Melissa Ross

Host/Producer, "First Coast Connect"

"First Coast Connect" host/producer Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting. 

As executive producer of "The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State," Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the documentary category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. "The 904" examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital.

WJCT’s "First Coast Connect" has received multiple national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. for best call-in program.

Prior to joining WJCT, Melissa spent three years in the corporate communications field at Jacksonville’s Dalton Agency. During her stint at Dalton, she was cast in the HBO film "Recount" playing — what else? — a reporter!

Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Communications. She also writes for the Florida Politics blog. 

Ways to Connect

Flikr / Creative Commons

Democratic Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown joined the owner of an Avondale restaurant Friday to voice support for increasing the minimum wage.

Ian Chase owns Fox Restaurant. Chase and Brown told reporters they support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, saying it would lead to thousands of new jobs in Florida.

Agnes Lopez

He’s a playwright, poet and nationally renowned public radio host. And Jacksonville’s own Al Letson is also a Peabody Award winner.

Letson’s acclaimed program "State of the Re:Union" won a George Foster Peabody award for its 2014 season.

It is the highest accolade offered in the broadcasting business. Letson joins such luminaries as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Katie Couric and Julia Child at the very pinnacle of the industry.

Sadly, SOTRU is sunsetting due to challenges involved with fundraising.

Holger Motzkau / Wikimedia Commons

St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration this fall may include a visit from Felipe IV and Letizia, the King and Queen of Spain. Not only that, the organizers are seeking a papal designation for the event.

http://www.unf.edu/universitycenter/

Free speech is the linchpin of a free society and one of America’s most deeply held values. That's the premise behind a special event on the UNF campus.

The panel discussion will look at the origins and function of the First Amendment, guaranteeing Americans the right to free speech and free expression.

"These issues are timely," said David Schwam-Baird, professor of political science at UNF. Schwam-Baird and Earl Coggins, president of the First Coast Free Thought Society, appeared on First Coast Connect.

Mayor Alvin Brown / Facebook

A bipartisan gathering of female supporters endorsed incumbent Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown for re-election Thursday.

The group included former WNBA President and Generation W founder Donna Orender and Brown's former Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling.

Brown thanked the women for their support.

One Spark / Facebook

This week marks the third year in a row thousands of people are coming to downtown Jacksonville for the city’s One Spark festival.

The massive crowdfunding event is keeping the city in the spotlight beyond the First Coast.

Jacksonville’s third annual One Spark crowdfunding festival is more than just a hub for innovators seeking money for their projects.

It’s also a major branding opportunity for the city.

WJCT analyst John Burr says the festival founders need to capitalize on the event’s success and keep thinking big.

The Wave

Jacksonville University celebrates its "Charter Day" every April 16, the anniversary of its founding some 80 years ago.

This year, the school is looking outside its campus boundaries with a unique day of service for its surrounding community, Arlington.

President Tim Cost says the "Charter Day of Service" will focus on a range of community development initiatives across Arlington.

Patrick Donges / WJCT

He drew 17 percent of the vote in Jacksonville's First Election.

After coming in third, outgoing City Councilman Bill Bishop says he learned a lot — lessons he'll put to use in another campaign for mayor in 2019.

"There's a world of difference between running for City Council and running for mayor. And you don't really get that until you're in it," Bishop said during an appearance on 'First Coast Connect.' "We should have started much earlier in terms of building financial and infrastructure support. We won't make that mistake next time."

www.mikewilliamsforsheriff.com

Calling himself the most experienced candidate in the race, Republican Mike Williams says the JSO "needs to do more" to reach out to communities in Jacksonville who don't trust or cooperate with the police.

Ken Jefferson for Sheriff

Taking a veiled swipe at the current Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer leadership, Ken Jefferson says that if he's elected sheriff he won't "govern from behind the desk."

"I want to re-introduce the Police Department back to the community," said Jefferson, the Democratic candidate in the race to replace outgoing Sheriff John Rutherford.  

"What I'm finding out from my walks and talks all over the city is that people basically see 'drive-by cops.' There's no interaction."

www.weswhite.com

The man hoping to unseat Jacksonville-based State Attorney Angela Corey says he's doing it to restore public confidence in the leadership of Florida's Fourth Circuit.

"Prosecutors have to work in the court of public opinion as well as the courtroom," says challenger Wes White.

Cultural Fusion

Several Jacksonville organizations are celebrating the St. Johns River through art.

The "Year of the River" is an ongoing initiative, and many arts and culture groups — including WJCT — are taking part.

Cultural Fusion is celebrating the St. Johns River all throughout 2015 as the "cultural current of our city" with an entire year of programming by more than 50 cultural and environmental institutions.

In an interview on "First Coast Connect," Hope McMath, director of the Cummer Museum, discussed some of the museums contributions to the project.

FSCJ / Facebook

He was a college football star at the University of Nebraska.

Then Jason Peter went on to become an NFL first-round draft pick, playing defensive end for the Carolina Panthers for four seasons.

Peter was also an addict, though, and it all started with painkillers to treat injuries he suffered on the field.

"I remember the first time I was given some pills, maybe four or six of them," he said on First Coast Connect. "And I liked the way they made me feel."

Mayor Alvin Brown / Facebook

Facing strong challenges in the March 24 unitary election this week, incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown says he's confident— and that he's fulfilled the campaign promises from four years ago that made him a come-from-behind winner in Jacksonville's 2011 mayoral race.

"I made a promise that I would streamline government, that we would live within our means, put Jacksonville back to work, and close the education gap," said Brown, appearing on First Coast Connect.

"I think the key is keeping your promise."

Early voting is underway in Duval County for the Mar. 24 citywide unitary election, and although voters are concerned about issues affecting Jacksonville, many voters are still unfamiliar with the candidates running for office.

A new poll from UNF’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory shows that crime tops the list of concerns among likely voters in Duval County.

Following that voters care about education and the local economy.

The poll also shows strong voter support for expanding Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance.

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