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East County Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009 11 years ago

10 to Contend in 2010

by: Michael Eng Executive Editor

We here at The Observer Group love lists.

Three years ago, we launched a new special edition called Eight in 2008. In it, we earmarked eight people and eight issues we predicted would be big newsmakers in 2008. Last year, we published Nine to Define, and again, we spotlighted nine folks who would have influence on our community in 2009.

In following that same tradition, we present to you our next version: 10 to Contend in 2010.

This edition has been in the planning stages for several months now, and before the real work began, I was worried we would have trouble finding 10 new people to profile. Comparatively speaking, the East County isn’t a particularly large coverage area for a newspaper, and our leaders don’t typically change with the calendar.

But when I met with my staff to debate this list, we came to the table with more than 20 candidates from all aspects of the community. And even after narrowing that list, our 10 changed following a particularly newsworthy November and December 2009. You could even make the argument that District 5 County Commissioner Donna Hayes, one of our Nine to Define, should again be included after she was voted county commission chairperson Dec. 15.

With such an amazing pool of talent from which to choose, I believe 10 to Contend is by far the most diverse and complete version of this edition we have done. I hope you enjoy learning about these folks and by the end, agree that they are worthy of top-10 status.

And as far as this Observer tradition goes, we may have to alter it for the next year. We’re having a tough time trying to find a relevant rhyme for 11 …

1. Rex Jensen. Does this man really need an introduction? As the president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, consider Jensen the most important person in the East County. He’s the leader behind the company that started it all, and his no-nonsense demeanor and tell-it-like-it-is attitude inspires confidence.

2. Helen Sosso. The president and CEO of Prudential Palms Realty made monsoon-caliber waves in December when her company announced the purchase of Lakewood Ranch Realty. In a time when the market seems as volatile as a brick of C-4, the purchase shows this real estate professional’s belief that there are better days to come in 2010.

3. Dr. Dwight Fitch. It doesn’t take long to pinpoint exactly why Dr. Dwight Fitch is such an amazing oncologist. His demeanor seems molded for a profession that requires equal parts precision and compassion. Working from 21st Century Oncology’s office at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, Fitch is leading some of the country’s most advanced experimental radiation treatments — and Fitch’s patients are benefiting from his expertise.

4. Lori Basilone. Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Director Lori Basilone’s photo should be next to the word “fun” in the dictionary. From Boo Fest and Holidays Around the Ranch to the Easter Eggstravaganza and the Back-to-School Splash Bash, Basilone is the mastermind behind virtually all of the East County community’s events. Chances are if you had fun in Lakewood Ranch, you were at a Basilone event.

5. Jaden Hair. Without a doubt, Jaden Hair is one of the East County’s fieriest residents and most famous chef. With her first cookbook, “The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook,” tearing up the Amazon charts and a blog that attracts more than 500,000 visits each month, it’s no wonder international media such as TLC and The Food Network have Hair on speed dial. It’s simply amazing what Hair has been able to accomplish on her own, and it looks like 2009 was only the beginning.

6. Bob McCann. Although his name isn’t as familiar to most as his opponent, District 67 candidate Dr. Bob McCann deserves your attention. A U.S. Navy veteran, McCann, a River Club resident, holds both medical and law degrees, which he parlayed into his company, McCann Medicine & Law, P.A. His staunch conservative stance calls for smaller government and more personal responsibility.

7. Greg Steube. At just 31 years old, Greg Steube is the youngest candidate vying for the District 67 seat in 2010. But don’t mistake age for experience. Steube, an U.S. Army veteran, enters the race with a background in both law and agriculture as well as experience in the Legislature. He’s already garnered endorsements from many local leaders, including state Rep. Ron Reagan and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

8. Brett Timmons. When Brett Timmons accepted the job of starting The Out-of-Door Academy’s football program, he really didn’t know just how large a task it would be. Most of his players had never seen a live football game, and most of their experience with the sport came from Playstation. Fast-forward four years, and the Thunder were two games away from a state championship in 2009. Could ODA be a future East County powerhouse? We think so.

9. Paul Chetlain. Unlike Jensen, Paul Chetlain isn’t the face or the name of Lakewood Ranch. And chances are, if you ran into him at the grocery store, you’d probably have no idea just how important he is to the community. As maintenance manager for the Inter-District Authority, Chetlain is the man behind all of Lakewood Ranch’s retention ponds and landscaping. He’s the one who keeps them looking pristine and up to the community’s standards.

10. Paul Blackketter. If all goes as planned, Benderson Development Property Manager Paul Blackketter will be the man responsible for helping popularize a new sport in the East County. He’s piloting efforts for a world-class rowing facility off University Parkway, which just secured four rowing regattas for 2010, which should draw more than 25,000 visitors to our community.

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