Named for iconic Marathon families and residents, the Best of Marathon Community Awards began in 2008 and are gestures of gratitude for those who inspire us to do better by our fellow man. They are now a fitting tribute to the Rotary Club’s mission to “unite dedicated people to exchange ideas, build relationships and take action.”
The Marathon Rotary Club’s presence can be felt at the new Rotary Children’s Park, at the 4th of July celebration on Sombrero Beach and other community activities. Its membership consists of business leaders, elected officials, executives and essential and high-ranking personnel in the public and private sectors. The club meets at the Florida Keys Country Club every Wednesday for lunch. Contact a member to learn more or find the club on Facebook.
Photos by DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly
STANLEY SWITLIK PHILANTHROPIST OF THE YEAR: KEITH DOUGLASS
The Stanley Switlik Philanthropist of the Year honors compassionate individuals who support community service organizations without fail or accolades. This year, the former county commissioner and Rotarian we’ve chosen to honor has pushed the boundaries of service beyond Marathon, and beyond even the United States, helming the Rotary Club of Marathon’s efforts to support war-torn areas in Ukraine throughout the last year. Most recently, he spearheaded a visit from the past president of the Rotary Club of Lviv, who delivered a powerful presentation to Marathon’s club of the realities of daily life in a city still under siege. He gives without thought of reward and is always a source of positivity and boundless energy, and so we are thrilled to announce that Keith is the 2023 Stanley Switlik Philanthropist of the Year.
ROBIN TANNER PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD: WILLIE GUERRA
The Robin Tanner Public Service Award is given to a public servant who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty. This year’s winner is a friend to locals, but the worst nightmare for people who come down to violate the Keys’ precious resources. In addition to seeing his name attached to what seems like every single resource violation press release sent out by MCSO, he organizes a drive for children’s bicycles every year. This year’s Robin Tanner Public Service Award goes to Willie Guerra.
Note: At the request of 2023 Best Local Celebrity Rachel Bowman, we got in touch with King Neptune and hooked Willie up with a trident – to take with him on his patrols, “just in case.”
PHIL SADOWSKI COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AWARD: JOSH MOTHNER
This year’s Phil Sadowski Community Development Award winner has been on the front lines of the affordable housing landscape in Marathon for as long as most of us can remember. In addition to overseeing qualifications for the city’s First Time Home Buyer program, our winner’s commitment to addressing workforce housing in Marathon recently saw him named as Marathon’s official Housing Coordinator. He was instrumental in the acquisition of the property on which Habitat for Humanity’s Bell Haven was built this year, providing homes for hardworking Marathon families. He could have sold this property, and others, to different buyers, but he approached Habitat first because of his genuine dedication to affordable housing in this city. The 2023 Phil Sadowski Community Development Award goes to Josh Mothner.
MOST COMMUNITY-MINDED BUSINESS: DRIFTWOOD PIZZA, PASTA & SUBS
As its name implies, the Community-Minded Business Award is given to a business that has proven its dedication to the local community here in Marathon. These days, it feels like it’s impossible to attend a community event that doesn’t have some kind of donation from our 2023 winner, whether it’s delicious food or a sponsorship. This business has its names on banners, kids’ soccer jerseys, and countless thank-you ads for good reason, and its main Marathon shop has provided jobs to countless high school students over the years – with many more to come after the opening of its Express location in Big Pine. We’re honored to present the 2023 Most Community-Minded Business Award to Tony Piscetello and the team at Driftwood Pizza, Pasta & Subs.
HENRY FLAGLER SETTLER AWARD: MEL MONTAGNE
The Henry Flagler Settler Award is presented to a resident whose vision and determination have made Marathon, and the Keys, a better place to live. Our 2023 winner is the Keys’ insurance watchdog, fighting tirelessly for insurance rates that adequately reflect our county’s risks and building codes as the board president of FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe). In a move that most believe was directly impacted by FIRM’s advocacy, state regulators this year shot down a proposed 12% rate increase by Citizens Property Insurance Inc. for primary residences, sending the company back to the drawing board with an order to calculate new, reduced rate increases. It’s our privilege to present the 2023 Henry Flagler Settler Award to Mel Montagne.
DANIELS FAMILY BEAUTIFICATION AWARD: MARATHON GARBAGE SERVICE
The Daniels Family Beautification Award honors a company that has made one of the greatest aesthetic impacts in Marathon. Believe us when we say that none of us want to think about what this town might look like without our 2023 winner. For more than 50 years, they have kept trash off our streets as a family-owned business. City Manager George Garrett describes them as responsive and always willing to help with projects, programs and events at the drop of a hat. Even with vacation rentals that challenge their staff, they show a steady commitment to keeping Marathon clean, and they consistently donate their equipment to worthy cleanups and causes. The Daniels Family Beautification Award goes to Marathon Garbage Service.
KAY GRADICK WOMAN OF THE YEAR: ROBYN STILL
The Kay Gradick Woman of the Year Award goes to a woman who has immersed herself in the Marathon community, and the Keys community as a whole, in every possible way, particularly over the last two years. She is the board president for the Marathon Chamber of Commerce and is a Take Stock in Children mentor, a Rotarian, and most recently joined the Middle Keys advisory council for the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys. But most probably know her as she operates one of Marathon’s finest small businesses with her husband Chris at the Tackle Box, and of course, as the vice mayor of the City of Marathon. We’re honored to present the Kay Gradick Woman of the Year Award to Robyn Still.
MIKE PUTO MAN OF THE YEAR: RANDY MEARNS
The 2023 Mike Puto Man of the Year award goes to a gentleman who was instrumental in Marathon’s incorporation, as he was one of those tasked with proving to the state that Marathon could maintain all of the services provided by Monroe County without raising taxes in 1999. He was one of Marathon’s first councilmen and has served twice as the city’s mayor. He is a former chief of the volunteer Marathon Fire Department. But what Marathon can thank him for every single year, even now, is spearheading the best small-town Fourth of July fireworks display in the country, making the Middle Keys a prime destination to celebrate America’s independence. The 2023 Mike Puto Man of the Year award goes to Randy Mearns.