Here are the 2018 Best of Athens winners in the "People" category.
Best Local News Media person
First place for Best Local News Media Person for the second consecutive year goes to WOUB’s Robin Barnes, an on-air host/announcer for the Athens-based public-radio station. This is a high honor for Ms. Barnes, who both years had to overcome the considerable obstacle of not working for The Athens NEWS.
That institutional advantage – our readers comprise Best of Athens voters so one would expect our news people would have a leg up in this category – was enough to provide a Best Media Figure first-place to Smith, Phillips and other A-News denizens year after year.
No more. It’s a brave new world out there, baby. But don’t worry about us Athens NEWS staffers. We’re tough and resilient, and will somehow manage to recover from this unforgivable slight by our readers. Of course, we can take solace in the fact that we just won OHIO NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR.
Second place – and this one REALLY hurts – goes to our ornery pal WATH/WXTQ News Director Bob Beyette. We know this means a lot to Bob, and are absolutely certain he will remind us of his victory throughout 2018.
Third, fourth and fifth place in this category go to Athens NEWS Editor Terry Smith, WOUB on-air announcer Chris Riddle, and Athens NEWS Associate Editor Conor Morris, respectively.
Best Law Enforcement Officer
Athens County Sheriff’s Deputy Jimmy Childs once again takes top honors in Best Law Enforcement Officer category.
As he has done for years, Deputy Childs spends much of his time in local schools, showing youngsters the righteous path. Successive generations of Athens County school kids have positive memories of the deputy.
The top three ended up in the same order as last years, Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith following Childs in second place and Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle placing third.
Honorable mention for fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively, go to Destry Flick (APD), Bryce Fick (Athens County Sheriff’s Office) and Bob Filar (APD).
Best DJ/Radio Personality
Since Barticus won this category last year as well, we ought to just save ourselves some time and use the same write-up. I mean, who’s going to know?
So here goes…
Winning for Best DJ/Radio Personality again this year is none other than DJ Barticus, known for a variety of dynamic characteristics not the least of which is pizza-themed jumpsuits and gyrating wildly to 1980s music.
Barticus holds nothing back when he has a room, and if you’ve seen him in action, you’re not likely to forget it.
Back to new content…
We neglected to mention last year that Barticus in addition to being a performing DJ is an actual radio DJ on WXTQ. Seems like a fairly key factoid for this write-up.
Second and third place go to Robin Barnes (WOUB) and Thom Williams (WAIS/WSEO, formerly WATH/WXTQ), respectively. Barnes has won this category in the past.
Barnes also won Best Local Media Figure this year, canceling the victory lap that Athens NEWS journalists usually plan for this category (it is OUR contest after all).
Fourth and fifth place go to Chris Riddle (WOUB) and Paul Holden (WATH/WXTQ), respectively.
Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far
Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-94th District, earned the coveted distinction this year of being top-of-the-class in both the Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far AND the Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far Away categories (plus Best Public Figure as well). The relative newcomer to politics hails from Nelsonville and faces re-election this year.
Newly elected Athens City Council at-large member Sarah Grace wins second place in this category. The Athens resident and local businesswoman had previously run against Edwards in the 94th District race and lost. This category is a flip from last year, where Grace won first place and Edwards won second place.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson wins third place in this category, followed by Nelsonville City Council member Taylor Sappington, who is running against Edwards for state rep in his bid for re-election this year. Meanwhile, Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel wins fifth place.
Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far Away
Sigh of relief.
Yep, enough time has elapsed to finally let former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly slip out of this dubious category. Slipping in is state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, who can enjoy the consolation of knowing that some of our Best of Athens voters probably just felt he deserved a vacation far away.
Edwards actually has managed to avoid gaining a reputation as an inflexible right-winger, and on most issues has taken a moderate, constituent-focused approach. But if you’re a Republican legislator representing Athens County, you just gotta reconcile yourself to walking a tightrope politically.
Yet, now that we mention it, Edwards did win two clearly positive leadership categories this year, Best Local Public Figure and Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far. So he can’t have that many enemies.We suspect that a lot of this goodwill is related to Tootsie Rolls (the mini-kind) that Jay’s granddad used to give arriving patrons at the old 33 Drive-In in Nelsonville. I wish the drive-in was still open…
Second place this year goes to Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason. Lenny has never placed in this negative category before, so we’re at a loss to explain how he ended up here this time.
Athens City Council member Sarah Grace places third, and this is a puzzler as well.
Fourth and fifth go to Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, from up Belmont County way, and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, respectively.
Best Public Figure
State Rep. Jay Edwards, the Republican from Nelsonville who’s been representing the 94th House District since early 2017, cleaned up in the Best of Athens Readers’ Choice Awards, taking top spot for Best Local Public Figure, Best Local Politician You Hope Will Go Far and its dubious sister category, Best Local Politician You Hope Will Go Far Away. But this write-up is about the Public Figure category; you can read about the “Go Far/Far Away” categories in separate blurbs.
Anyway, Edwards was far behind Athens Mayor Steve Patterson in the first, nominating round of Best of Athens, but like a thoroughbred kicking into overdrive on the final stretch, Edwards outpaced Patterson in the final round to take first place.
In fact, Athens City Council member and local lawyer Patrick McGee also pulled ahead, placing second in this category.
Patterson did place third, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of (says the guy who placed third in Best Local Media Figure in his own paper’s contest).
Fourth- and fifth-place honors went to Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel and Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith, respectively.
Best Local Activist
In our newly resurrected “Local Activist” category this year, local activist Kerri Shaw, who helped organize the huge (by Athens standards) Women’s March through uptown Athens this January, takes the first-place spot. Shaw, a social-work instructor in OU’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, was also involved with efforts to encourage Athens City Council to approve a measure banning conversion therapy on minors, and a resolution to make Athens a “welcoming city.”
Longtime Athens County social-justice activist Peggy Gish wins second in this category this year. She’s worked locally as co-coordinator of the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network for a decade-plus, and abroad in Iraq, Palestine and Nigeria with the Christian Peacemaking Team organization.
Athens County environmental activist Roxanne Groff takes home the third-place spot in this category this year, followed by fourth-place winner Athens resident Caleb Brown (who helped draft Athens’ TACO marijuana depenalization ordinance).
Andrea Reik and Barb Harrison took the fifth and sixth place spots, respectively.
Best Local Business Owner or Entrepreneur
Art Oestrike, owner of Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery and co-owner of Bagel Street Deli, wins first place in The Best of Athens combined Local Business Owner/Entrepreneur category this year, just as he did the last two years.
His success has laid the foundation for a variety of other alcohol-based entrepreneurs – beer, wine, mead, vodka, etc. – to launch businesses in Athens County.
Second place goes to repeat winner Shelley Lieberman, owner of Friendly Paws Pet Supply & Grooming on East State Street in Athens.
Local electrical company owner James Trout wins third place in this category.
Fourth and fifth place, respectively, are Avalanche Pizza’s John Gutekanst and Emily Christine Houpt, of Tavolino Restaurant in Athens.
Best Medical Provider
Dr. Sergio Ulloa
When the going gets tough, the tough go see a specialist. This year, first place for “Best Medical Provider” goes to last year’s winner Dr. Sergio Ulloa, D.O., who specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at Athens Medical Associates and teaches physics and astronomy at Ohio University.
Dr. Ulloa has a great track record in the Athens community, evidenced the least by his two-year domination of a category with a wealth of entrants (and fairly close vote totals). Plus, in a city with so many hikers, runners and pedestrians, we need someone like him around.
In second place is fellow Athens Medical Associates specialist Dr. Jane Broecker, an obstetrician-gynecologist who serves as an assistant professor in Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and specializes in pediatric and adolescent gynecology.
In third place is Dr. Umamahesh Yellamraju (aka Raju), who is affiliated with several OhioHealth facilities, including O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, and has over 20 years of experience. Dr. Raju specializes in internal medicine.
Dr. Jean Rettos takes fourth place, and fifth-place winner Dr. Penny Shelton ranked just ahead of last year’s third-place winner Dr. Lance Broy, who placed sixth this year.
We do want to say that most medical doctors recoil at the idea of competing in popularity contests – and especially unscientific popularity contests such as Best of Athens. Part of this may relate to the fact that, increasingly, major health-care outfits are tying doctor pay and advancement to popularity, as measured in patient surveys. If you ask us, and nobody did, this is a bad trend, since, of course, a popular doctor isn’t any more likely to be an effective doctor than a popular teacher will be an effective teacher. Where’s “The Good Doctor” when you need him?!
Off the soapbox...
Best Community Volunteer
It should come as no surprise that Shelley Lieberman of Friendly Paws Pet Supplies & Grooming on East State Street takes the first place crown again for Best Community Volunteer. She’s won the last six years in a row according to our records, and potentially some years before that as well.
Evidently, Lieberman is well deserving of the title. She promotes through her store an array of events held by Friends of the Shelter Dogs (this year’s “Best Non-Profit to Volunteer For”) and DART (the Disaster Animal Response Team). She also holds events at the store throughout the year to benefit Friends of the Shelter Dogs and a program to neuter/spay feral cats, which is critical since there’s currently no publicly owned shelter for stray cats in Athens County.
As if that’s not enough, Lieberman is also founder of My Sister’s Paws, a pet-care program connected to My Sister’s Place, the local shelter for survivors of domestic violence.
Coming in second for the volunteer category this year is longtime Athens resident Anne Cornwell – just 18 votes behind Lieberman – who also has worked with Friends of the Shelter Dogs for years. In third place is Ohio University social-work instructor Kerri Shaw, who founded the Peanut Butter and Jelly Project summer food program for local youth.
Fourth and fifth place in this category go to Barb Harrison and Judy Harmon, respectively.
Best Real Estate Agent
Longtime local real-estate agent Larry Conrath, with Grueser Realty, wins first place in our new “best real-estate agent” category this year. Athens native Conrath formerly owned his own longstanding Athens County agency.
Ally Rapp Lee of the Athens Real Estate Company takes home second place this year. She’s also an Athens County native.
Meanwhile, Carol Grueser, owner and agent with Grueser Realty, wins third place this year. Russell Chamberlain, broker/owner of the Athens Real Estate Company, and Sean Keiffer, realtor with Ohio Realty, win fourth and fifth place, respectively.