First Coast Connect

Weekdays 9 a.m. Rebroadcast 8 p.m.

Hosted by Melissa Ross, First Coast Connect is an hour-long call-in program that features local newsmakers, civic and community leaders, artists and people planning a variety of events across Northeast Florida, along with a weekly roundtable of local journalists.

First Coast Connect is sponsored in part by Baptist Health and North Florida TPO.

Will Dickey / The Florida Times-Union

Thursday on First Coast Connect we spoke with Florida Times-Union reporter Ben Conarck about his investigation into how visitors to Baker Correctional Institution are treated (01:02).

Ahead of his appearance in Jacksonville next week we heard from legendary Disney and Pixar animator Floyd Norman (27:46).

With World Glaucoma Week just ending we heard about some new treatments for sufferers with Florida Eye Specialists Dr. Kathryn Friedl and patient Carol Matthews (38:30).

Ahead of this weekend’s A Brush With Nature event at the Jacksonville Arboretum we spoke with painter Randy Pitts and Board Chair Patty Miller.

Kerry Speckman told us what’s coming up this weekend and next week in the world of entertainment.  (46:00)    

Wednesday on First Coast Connect we spoke with FSCJ political science professor Daniel Cronrath who will be heading to Washington on Saturday to participate in the March For Our Lives event (01:08).

The latest edition of #RealTalk hosted by WJCT contributor Charles Griggs featured free-lance journalist Christin Jordan, former The Chat TV show host Henny Stewart and UNF Sociology Professor Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder (27:54)

We heard about the Old Town Art Show taking place this weekend in St. Augustine with Show Director Lynn Wettach (46:00). 

Tuesday on First Coast Connect we spoke with former CSX CEO Michael Ward who is co-chair of a Jacksonville Civic Council committee looking into the possible sale of JEA (01:06).

Renay Daigle from Daigle Creative and Delores Barr Weaver told us about the Connectable Campaign (32:03).

John November, Executive Director and General Counsel for The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida, talked about Tuesday’s Jacksonville Tree Symposium (46:00).

Monday on First Coast Connect with guest host Jessica Palombo we heard about the upcoming inaugural Duval County Trump Club meeting. Club President Jim Davis and Duval County GOP Chair Karyn Morton (01:20) joined us.

We heard about the local company, Medic, that features vending machines for pharmacy products with cofounder Garlene Atcherson (28:40).

Keith Marks, a local artist and the founder of Avant Music, told us about two upcoming events he is involved in (38:40).

Sports analysts Cole Pepper talked about a wild weekend of March Madness and Jaguars free agency (46:00).  

Friday on First Coast Connect our weekly Media Roundtable featured guest host Ryan Benk and featured Florida Times-Union reporter Tessa Duval, WJCT Business Analyst John Burr, Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski and Beaches Leader columnist Jon McGowan.  

Media Roundtable

Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT

Wednesday on First Coast Connect we spoke with State Representative and Republican candidate for Attorney General Jay Fant (01:24).

UNF assistant professor of biology Dr. Mike Aspinwall told us about a recent study he participated in to examine how large trees in Australia are affected by climate change (33:08).

Researcher Dr. Jeremy Valdo told us the story of Rob the shark who was tagged by scientists and was recently tracked off the shore of Jacksonville (46:00).

Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU

Tuesday on First Coast Connect, ahead of Wednesday’s expected walkout by students around the country, we spoke with parent Patrick O’Donoghue and students Mia Cleary of Ponte Vedra High, Ajay Sasha of Nease High and Monique Sampson from UNF Students for a Democratic Society (01:06).  

We heard about an upcoming symposium on autism at the University of North Florida with doctors Celine Saulnier and Nathan Call along with parent Jackie Bargas and her autistic son St. John (31:19).

Moveable Feast featured international hospitality consultant Sandi Galloway (39:02).

First Coast Connect Book Club blogger Stacey Goldring featured the book Little Fires Everywhere (46:00).    

Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT

Monday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with Duval County School Board Chair Paula Wright about several issues affecting the district (01:12).   

New York Times bestselling author of the Mitford novels joined us along with Dean Kate Moorehead of St. Johns Cathedral about the author’s talk this Saturday at the church (29:44).

We heard about SCORE, or Service Corps of Retired Executives, and their upcoming workshop with volunteer Derrick Smith and workshop coordinator Craig Linsky (37:50).

WJCT sports analyst Cole Pepper joined us to talk about March Madness and the Gate River Run (46:00).     

Friday on First Coast Connect, our weekly Media Roundtable featured Folio Weekly Editor Claire Goforth, Financial News and Daily Record reporter David Cawton and WJCT contributor Fred Matthews (01:09).

We spoke with Albert Syles, President of Romanza, on St. Augustine’s history around St. Patrick’s Day and Bolshoi Ballet Academy Director Davis Robertson, who is in town for a show Saturday night (46:00).

International Women's

Thursday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with Rethreaded founder Kristin Keen regarding International Women’s Day (01:06).

Director of the UNF International Business Program Andres Gallo and Janice Donaldson from UNF’s Small Business Center told us about next week’s Value Creation in the Global Economy conference on Jacksonville’s logistics market (24:19).

Melissa spoke with local MasterChef Junior finalist Camson Alvey and ahead of next week’s Root Ball to raise funds for Greenscape of Jacksonville we were joined by Executive Director Anna Dooley and ball committee member Robin Patton along with musicians Brendan Doherty and Philip Pan, who will perform there (46:00).

UF Health Jacksonville

Wednesday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with UF Health Jacksonville CEO Dr. Leon Haley on the troubles in Tallahassee of getting the legislature to agree on Medicaid funding and approving a budget  UPDATE - a budget was agreed upon Wednesday afternoon. There will now be a three-day “cooling off” period before the vote by the legislature (01:12).

Ahead of the City Rescue Mission’s Annual Difference Makers Banquet we spoke with Executive Director Penny Kievet and FCS Ministries Founder and Toxic Charity author Robert Lupton who’ll be speaking at the banquet (25:45).  

MOCA Jacksonville’s Caitlin Doherty and artist Anila Quayyum Agha joined the show to talk about Anila’s Project Atrium exhibit, The Greys In-Between (35:30).

Duval County Public Schools Arts Director Jeff Smith and members of the district’s Arts Advisory Council - Erin Kendrick and Shawn Pfaffman - told us about March being Arts in Our Schools Month for DCPS (46:00).  


Tuesday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with Reverend Gregg Kaufman who is a member of the National Issues Forum Institute on a recent study looking at how to reduce crime (01:15).  

We heard about a new Nonpartisan Political Campaign Seminar with Leadership Jacksonville CEO Jill Langford Dame (30:57).

Mayo Clinic doctors Pashtoon Kasi and Douglas Riegert-Johnson talked about March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month (37:08).

Relevnt founder and CEO Winder Hughes told us about his new app, which includes a locally focused section known as #904NOW (46:00).       

Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT

Monday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with local attorney Mike Freed about the city of Jacksonville filing a lawsuit against major drug manufacturers over the opioid crisis (01:06).

We were joined by Board President Chris Schwing to discuss this year’s Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum (29:21).

Players by the Sea creative Marketing Manager Bradley Akers and Director Kris Jackson talked about their New Voices program (46:00).    

Friday on First Coast Connect, our weekly Media Roundtable featured Florida Times-Union reporter Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville Business Journal editor Timothy Gibbons, WJCT business analyst John Burr and WJCT reporter Lindsey Kilbride (01:15).  

We spoke with Julie Watkins, Executive Director of The Girls Gone Green about Saturday’s annual Northeast Florida Veg Fest (38:57).

Trading Spaces star Brett Taylor joined us to talk about the return of the show and his appearance this weekend at the Jacksonville Home and Patio Show (46:00).  

Ryan Johnson / NPR

Thursday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with Dr. Madeline Joseph, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at UF College of Medicine Jacksonville, who is looking at bullying as a public health issue (01:15).   

This month’s edition of First Coast Success featured Jacksonville University President Tim Cost (26:54).  

Our latest Art Attack roundtable featured (32:26):

  • Lee Hamby of the 5 and Dime Theatre
  • Shawana Brooks with the Jacksonville Public Library
  • Robert Arleigh White, Vice President for Development at Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History
  • Suzanne Hudson Smith, Development Director at the Florida Theatre
  • Ryan Ali, Director of Development for Baptist M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

We heard about Saturday morning’s MOOVE-IT 5K beginning at the Cowford Chophouse with race organizer Nicole White and Jamie Rosseland and Michelle Lasky from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. Kerry Speckman told us about some of the events coming up in March around Jacksonville (46:00).