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 Nonday's show: (WJCT's Ryan Benk will be filling in for Melissa)


  • ICARE and the need for Civil Citations in Florida with ICARE’s Nancy Ricker, Pastor Philip Baber and Tessa Duvall of the Times-Union

  • ONECOR924, a new Jacksonville business that serves transitioning collegiate and former professional athletes

  • Cole Pepper on the sports events of the weekend      



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.


Our weekly Media Roundtable included Tessa Duval, reporter for the Florida Times-Union; Tim Gibbons, editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal; Claire Goforth, editor of Folio Weekly, and WJCT reporters Lindsey Kilbride and Ryan Benk. Host Melissa Ross also spoke with humor essayist Dave Barry about his latest book, “Best. State. Ever,” and singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter about her latest album and concert next week at the Florida Theatre. 

Thursday on First Coast Connect we discussed the international refugee crisis. Jacksonville University is hosting a panel discussion on the topic this week. We heard from University of North Florida professor Leslie Kaplan; Travis Trice from World Relief, which assists local refugees; and Amy Stalker, the president of the Jacksonville Chapter of the United Nations Association. Host Melissa Ross also spoke with Dr. Sarah McLaughlin from the Mayo Clinic about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Willis Jones, of the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, told us about its upcoming ArborEATum Wine and Food Fest.  


On Wednesday’s First Coast Connect we discussed the See the Girl Summit being held Thursday and Friday at the Jessie Ball duPont Center with Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center CEO Lawanda Ravoira and Roy Miller, president of the Tallahassee-based Children’s Campaign.

We were also joined by attorneys Kelly Mathis and Mitch Stone.

Host Melissa Ross also welcomed Steffani Fletcher, the executive director of Hope at Hand about their mission that provides art and poetry therapy to at-risk youth. Then Chris Thomas of the Chris Thomas Band joined the show to talk about his new CD and two shows being held this week. 


A lively discussion about the medical marijuana amendment, Amendment 2, was featured on First Coast Connect. We were joined by Susan Pitman of Drug Free Duval. Host Melissa Ross also spoke by phone with author Sady Doyle about her book “Trainwreck,” which takes a look at the sometimes unusual behavior of female celebrities and what it says about our society’s views on women. We also spoke to National MS Society North Florida Chapter President Corrina Madrid and cyclist and multiple sclerosis victim Ellen Kallaher about this Saturday’s MS: PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore bicycling fundraiser at TPC Sawgrass.    

On Monday’s First Coast Connect we discussed the problem of sewage overflows in Jacksonville after Hurricane Matthew. More than 11 million gallons of sewage have been discharged around Duval County, and after Hurricane Hermine, 20 million gallons flowed into Tampa Bay. Host Melissa Ross spoke by phone with Alyson Kenward of Climate Central, an independent organization researching climate change. We also spoke with Bill Mefford, the faith outreach specialist for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, regarding a Monday meeting at the First Coast Freethought Society, and Cole Pepper talked about the Jaguars win over the Chicago Bears plus the weekend’s sports news.   


Our weekly Media Roundtable featured Tonyaa Weathersbee of the Florida Times-Union; blogger Fred Mathews, formerly of the Examiner; A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics; and WJCT business analyst John Burr.

The panel discussed with host Melissa Ross the fallout over JEA’s response to restoring electric service and sewage problems. Brian Pope from the Lubee Bat Conservancy in Gainesville joined us on the phone to talk about next weekend’s Florida Bat Festival and Jacksonville Civic Orchestra president and co-founder Nadine Terk talked about their free concert on Sunday. Principal flutist Julie Badger performed live. 

After a federal judge ordered Florida to extend its voter registration deadline to Oct. 18, we spoke with League of Women Voters- Florida President Pamela Goodman. The LWV was one of the groups that filed a complaint against Governor Rick Scott, who refused to extend the deadline after Hurricane Matthew. Melissa Ross was also joined by Tony Allegretti from the Jacksonville Cultural Council, and Cressman Bronson and Kim Reckley from PNC Bank to discuss Thursday’s local State of the Arts luncheon and the local arts groups that were awarded PNC Arts Alive grants for 2016. Ross also spoke with Drybar founder Alli Webb, who opened her first Jacksonville salon this weekend in Brooklyn. WJCT music director David Luckin joined Ross to talk about Bob Dylan, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. 


Florida 3rd Congressional district candidate Democrat Ken McGurn joined host Melissa Ross to discuss his race against incumbent Republican Ted Yoho. As part of our regular Going Green segment, we spoke with Hastings farmer Danny Johns of Blue Sky Famers, as well as Dr. Shahriar Nabizadeh about organic and traditional farming in honor Wednesday of National Farmers Day.

With October being World Blindness Awareness Month, we spoke with WJCT Morning Edition host and Radio Reading Service manager Michelle Corum and Doug Hansard, the President of the Jacksonville Council of the Blind. We also met award winning animation director H. Lee Peterson, who is in town to speak to students at the University of North Florida. He was joined by local filmmaker Jerry Smith of PineRidge Film and Television.  

University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus joined host Melissa Ross Tuesday to talk about the latest Sunshine State Survey asking Floridians what their greatest concerns as the presidential election looms. With the cleanup from Hurricane Matthew continuing on the First Coast, we spoke with Vicky Zelen, president of Zelen Risk Solutions insurance agency, about what you need to do to make a flood insurance claim.

First Coast Connect Book Club blogger Stacey Goldring spoke about some Halloween themed favorites, and we spoke with David Williams from the Mike Williams Foundation, Dr. Ismael Maomou from Guinea, Dr. Abba Hydara from Gambia and Bill Sorenson from the Rotary Club of Jacksonville about the annual Mike Williams Visionary Scholars program. 

Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti joined the show Monday with an update on schools being closed due to Hurricane Matthew and how the district handled the cleanup effort. We also spoke with Girls Inc. executive director Robin Rose about Tuesday’s International Day of the Girl. Jax Community of Entrepreneurs Executive Director Kate Stewart; Jennifer Giltrop with the Jacksonville Public Library; and Coretta Hill with United Way of Northeast Florida joined host Melissa Ross to speak about Jax Innovation Week.   

Amendment 1 on Florida’s November ballot has garnered emotional debate on both sides. To discuss the issue by phone Wednesday, Screven Watson, board member of Consumers for Smart Solar, supports the amendment and Stephen Smith from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy opposes it. We also spoke with Richard Naylor, external relations manager; Robin Tanya Watson, executive director; and recent graduate Asia Howard about the Year Up Jacksonville program. Host Melissa Ross also spoke with physical therapist Laura Bunso Bittencourt about the use of physical therapy instead of medication to ease pain and Rev. William Francis about getting more local faith leaders to use their positions to help the high number of African Americans in Jacksonville who are HIV positive.  


Ahead of Tuesday night’s vice presidential candidate debate, we were joined by Gerald Laurain, chief investment officer of First Tennessee Bank Advisors Inc. He is in Jacksonville to discuss what impact the November election might have on the economy. Dr. Elizabeth Johnson from the Mayo Clinic and Tom VanOsdol from St. Vincent’s HealthCare spoke about their joint venture, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. Junior Achievement’s Sabrina Kinslow and local student Deyona Burton talked about the organization’s upcoming annual “Smart Women Make Change” luncheon and we met David Richman who is biking from Los Angeles to New York City to raise money for cancer research.   

A conference next week in Jacksonville brings together members of the life science industry. First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross spoke with RS&H vice president Jonathan Cantor, who is also the chair of the BioFlorida conference. To commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month we heard from Betty Griffin Center development director Malinda Everson. WJCT’s annual TEACH conference is Saturday at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Jacksonville. We spoke with honorary TEACH chair Dr. Susan Syverudif about the conference and how it can benefit local educators. Cole Pepper joined us to discuss the sports news of the weekend including the Jaguars win over the Colts London.

Our Media Roundtable of Dan Scanlan from the Florida Times-Union; Fred Mathews of the Examiner; Tim Gibbons of Jacksonville Business Journal; and A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics joined guest host Ryan Benk to talk about State Rep. Reggie Fullwood, who pled guilty to mail fraud. Benk also spoke with Michael Fisher and Pastor Steve Goyer from Riverside Presbyterian Church about Sunday’s screening of the documentary “Father Joseph” at SunRay Theatre. Linda Boucard, a close associate of Father Joseph Philippe joined us by phone from Washington D.C. We also spoke with Hospice of the Golden Isles vice president of development Mary Crosby about next weekend’s St. Simons Island Food and Spirits Festival that raises funds for the hospice.    

It’s Banned Books Week across the country. On Thursday’s First Coast Connect, host Melissa Ross spoke with our Book Club blogger Stacey Goldring, Jacksonville University professor Courtney Barclay and Jacksonville librarian Lisa Taylor about some the events being held to commemorate the week. We also heard from bestselling author and columnist Dave Barry about his latest book about life in Florida: “Best. State. Ever.” HandsOn Jacksonville CEO LeAnn Daddario joined the show to talk about The Human Race 5K fundraiser Saturday and HGTV’s Matt Blashaw phoned in to talk about his appearance this weekend at the Jacksonville Home + Patio Show.