Best of Marathon winners announced

Best of Marathon winners announced - A group of people posing for a photo - Weekly Newspapers
Franco D’Ascanio is surrounded by his colleagues from D’Asign Source, voted best business: Destin Barkley, left, Sarah Simcic, and Michelle Sauer.

Businesses, professional named top

About 200 came and went from the Best of Marathon awards on Saturday Night. (Unless you’re from the fire marshal service; then it was far less.) The crowd was young and/or good-looking, hip, super amiable and then downright friendly as the night went on and the levels lowered in the bottles of happy juice; a fantastic night was had by all.

The occasion was, of course, the opportunity to name what makes Marathon, the jewel of the Middle Keys, so outstanding. In all, about 2,829 voted in the contest that names the best of everything — best local celebrity, best cup of coffee, best law firm, and best customer service. (For reference, that’s about the same number of Marathon residents who vote in a general election year; the “Best of Marathon” is serious business.)

Except when it’s not.

Co-hosts Pete Chapman and Jason Weekly, acting jointly on behalf of the Rotary Club and Weekly Newspapers, had the crowd in stitches. The crowd appreciated the faux movie posters, especially the “Magic Mike” poster featuring City Manager Mike Puto, and the constant mentions of Realtor Sam Williams’ unflaggingly enthusiastic ambition to “Sell! Sell! Sell!” And there was that thing about his truck, too; also funny.

But the rest of the evening was half-serious, half-celebratory. One after another, proud citizens and business owners and service professionals approached the podium to claim a prize plaque. Congratulations to all, and come again next year.

Marathon’s leaders recognized with special awards

The Marathon Rotary Club’s biggest announcement last weekend at the Best of Marathon celebration, was its special honorees. Members take time to reflect on the men and women who make this town great, and hand out special awards:

Philanthropist of the Year


Brian Schmitt

If the Middle Keys has a statesman, it is the 2015 winner of the Stanley Switlik Philanthropist of the Year Award. This person has served two terms on the FKCC board and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce; and, as such, always willing to lend his expertise and wisdom to any dilemma. He not only knows Marathon’s history, he cherishes it; whether he’s saving historic buildings or expanding his collection of old photos and maps. Although this man is very successful, he has a kind word for everyone whether it’s a construction worker getting coffee at Circle K or a business rival across the conference table. He also founded and continues to support one of the most important charities in the Florida Keys — The Coldwell Banker Schmitt Charitable Foundation.

Robin Tanner Public Service Award


Mike Puto

This person is a fixer that approaches every problem with a “can do” attitude and is willing to start work early and end late. He knows everyone and is known to all — and everyone is friend. This year’s winner exemplifies all those qualities. He sits, or is previously a member of, almost every charitable organization in the Keys including, but not limited to: Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, Boy Scouts, Friends of Old Seven, United Way, Monroe Marauders, Florida Keys Children’s Shelter and Kay Graddick Foundation.

Woman of the Year Award


Sherry Popham

There are so many women in the Keys that defy description — they are beautiful, smart and tough enough to survive a Florida Keys summer with their good humor intact. This year’s winner is a business and property owner. More importantly, she is a level-headed communicator — capable of conveying her views and neighbor’s views honestly and succinctly to those that need to hear them. She serves, or has served, on the Chamber of Commerce Board, Marathon Economic Development Council and Florida Keys Airport Initiative. She has been a planning commissioner, commodore and chair of the Duck Key Security District Advisory Board. She has also been very involved with Habitat for Humanity and was recently named the vice president of Fishermen’s Hospital Foundation Board.

Man of the Year


Sheriff Rick Ramsay

Past honorees of the Mike Puto Man of the Year Award include Pritham Singh, Daniel Samess and Chris Gratton. This year’s honoree runs one of the largest and most complicated operations in Monroe County. He does it with pride, upholding all the tenets of brotherhood. And he does it with transparency, keeping the public well informed about safety issues. Most of all, he does it with the utmost respect for creating community. Our honoree is always amiable in social settings and yet unflappable during a crisis. He is a confident leader of men and women, and the Keys are lucky to have him.


Community Development Award

Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club

In his day, Phil Sadowski did more than his fair share of work to develop the Middle Keys, as has the 2015 nominee for the Community Development Award. This family-owned business has invested in the Middle Keys since day one and continued to believe in its possibilities, despite the ups and downs and hurricane winds that affect our local economy. Although it has many holdings in the Keys and in Marathon, it lavishes attention and builds solid partnerships so each can flourish. This year the Community Development Award goes to a business that bought, protected, preserved and improved on a Marathon institution so important, it comes with its own lighthouse.

Community-Minded Business

UPS Store

We are fortunate to live in a town that does such a great job of taking care of one another through charitable efforts, volunteerism and donations. This year’s award winner can’t bring themselves to say “no” when the community is in need. And they say “yes” with a smile and good laugh. Not only does it donate its own business services, the operation also serves as a spearhead to organize volunteers, and a physical space for residents to sign up for various duties or display collections that make the whole town proud. The business owners have thrown themselves into athletic and education initiatives, all the while operating a thriving business concern.

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