Area public relations and communications professionals honored

OCALA, Fla. (April 14, 2022) – The Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition, led by its founder and longtime local environmentalist Margaret Spontak, has been named the 2022 Wilton F. Martin Institutional Communicator of the Year for efforts to reconnect the Ocklawaha River to the Silver and St. Johns rivers and Silver Springs.

The three-year-old organization was honored by the Ocala Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association at the annual Mid-Florida Image and Communicator of the Year Awards which took place Wednesday, April 13 at the Marion Theatre. Founded in 1938, FPRA is the oldest professional association of public relations practitioners in the nation.

Recognizing that their work is ongoing until the Ocklawaha is “finally set free,” Spontak and Free the Ocklawaha’s efforts were lauded for “dramatically increasing the public interest, awareness, engagement, and support” needed to reunite the rivers.

The Communicator of the Year award honors institutions and individuals who have demonstrated excellence in strategic communications to improve the quality of life in Marion and Citrus counties. It is named in memory of the late Wilton F. Martin, native Ocalan and the Association’s co-founder.

NPR’s Joe Byrnes, a versatile and veteran reporter and editor for the Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun before joining WMFE in 2020, received the Wilton F. Martin Individual Communicator of the Year for his “unrelenting commitment to quality journalism … reporting, distilling, and communicating the most complex topics with uncommon clarity and color.” 

Image WinnersAdditionally, 14 Image awards were presented to public relations professionals from Marion, Lake, Volusia and Flagler counties. FPRA’s Image Awards and the state Golden Image competition have become the standard of public relations excellence throughout Florida, honoring the very best in public relations innovations, planning and design.

This year’s big winners were Jen Pagh, Scott Schroeder and Matias Raby of Liquid Creative who received the Grand All Image Award in the digital tools of public relations division in the external video category for their Straight Line Construction video, which also earned an Image Award and Judges Award. Also, in the digital tools division website category, the team won an Image Award and Judges Award for rebuilding Straight Line Construction’s website. Lastly, in the public relations programs division  promotional marketing category, they picked up an Award of Distinction for a comprehensive marketing strategy for Straight Line Construction.

Additional winners:

Beverly Brown and Taylor College won a Judges Award in digital tools of public relations division social media category for Taylor College Facebook Engagement Plan.

Rachel Cote and the College of Central Florida won an Award of Distinction and Judges Award in the digital tools of public relations website category for the College of Central Florida website redesign.

Heather Danenhower, APR, CPRC, and Duke Energy won an Image Award in the public relations programs division internal category for Duke Energy’s Power Plant Worker Appreciation Day Campaign.

Mary Dorn, APR, and Cindi Lane, APR, won an Award of Distinction and Judges Award in the public relations programs division special events category for the Volusia/Flagler Chapter of FPRA Media Day at Daytona International Speedway.

Savannah Silliman, Pamela Calero Wardell, and Andy Stracuzzi won an Award of Distinction and Judges Award in the public relations collateral brochure category for the Ocala Symphony’s 46th Season brochure.

FPRA is dedicated to developing public relations practitioners who, through ethical and standardized practices, enhance the public relations profession in Florida. Today there are more than 1,000 professional, at-large and student members throughout the state and country. The FPRA Ocala Chapter was established in 1980. For more information about the chapter, go to