Ocala area PR professionals earn local and statewide awards, recognition at end-of-year celebration and annual conference

The Ocala Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association raced to the finish of its 2021-2022 membership year in top form – and is now ready to break from the starting gate – by bringing home several statewide awards and recognizing founding member Toni James, APR, CPRC, by renaming its PACEsetter of the Year Award in her honor.

The Ocala Chapter PACEsetter award, established in 2004, recognizes members who have demonstrated excellence and helped advance and strengthen the chapter. PACE stands for Professional and Career Enhancement.

Outgoing Ocala Chapter President Heather Danenhower, APR, CPRC, announced the renaming of the prestigious award during the chapter’s annual year-end celebration on Aug. 19. James, surprised and visibly moved by the designation, is a two-time past president of the Ocala Chapter in 1985 and 1996 and a 2011 recipient of the PACEsetter Award. She also received the Lifetime Achievement in Communications Award – one of only three such designees in the chapter’s 42-year history.

Danenhower lauded James for leaving an “indelible mark” not just on the public relations profession and FPRA but also on the local community. Danenhower cited James’ long tenure as the first president of United Way of Marion County and her work with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, Save Marion Theatre, Marion County Public Library system and Heart of Florida Health Center. “Toni started her career in the 1960s,” Danenhower said. “Think about that. At the time, Toni was nearly always the only woman in a meeting or boardroom. Her success and passion have inspired generations of women.”

During the “Starting Gate” event, James and Danenhower bestowed the renamed award to Tina Banner, APR, CPRC, longtime chapter member and past president, along with Beverly Brown, outgoing chapter membership director and treasurer for the coming membership year.

Banner, assistant director of social media and digital communications for the University of Florida Advancement, worked for James for many years at United Way. Danenhower said Banner was a consistent and reliable source of support to the Ocala Chapter even after transferring to the Gainesville Chapter.

“Tina has been with us every step this year for no reason other than she wants our chapter to thrive and succeed,” Danenhower said. “She helped us build our budget. Her records served as our launch point. She was quick to track down whatever we needed. For Tina, no task was too small and no time commitment too great in her service to the chapter – not just this year but for the last 20 years. Tina is FPRA; she is the Ocala Chapter.”

Danenhower also praised Brown, director of Taylor College’s career and student services, for helping promote a warm and welcoming culture as the chapter’s membership director.

“Beverly intuitively knows what to do, what to say and how to make people feel seen, heard and valued,” Danenhower said. “With Beverly’s leadership, we retained 83% of our membership and celebrated nine new and returning members. We are 46 members strong today and growing.”

After thanking members of the 2021-2022 board, Danenhower turned to outgoing State President Devon Chestnut, APR, CPRC, to install the chapter’s new board except the incoming chapter president, Tammy Gantt, who will be installed in September. Gantt is the associate vice president of member services and events at the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association and executive director of Florida Thoroughbred Charities.

Chestnut, who is also a member of the Ocala Chapter, was recognized for serving on the Association’s state executive committee. Other chapter members who served at the state level were Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC, the Association’s liaison on the Universal Accreditation Board, and Kevin Christian, APR, CPRC, vice president of LeadershipFPRA.

A highlight of the event was a “gavel-passing” ceremony with several of the chapter’s past presidents: Margaret Spontak (1984); Toni James, APR, CPRC (1985 and 1996); Karen Jensen (1987); Donna Hogan Delahunty (1992); Carole Savage-Hagans, APR, CPRC (1992 and 2012); Susan Little, APR (1994, 1996 and 1998); Lisa Varner, APR, CPRC (2002, 2003 and 2017); Tina Banner, APR, CPRC (2008); Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC (2010); Allison Campbell, APR, CPRC (2011); Kevin Christian, APR, CPRC (2013); Jenifer Lowe (2014); Barbara Hernandez, APR, CPRC (2015); Katie Hunnicutt (2019); Christy Jergens, APR (2020); and Heather Danenhower, APR, CPRC (2021).

As Danenhower often stated during the program, “but wait, there’s more.”

The “more” happened the previous week during “Your Ticket to Success,” FPRA’s 83rd annual professional development conference, which took place Aug. 7-10 in Orlando. During the conference, Chestnut recognized the Ocala Chapter with two President’s Awards, one for Programs and another for Awards and Recognition. Chestnut highlighted how the chapter leveraged the vast experience of its members for some programs and the chapter’s 1980s-themed Mid-Florida Image and Communicator of the Year Awards program.  

Several Ocala Chapter members also won statewide Golden Image Awards during the conference, which were presented during “Cosmic PR: Accelerating Excellence in Public Relations” gala:

  • Jen Pagh of Liquid Creative won a Golden Image and Judge’s Award for promotional marketing for Straight Line Construction in the Public Relations Program division. The work for Straight Line Construction also earned Pagh a Golden Image and Judge’s Award in the external video category of Digital Tools of Public Relations as well as an Award of Distinction for digital promotion. 
  • Robin Grantham of the Southwest Florida Water Management District brought home a Golden Image and Judge’s Award in the public affairs category of Public Relations Programs for the district’s water conservation camp.
  • Heather Danenhower, APR, CPRC, of Duke Energy picked up an Award of Distinction in the internal communications category of Public Relations Programs for Duke’s Energy Power Plant Worker Appreciation campaign.
  • Pamela Calero and Savannah Silliman of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra received an Award of Distinction in the Collateral of Public Relations division for a brochure promoting the orchestra’s 46th season.

The Golden Image Awards represent a standard of public relations excellence in Florida with winners demonstrating the best examples of innovation, planning and design. To qualify for judging, an entry must incorporate sound public relations research and planning. Entries also must meet the highest standards of production, execution and evaluation of results and budget.

Other annual conference highlights included:

Lindsay Tozer, FCRM, newly installed Ocala Chapter president-elect, was recognized as a member of the 2022 Joe Curley Rising Leader Class, which honors the personal dedication and engagement of members with two-to-five years of membership. Tozer, a member of the Ocala Chapter, is the communications officer for the Citrus County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller.

Kristina Donohue, APR, was recognized for earning her Accredited in Public Relations credential. The APR signifies a practitioner’s willingness to undergo rigorous written and verbal examinations to demonstrate mastery in research, planning, implementation and evaluation of communications programs executed within a legal and ethical framework. Earning the APR sets Donohue apart from her peers and positions her as a leader and mentor in the competitive public relations field.

Allison Campbell, APR, CPRC, and Greg Davis both graduated from LeadershipFPRA, Class VI. The intensive, yearlong program is designed to further strengthen public relations roles and the communities and industries where public relations practitioners live. Campbell is the principal of A & A Campbell Group and an elected board member of Marion County Public Schools. Davis is public relations officer for MCPS. 

Christopher Bradford, program administrator and public information officer for Priority Dispatch, Corp., was selected as a member of the 2022-2023 LeadershipFPRA program, Class VII.  

Bradford, Campbell and Davis received partial scholarships from the Ocala Chapter to take part in the program.