Best of Athens 2017

Here are the 2017 results for The Athens NEWS' Best of Athens reader survey in the people category.

Best Local Media Person

Robin Barnes

Oh, the humanity. For the first time ever, an Athens NEWS newsroom staffer did not win Best Local Media Person in the Best of Athens Readers’ Choice Awards. Rather, Robin Barnes, on-air host/announcer at WOUB, won top honors in this category.

While we are sad and despondent here in The Athens NEWS newsroom (actually that’s the status quo since Nov. 8), we are endeavoring mightily to avoid taking a “sour grapes” attitude. We think Robin deserves this great honor, and advise her to wear her crown lightly this year before we storm back into contention in the 2018 Best of Athens awards.

Second place in this category is the winner over the past few years, Athens NEWS Editor Terry Smith. We tried to get a comment from Smith but he’s sulking in the supply closet.

WOUB announcer Chris Riddle takes third place in this category, with fourth and fifth going to Athens NEWS staffers David DeWitt and Conor Morris, respectively.

Best Local Entrepreneur

Art Oestrike

Art Oestrike, owner of Jackie O’s and the winner of our Best Local Business Owner category this year (and last year), topped our Best Local Entrepreneur category again this year as well. These are slightly different categories, in that one can be a business owner without being an entrepreneur (right?). But whatever the case, Oestrike, the veritable King of Beer in Athens County, strikes our readers as a canny businessman and entrepreneur.

And his success has cleared the road for a variety of other alcohol-based entrepreneurs – beer, wine, mead, vodka, etc. – to launch businesses in Athens County.

Second place for Best Local Entrepreneur goes to local developer and businessman Brent Hayes, with third place going to Shelley Lieberman, owner of the Friendly Paws pet supply store on East State Street in Athens.

Fourth and fifth place, respectively, are Avalanche Pizza’s John Gutekanst and Devil’s Kettle Brewing’s Cameron Fuller.

Best Local Business Owner

Art Oestrike

Art Oestrike is a respected figure in Ohio’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Just look at all of those dang beer awards his brewery has garnered since he opening Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery in the early 2000s. Now he’s owner or co-owner of the various Jackie O’s brands/bars (Public House, Brew Pub, Taproom) and Bagel Street Deli. So it’s easy to see why he won this category this year. He’s won first-place in this category for at least last two years in a row.

He also won “Best Local Entrepreneur” this year, so expect to see his name a few other times in these award listings.

Second place this year goes to Shelley Lieberman, owner of Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming on East State Street, who also won second place last year (she’s another name you’re going to see quite a bit in these awards). Third place goes to David Cornwell, who is a local property owner and operator of at least two local bars (the J-Bar and Courtside Pizza). Cornwell is followed by Donkey Coffee owner Chris Pyle in fourth place, Avalanche Pizza owner John Gutekanst in fifth, and Jonathan Bernard of Ohio Valley Running Company in sixth.

Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far Away

Pat Kelly

Former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly wins this dubious category this year, and needless to say, he’s ALREADY far away, safely, albeit unhappily, ensconced in the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio. Our former sheriff got sent “up the river” for various corruption-related charges in early 2015. We do appreciate Kelly kindly taking on the weight of this negative category, saving various local politicians the ignominy of “winning.”

Except that they still get the ignominy of placing second, third, fourth and fifth (respectively, state Rep. Jay Edwards, county Prosecutor Keller Blackburn [last year’s “winner”], county Auditor Jill Thompson and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.

Best Local Rabble-Rouser

Keller Blackburn

The folks over at Merrian-Webster define “rabble-rouser” as “one that stirs up the masses of the people.” One can easily imagine how this is so. Rabble being “ a disorderly crowd; a mob,” an exciter of such crowds could be described as a “rabble-rouser.”

Apparently, the people of Athens County have seen fit to declare that Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn is the foremost rouser of rabble in the area. As far as we can tell, Blackburn hasn’t been delivering any fiery sermons from the Courthouse steps encouraging mass dissent and mob action.

Nevertheless, the wisdom lies with our dear Athens NEWS readers and voters, and our unhallowed hands shall not wish to lay it. Perhaps the “rabble” can be seen as the dregs of society and Blackburn’s “rousing” can be construed as sending them off to the clink.

In second place for rabble-rousery is Andrea Reik, who does most of her work with the Athens County Fracking Action Network. Reik has boundless energy in whipping up vocal opposition to the injection of fracking waste into Athens County ground, and support for protecting local air and water from contamination.

In third place is Jerod Black, who made the news several times this past year as part of the Guardian Aliens group, trying to do the “positive thing” by painting murals around town and taking steps toward beautification.

Honorable mentions go to fourth-place winner Billy Applebee and fifth-place winner Eliot Kalman.

Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far

Sarah Grace

Though she lost her race for state representative, Athens NEWS readers are still hoping Sarah Grace will go far, voting her into first place for Best Local Politician We Hope Will Go Far.

People who live in the city of Athens will have an opportunity to turn that wish into a reality as Grace, a Democrat, has announced she will seek an at-large seat on Athens City Council in 2017. Grace hasn’t yet held public office, but she has made a name for herself on the campaign trail, and that’s a trail onto which she’s already back.

In second place is the man who defeated Grace in her last race, state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville. Edwards has taken his seat in the Ohio General Assembly and has been appointed to multiple committees that should give him ample opportunity to make his mark.

In third place is last year’s winner, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.

Honorable mentions go to fourth-place winner Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith, and taking fifth place, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Best Community Volunteer

Shelley Lieberman

If anybody had a monopoly in Athens on being a nice person who gives her time freely, it would be Shelley Lieberman, of Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming on East State Street.

She won “Best Community Volunteer” this year, last year, the year before, and if we could find records for the years before that in our office clutter, we might just find out that she won those years as well.

Lieberman promotes through her store an array of events held by Friends of the Shelter Dogs 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 important because there’s 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.

Patty Mitchell, a long-time local artist and ray of sunshine in an otherwise gray world, took home second place in this category this year. She’s known locally as one of the founders of Passion Works Studios and is also director of Honey for the Heart, which puts on a parade of giant puppets a few times a year.

Best Law Enforcement Officer

Jimmy Childs

Athens County Sheriff’s Deputy Jimmy Childs boasts a legendary reputation in southeast Ohio. Some might call the tales of Childs’ doings apocryphal. We beg to differ.

In “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” newspaperman Maxwell Scott comes to the realization that the reputation of Senator Ranse Stoddard, played by Jimmy Stewart, is based on legend. But he throws his notes into the fire. “When the legend becomes fact,” Scott explains, “print the legend.”

As the legend goes, Childs took a trip to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve sometime in the late ’80s. Attending the Nakatomi Corporation Christmas Party, Childs was cleaning up when a group of German terrorists launched a heist on Nakatomi Tower, taking everyone as hostages except Childs, who managed to slip away.

Childs was forced to take matters into his own hands, single-handedly defeating the terrorists one-by-one, stealing their detonators, and preventing leader Hans Gruber’s attempt to steal $600 million in bonds from the vaults of the Nakatomi Corp. headquarters.

This is just one of the many tales of Childs’ indefatigable bravery.

OK enough of the legend, and down to the truth, which is plenty impressive itself. Deputy Childs spends much of his time in the local school systems, teaching kids how to stay right with the law. Successive generations of Athens County schoolkids have positive memories of Deputy Childs.

In second place is Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith, a legend in his own right, as is third-place winner Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle. Honorable mention for fourth and fifth place, respectively, are Sheriff’s Deputy John Kulchar and APD officer Destry Flick.

Best DJ/Radio Personality 

DJ Barticus

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.

Second place this year goes to WOUB announcer Robin Barnes (grrrrr…. see “Best Local Media Person” write-up), with third going to DJ Ace. Fourth and fifth, respectively, are Bob Bayette (WXTQ/WATH) and WXTQ station manager/morning host Thom Williams.

Best Local Public Figure


DJ Barticus (Michael Bart)

Nobody spins ’em in this town like Barticus. Also, nobody wears jumpsuits like that guy, either.

Michael Bart, better known by his DJ title DJ Barticus, has become a permanent fixture of the nightlife of uptown Athens, so it makes sense that he took home the number-one spot for Best Local Public Figure this year. Whether it’s ’80s nights at Casa Nueva or ’90s nights at Jackie O’s, Barticus always promises a fun night for those who wanna boogie.

Pat “set ’em free” McGee wins second place in this category this year. He made his mark on Athens City Council last year as its first independent at-large member since at least the early 1980s, although he’s better known to generations of Ohio University students as their representative in court as managing attorney at the Center for Student Legal Services. He also can be found playing the harp in Stroud’s Run on occasion, like some bearded woodland dryad of myth.

Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith barely missed second place by three votes this year, winning third place in this category (he won second place last year). Below Smith we have Athens County Commissioner and local pawpaw meister Chris Chmiel. In fifth place is Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Best Medical Provider (person)


Dr. Sergio Ulloa

If you’re looking for the provision of medical services, you’ve got a win-win situation, an embarrassment of riches, a delightful dilemma, a no-lose decision in Athens, with so many solid doctors from which to chose.

In first place this year, is Dr. Sergio Ulloa, D.O., who specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at Athens Medical Associates.

Hippocrates is often called the Father of Western Medicine. He existed in the Age of Pericles, fifth century (B.C.) Athens, Greece, a time of Athenian political hegemony, economic growth and cultural flourishing.

We like to think of Ulloa as the father of Modern Western Medicine in our own Athens. Perhaps, 2,500 years from now, doctors will be taking the Ulloan oath. Until then, if you tear your Achilles or your ACL, or you’re in desperate need of acromioplasty, we encourage you to get in touch with Dr. Ulloa.

In second place is Holzer Clinic family practitioner Dr. Margaret J. “Peggy” Lionberger. Dr. Lionberger specializes in family practice and primary care, and is primarily a practiced family specialist. She’s the bee’s knees.

In third place is Dr. Lance Broy, also of Holzer, and also in the practice of family medicine and family care.

Honorable mentions go to fourth-place winner Dr. Mary Bister and fifth-place winner Dr. Eduardo Robles.

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