First Coast Connect

Weekdays 9 a.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.

Coming up on Tuesday's show:



  • A review of Monday’s Presidential Debate with Jax Young Voters Coalition members.  (D) Meredith O’Malley Johnson and (R) Keith Walters will also speak about their upcoming political event “Ballots and Brews” that brings together young voters and political candidates

  • Kelly Mannel and Jan Lipsky from the Society of Emotional Intelligence on their international conference being held in Jacksonville    

  • Marsha Phelts, one of the presenters at the Fernandina Friends of the Library’s Storytelling Slam  “I Was So Embarrassed”        



Join the conversation:

  • Call: (904) 549-2937 (Note: This line is only active during the program, 9:00-10:00 a.m.)

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Learn more about the First Coast Connect Book Club

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

Education coverage is sponsored in part by the Chartrand Foundation.

Legal and political coverage is sponsored in part by Farah & Farah Law Firm.


In the wake of the Wells Fargo scandal, we heard from University of North Florida professor Paul Fadil. He and his colleague Bruce Fortado authored a study several years ago that predicted problems banks might face in the drive to find new customers and revenue . In our latest edition of First Coast Success, Karen Brune Mathis spoke with Daily’s founder Aubrey Edge. Host Melissa Ross talked to Rock Steady Boxing — Amelia Island co-founders Mary Anne Sharer and Guy Petty about their work with Parkinson’s patients and Cole Pepper told us about another Jaguars loss and a sad sports weekend. 

WJCT’s Lindsey Kilbride; Tessa Duval from the Florida Times-Union; Claire Goforth of Folio Weekly; and Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski joined Melissa Ross on our Friday Media Roundtable to discuss the news of the week. Museum of Contemporary Art spokesperson Denise Reagan discussed its latest art exhibit “Retro-spective.” We heard from Olympic skating legend Michelle Kwan regarding her work for the Hillary Clinton campaign and Palestinian musicians the Dal’Ouna Ensemble joined the show ahead of its performance Friday evening at the Ramallah Club of Jacksonville.     

Former Senator and Governor Bob Graham and Chris Hand, former Mayor Alvin Brown’s chief of staff, joined host Melissa Ross to talk about their new book “America, the Owner’s Manual — You CAN Fight City Hall And Win.” We also heard from Teach for America-Jacksonville Executive Director Darryl Willie about 60 new teachers from the program in Duval County. Ross also spoke with Sanctuary on 8th Street’s Executive Director Vicky Watkins and Karin Tucker of Biscotti’s in Avondale about an upcoming fundraiser and 5K for the organization. 


Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts and current Libertarian vice presidential candidate William Weld joined host Melissa Ross to discuss the campaign. The Friends of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas, or GTM Reserve, are hosting its annual “Oceanwise” awareness event Saturday, we heard from Executive Director Ellen Leroy Reed. Monique Burr Foundation executive director Lynn Layton discussed its upcoming Real World Safety Conference. Father Kick Louh and choir director Maria Chrissovergis of St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church spoke about their 100th anniversary in Jacksonville and the church moving to a bigger location on Beach Boulevard. We also heard from Matt Hovde, director of the Second City and Slate collaboration “Unelectable You” coming to the Florida Theatre.  

On First Coast Connect Tuesday we heard the story of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. He jumped a border fence in 1987 as an illegal immigrant speaking no english with no money and eventually became one of the most renowned brain surgeons in the country. He recently joined the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Host Melissa Ross also spoke with local Veterans for Peace coordinator Willie Hager about the controversy over San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is refusing to stand during the national anthem. We also heard from John Lumpkin, the organizer of the Jazz Discovery Series at the Ritz Theatre. On Friday the Ritz will host pre-eminent jazz vocalist Sofia Knezevic.    

The bankruptcy of South Korean shipping giant Hanjin won’t affect the Jacksonville Port Authority but it is raising questions about the future of international shipping on the First Coast. JAXPORT senior director of communication Nancy Rubin and JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot joined host Melissa Ross on Monday to talk about Jacksonville’s role in international trade. We also spoke with local author Tim Gilmore about his latest book “Devil in the Baptist Church: Bob Gray’s Unholy Trinity.” composition titles always in quotes  A TEDx event will be held in October at Florida State College at Jacksonville. We heard from Executive Director Jennifer Grey and TEDx speaker Allishia Bauman.    

Our Media Roundtable Friday featured David Bauerlein from the Florida Times-Union; A.G. Gancarski of Folio Weekly; former Examiner reporter Fred Matthews and Jacksonville Business Journal editor Tim Gibbons. We also heard from Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless CEO Cindy Funkhouser about its upcoming annual “Transformations” event. The Performers Academy’s Director of Development JaMario Stills discussed this weekend’s TPA Fest and longtime Reggae artist, composer and producer Ras Midas stopped by to talk about his new album. 

New Wounded Warrior Project CEO Michael Linnington joined host Melissa Ross to talk about the organization’s new direction. We also heard from Adam Hoyles, vice president of operations for Onsite Environmental Consulting in Jacksonville about protecting the gopher tortoise in Florida, and Jessica Scott told us about this weekend’s Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival.  


The movie “Sully” hit theaters last week. It’s the story of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, also known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” A passenger on the flight, Donald C. Jones, joined host Melissa Ross on Wednesday to talk about his experience and his thoughts about the film. We also heard from Cuban-American immigrant and author Marisella Veiga, and Feeding Northeast Florida food bank CEO Luke Laylow told us about Hunger Action Month and the services they provide.  

Come January, Jacksonville will be represented by two freshmen members of Congress. Jacksonville University political science Professor Emeritus Stephen Baker joined host Melissa Ross to talk about the challenges the area may face by losing so much seniority on Capitol Hill. We heard from Dr. Anthony Magnano, co-director of St. Vincent’s Atrial Fibrillation Institute, about the warning signs of atrial fibrillation and its prevention. Ross also spoke with Dr. Konika Schallen, the founder of the CMA Center for Aesthetic Medicine about the science of beauty. 

A recent study of the health of the St. Johns River was released. Host Melissa Ross spoke with the authors Dr. Gerard Pinto from Jacksonville University and University of North Florida’s Dr. Radha Pyati, along with Jimmy Orth, executive director of the St. John Riverkeeper. We also heard from Jason Mehta with the U.S. Attorney’s office about a recent settlement with Coastal Spine and Pain of Jacksonville over medically unnecessary drug screenings. 
Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Thomas Flipse and heart transplant recipient Elmo Aquino talked about the First Coast Heart Walk, which will be held Saturday at Metropolitan Park. 

Our weekly Media Roundtable discusses the news of the week. Times-Union columnist Mark Woods joined host Melissa Ross along with WJCT’s John Burr and Lindsey Kilbride.

We also heard about this weekend’s Peace Concert memorialising the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and we learned about the documentary “Robert Shaw: Man of Many Voices” being screened Monday night at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.     

Detours and traffic cones sprout every year but what is the economic impact of all that highway construction? Wednesday on First Coast Connect, Melissa Ross spoke with Jeff Sheffield, executive director of the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization; Alan Mosley from Jax Chamber; and Lisa Robert, executive vice president at transportation architectural firm RS&H. As part of our ongoing Community Thread program we heard from Dr. Marcus De Carvalho from Beaches Recovery about the opioid epidemic and the treatments being used for recovering addicts. Comedian and actor Tom Arnold spoke about his upcoming concerts in Jacksonville and we heard about next week’s ‘Girls Days Out’ conference promoting a healthy lifestyle for women. We heard from event chair Dr. Patricia McFall Calhoun from Baptist Health and local dermatologist Kristen Stewart. WJCT is co-sponsor of the event. 

State attorney-elect Melissa Nelson ousted incumbent Angela Corey in a landslide last month. On Monday she joined Melissa Ross to talk about the transition and what we can expect from her office when she takes over in January. We also heard from Dr. Nima Aghaebrahim from Baptist Health about recent progress in the treatment of aneurysms. Jon Heymann, CEO of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, talked about programs available to local youth and the Timucuan Parks Foundation told us about a fundraiser to mark the centennial of the National Parks Service. 

  The federal government’s recent announcement it will phase out the use of private prisons has relaunched the debate over their use in Florida. On First Coast Connect Thursday, host Melissa Ross was joined by columnist and former State Senator Paula Dockery to talk about the issue. Ross also spoke with Jeff Clayton, policy director of the American Bail Coalition about a Georgia Court case that could change the way bail is set across the country. We also heard from Rory Diamond with K9’s for Warriors about its newest campaign to curb veteran suicides and YMCA President Eric Mann about its new facility in Riverside.