Best Local Heroes
Third Infantry Division
For the first time since the beginning of the Iraq War, the entire “Rock of the Marne” is back home in coastal Georgia after three separate and hard-fought tours. Though the nation has soured on the war itself, the Third ID remains near and dear to local hearts for their unquestioned dedication, professionalism and bravery.
Mayor Otis Johnson -- Not a sympathy vote, as most ballots were received prior to the mayor’s heart attack. The verdict is in: not only his supporters, but many of his original detractors now say Otis is a fine leader.
Since winning his first House race in 1992, Kingston has touted the importance of pop culture and new media in getting out the conservative message. Practicing what he preaches, Jack has a blog and regularly appears on panels with such un-Republican hosts as Bill Maher and -- wait for it -- Triumph the Wonder Dog.
Ben Bennett -- Gregarious WBMQ AM right wing shock-jock delights in skewering -- well, pretty much everybody, especially Connect Savannah.
This admired local attorney (wait, is that an oxymoron?) and Democratic Party stalwart first gained attention/notoriety for guest stints as a strong liberal voice on Ben Bennett’s call-in show. He’s now running to fill Tom Bordeaux’s vacated seat in the state House of Representatives.
Otis Johnson -- A true progressive, our mayor combines straight talk with a real commitment to investing in communities.
Best City Council Member
The man holding down the city’s westside in the 1st District is a tireless voice for the little guy and an outspoken advocate for urban renaissance (and just as important, adequately funding that renaissance). He took a leading -- and controversial -- role in defending the city’s proactive stance on crime during this winter’s controversy over several high-profile murders.
Ellis Cooke -- This longstanding 3rd District alderman represents the eastside with dignity and class.
Best County Commissioner
Representing the westsides’ 7th District with a combination of candor, humor and populist vigor, Kicklighter has mastered the dying art of staking out a clear position without alienating everyone around him.
Dr. Priscilla Thomas -- Don’t let the 8th District commissioner’s soft-spoken manner fool you; this former school principal doesn’t back down from a fight when someone is treated unfairly.
Best Local Employer
Acquired by General Dynamics in 1999, this longtime corporate stalwart of the Savannah area remains a very popular place to work, due in no small part to its commitment to enrichments like a parent-friendly work environment, a family wellness program, onsite medical and postal services , and three dining facilities -- which even offer dinners to go.
Memorial Health -- This hospital has been on Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work for” three years in a row, including this year.
Best Nonprofit Organization
A combination of good management, good marketing and great prices has made this chain of thrift stores actually a pretty hip place to shop.
Hospice Savannah -- It’s hard to be nonprofit in an increasingly corporate (and cutthroat) health care field, but Hospice Savannah is one of the area’s great success stories.
Best Local Sports Team
Savannah Sand Gnats
The single-A team is newly affiliated with the Washington Nationals and plays in a historic stadium that hosted Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth.
Savannah Shamrocks -- Rugby’s big in Savannah, and we hear no team is bigger and badder than the Shamrocks.
Best Local Sporting Event
St. Pat’s Rugby Tournament
Hosted by the Savannah Shamrocks, this event has become one of the St. Pat’s weekend’s signature events.
Memorial Health Hockey Classic -- Once more commonly known as “The Rumble in the Rink,” this tourney matches southeastern college teams with large local followings.
Best Local Radio Station
WRHQ 105.3 FM
30-year radio veteran Jerry Rogers owns and operates this modestly appointed but dominant station -- the last remaining independent, locally-owned one in town.
Jack FM -- For a relatively new format -- one best described as an iPod shuffle on the radio -- this station is doing quite well.
Best Local Radio DJ
There’s no shortage of controversy from 8-10 a.m. on WBMQ, as this popular talk radio host ably feeds good red meat to local conservatives (or as some of us call them, the “29 percenters”).
Senea -- She holds down the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. slot on Z-102 with style.
Best Talk/News Station
630 AM on your dial is the place for conservative political talk, from Sean Hannity to Bill O’Reilly to G. Gordon Liddy.
WSVH -- FM 91 hosts National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” in addition to other news/talk shows.
Best Local TV Newcast
Station GM Bill Cathcart has opined in the past about what he calls “the whiney big media,” but the truth is that in Savannah, media doesn’t come any bigger than WTOC. The perennial market leader in Savannah is also the area’s oldest TV station, beginning its broadcast tradition in 1954.
WSAV -- Tina Tyus-Shaw is the lead anchor for this popular newscast.
Best Local TV Anchor
A local-boy-made-good and a former Georgia state legislator, Dixon has fully emerged from Doug Weathers’ shadow to bring his own down-home charm to WTOC’s evening newscast.
Dawn Baker -- This popular WTOC anchor lights up the room wherever she goes.
Best Local Meteorologist
Like an Obi Wan Kenobi of local weatherpeople, the Force is with Prokop -- WTOC’s calm, collected Jedi Knight of meteorology.
Ben Smith -- StormTeam3’s chief meteorologist calls ‘em like he sees ‘em on WSAV.
Best Local TV Commercial
Hard to believe, but they make termites actually look kind of cute.
Green Frog -- Boy, does Tracy have a deal for you at this local sleep center.
Best Local Columnist
Sort of a preppy Lewis Grizzard, the Savannah Morning News editorial page editor steers hard-a-starboard on national issues, but hews to a more moderate course in his funny and insightful takes on local politics and folkways.
Bill Dawers -- His popular “City Scene” columns put Savannah under a microscope, block by block.
Most Controversial Local News Story
Jennifer Ross murder
National media insisted on branding it “the debutante murder,” but while it may have been good for cable news ratings, the fatal Christmas Eve shooting of 19-year-old Jennifer Ross brought nothing but trauma to Savannah. It was bad enough that a young person was killed just as her life was really beginning, but things got even worse when the city’s age-old racial tensions came to the surface, with a dose of cynical politicking on top by people who should have known better. In any event, three arrests pertaining to the case have been made, so time will tell if justice will be served.
Laidlaw -- After years of this low-bidder school bus company’s traffic violations, chronic lateness and incredible incompetence, new superintendent Lockamy and the board finally found the cojones to do what needed to be done a long time ago: Fire them, already!
Best Connect Savannah Cover Story
Apparently our readers follow anything to do with it, whether it was our look at a racially-charged citizen’s forum after the Jennifer Ross murder, a ridealong with SPD or a look at the growing gang problem in Savannah.
St. Patrick’s Day -- More accurately termed a “cover package,” Robin Gunn’s trio of St. Pat’s themed stories earned her kudos this year.
Best Local Blog
Connect Editor’s Blog
The first media blogger in Savannah, Connect’s editor-in-chief Jim Morekis dishes his observations on local media, politics, noise pollution, irresponsible pet owners and whatever else pops into his head. Hey, that’s what a blog’s for, people. Find it by scrolling down our homepage at www.connectsavannah.com
Buttercream & Roses: The blog of Cheryl, co-owner of Back in the Day Bakery, is a delightful compendium of tips and tidbits about what she calls the “lost art” of baking from scratch. Find it at:
Best Local Website
In addition to hosting a digital version of the day’s paper, the Morning News website offers forums, scores and more.
savannahunderground.com -- Music, politics, and rumor-mongering galore.
Best Museum & Best New Building
Jepson Center for the Arts
The wait was well worth it, as this minimalistically beautiful, architecturally daring museum shows that every now and then, Savannah really can do something right. Current exhibits include mind-blowing art by Robert and Christopher Rauschenberg.
Runner-up, Best Museum: Originally derided, the decision to put the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum -- which commemorates the 8th AF and its founding here in Savannah -- off I-95 turns out to have been a pretty smart one.
Runner-up, Best New Building: The Westin Savannah Resort is one of the dominant landmarks along the waterfront.
Best Old Building
At first, we were amazed that of all the historic buildings to choose from in this city, our readers chose City Hall as the most sterling example of historic architecture. But then we found out that the building is celebrating its centennial this year, 100 years after its completion (construction began in 1903), so the choice, however unexpected, is certainly timely. (Prior to its completion, city officials met in the Old City Exchange on the same site.)
Interesting City Hall trivia: On August 11, 1904, the Georgia granite cornerstone was laid. It was originally simply carved with “1904.” But at the last minute the Masonic year “5904” and compass were carved onto the lower right corner of the eastern face of the stone.
Owens-Thomas House -- The finest example of English Regency architecture in the U.S., this house museum is administered by the Telfair Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Best Reason to Move to Savannah
The whole area will probably be underwater in 75 years, but for now our unique blend of salty seabreeze, moderate winters and absolutely gorgeous springs and falls is the bee’s knees. You can tell your great-grandchildren all about it!
Historic Downtown -- Not just a local gem, but an American treasure, and the thing that truly sets us apart.
Best Reason to Leave Savannah
Crime? What crime? Are you saying there’s crime here? Who told you that? Move along, people -- nothin’ to see here. You can go back inside now. Just don’t make any sudden movements.
Gnats -- What we can’t figure out is: If oil is made from fossils of dead dinosaurs, can’t the Exxon CEO who just got a $400 million payday figure out how to run a car with these things?
Best New Neighborhood
The newest addition to the 2500-acre Savannah Quarters development, this gated neighborhood boasts a Greg Norman-designed course, a pool, a grill and a fitness facility.
Godley Station -- Efficient, affordable, quality housing in what used to be considered the boondocks.
Best Old Neighborhood
Now that the Big Dig is over, life returns to normal in this cozy, semi-affluent enclave blending Savannah’s establishment old guard and its younger avant garde.
Downtown -- If you can afford it, it’s still Savannah living at its best.
Best Private School
The home of the Raiders provides affordable private education with a solid (but not too in-your-face) Christian grounding.
Savannah Country Day -- Academic and athletic excellence at this upper-tier private academy.
Best Public School
Savannah Arts Academy
OK, so the new uniform policy won’t go over so well there. That being said, SAA is a lot more than artsy clothes and hairstyles and fine arts performances -- their academic record is also outstanding.
Jenkins High School -- The home of the Warriors, this Honors Academy is perennially a high-finisher in this category.
Kaplan/Newsweek recently named SCAD the “Hottest College for Studying Art” among “America’s 25 Hottest Colleges.” Can you believe it’s only been 25 years since the Savannah College of Art & Design came on the scene, transforming Savannah completely?
Armstrong Atlantic -- So much more than a commuter school, AASU still provides perhaps the best education for the buck in Georgia.
Best Savannah Monument
Contrary to popular opinion, Florence Martus didn’t actually live near this River Street monument. For most of her life she lived with her brother on Elba Island downriver (where the huge LNG tanks are now), where from age 19 on she welcomed incoming and outgoing vessels by waving a white handkerchief by day and a lantern by night. Sure, she’s a Savannah icon and tourist draw now that she’s dead -- but let’s face it, if she was around today most people would probably consider her a crazy person. America prefers its nonconformity by way of viral video these days, not actually in our communities. Because Florence reminds us of the good ol’ days, she wins this category year after year.
Fort Pulaski -- Designed by Robert E. Lee when he was in the U.S. Army, this sprawling edifice was the state of the art in defensive fortification construction until the invention of rifled cannon. With ranger programs, picnic grounds and trails nearby, it’s also a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Best Tourist Attraction & Best People-Watching Spot
The more tourists hang out on River Street, the more they stay out of the locals’ hair. (Ah, we kid. We kid because we love you, beloved visitors).
Runner-up, Best Tourist Attraction: You said “downtown.” We said, “way to narrow an answer down.”
Runner-up, Best People-Watching: Tybee Island is the place to see tourists and locals alike in a more relaxed element.
Best Golf Course
Westin Savannah Resort
The home of the Liberty Mutuals, at this Robert Cupp and Sam Snead designed 18-hole course.
Wilmington Island Club -- A sage old Savannah course enjoying a renaissance after a facelift.
Islands living at its finest.
Hammocks -- Pretty much ditto here!
Best Place to Jog, Dog-walk, Rollerblade, etc.
Please remember one thing, people: There’s a leash law in this town.
Lake Mayer -- With a little investment and maintenance, this southside oasis has experienced something of a renaissance.
Best Canoeing or Kayaking
The Sea Kayak races, benefiting the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, were just held this past weekend.
Little Tybee -- It’s just a family-friendly short jaunt over the Back River.
Best Place to Camp
A short kayak or canoe trip takes you to this relatively pristine natural wonderland. Let’s keep it that way, please!
Hunting Island -- A perennially popular South Carolina getaway.
Best Weekend Getaway
It’s safe to say Savannah no longer has quite the inferiority complex it once had regarding its big sister to the north. But it’s also safe to say that folks here enjoy getting away to do some shopping there as well.
Hilton Head, S.C. -- Twenty minutes by boat, an hour by car, a galaxy away in attitude.
Best Place to Hang After 3a.m.
What could be better than fresh sushi, a cold Kirin Ichiban and good company? Fresh sushi, a cold Kirin Ichiban and good company after 3 a.m., at this popular Whitaker Street hotspot that knows the ancient wisdom of staying open late.
Gold Club -- Its regulars will tell you there’s actually no bad time to be here.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.