first female president, before returning to UWF in 2013 as provost. In 2014, Saunders was appointed executive vice president at UWF, assuming the role as chief operating officer, in addition to chief academic officer and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs.

Growth in enrollment, fundraising and campus structures were hallmarks of her previous leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the University of Southern Mississippi. Saunders envisions similar growth in those areas at UWF by increasing its physical presence in downtown Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, investing in programs such as global online, cybersecurity and supply chain logistics and visiting local high schools to recruit talented students.

“I foresee a future when people arriving in this area will know they are in a university town because they can see it, hear it, feel it, experience it,” Saunders said. “ Our students will come to us fully confident in their choice because we will take them where they want to be.”

Saunders received a doctorate in communication theory and research from Florida State University. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Southern Mississippi.

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