Jennie McKeon

Digital Content Producer/Reporter

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.

After graduating from University of West Florida in 2009 with a B.A. in Communication Arts/Journalism, she worked for print publications across Northwest Florida including InWeekly, The Destin Log and Northwest Florida Daily News. In 2016, she was named Features Writer of the Year by Gatehouse Media.

Born in Pennsylvania, she admits to being a "Yankee who drinks sweet tea." She dislikes cold weather and is happy to trade a white Christmas for 75-degree weather anytime.

Jennie is a proud volunteer of Gulf Coast Kid's House and Save our Kittens and Cats (SOCKS) in Fort Walton Beach. When she's not reading or listening to podcasts, she enjoys photography, 80s movies, re-watching "The Office" and looking at pictures of your cats.  

Ways to Connect

South Santa Rosa County is facing a “workforce crisis” according to several business owners with restaurants understaffed and peak tourist season under way. 

Thursday morning, the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a roundtable discussion with CareerSource EscaRosa to help identify problems and come up with some solutions.

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

School resource Officers Jerry Hooks and Eddie Duran have spent the last few years patrolling the hallways of Choctawhatchee High School. But their work goes beyond being the eyes and ears of the school. They're also the masterminds behind the Choctaw Clothing Closet, a free resource for students that offers gently-used clothes and shoes. 

The program has expanded to every school in the Okaloosa County School District. 

It all started two years ago when Deputies Hooks and Duran noticed some students weren’t wearing weather-appropriate clothes. 

Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center

Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday morning to remove the mask mandate at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on Okaloosa Island starting May 15. 

Safety practices such as social distancing and limiting capacity to 75% will remain in effect. 

The non-agenda item was brought to the board Tuesday morning by Chairwoman Carolyn Ketchel, a strong proponent for masks last summer as the county and the state were experiencing a surge of COVID cases. 

At the meeting, Ketchel said it should be up to individuals whether to mask up.  

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Former Matt Gaetz staff member Nathan Nelson addressed the investigation surrounding the Panhandle congressman outside his Santa Rosa Beach home Monday morning. 

“Last Wednesday afternoon, two FBI members came to my house unannounced to question me about allegations surrounding Congressman Gaetz,” said retired Air Force Capt. Nelson, addressing media in the driveway of his Santa Rosa Beach home. 

Florida Memory

A new nonprofit aims to preserve Northwest Florida’s maritime heritage and natural landscape while also working toward designating much of the western Florida panhandle as a National Heritage Area (NHA). 

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Destin High School is no longer a community wish. It’s real. 

Around 300 people gathered at the site of the future Destin High School Wednesday evening for an official groundbreaking. With iffy weather, the groundbreaking was moved inside the former Grace Lutheran Church. 

A small pile of clay was placed on the altar of the church — the future assembly space for the school — for the official photo op with golden shovels. 

Florida Immigrant Coalition

Until she came to the United States in 2010, all Basma Alawee had known was her life in Iraq. She had her family, her friends and her career in engineering. Once her husband started working with American troops, they became a target. They were granted a special immigration visa and started a new life in Jacksonville, Florida. 

“Most of the time refugees leave home taking nothing with them, they cannot even take their documents, and sometimes in many cases, like me, couldn’t even have time to say goodbye to loved ones,” she said. 

Pexels Stock Photo

Tuesday’s Municipal Elections in Okaloosa County resulted in a new charter amendment for Destin and one new face to the Fort Walton Beach City Council. 

When Chester Pruitt was hired as the first Black officer for the Fort Walton Beach Police Department in 1948, he broke barriers in the city and set a precedent for the Black community.

But much of his 15 years in service reflected the segregated times of the Jim Crow era. 

Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis gave a round-up of accomplishments from last year and set future goals with the State of the City Tuesday evening.

“2020 has certainly been a challenging year,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the strong leadership and resiliency of our staff to work hard during difficult times.”

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Standing next to the bust of Martin Luther King Jr., local activist and organizer Jamil Davis warned a crowd of protestors that the proposed “anti-riot” state bill would affect gatherings such as the one he planned for Saturday afternoon. 

“This bill is an infringement on our first amendment right,” he said. “This bill causes for black and brown organizers to have to rethink and possibly fear coming here to do these demonstrations.”

“But today, this bill is not a law.” 

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Meda

It’s likely you didn’t hear the words “contact tracing” much before the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s a common tool of defense when it comes to infectious diseases. 

Courtesy photo

Bonnie McLean takes good care of herself. She has a list of vitamins she takes; she drinks a protein shake every morning; and stays active. When she started to feel ill in mid-July, she didn’t immediately link her illness to COVID.

“It took me a week to realize how ill I was,” she said. “I woke up one morning and was tired and I thought maybe I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and I was so tired I didn’t want to do anything but I forced myself to get up and get on with my day.”

She thought she had a stomach flu. She had no respiratory issues, fever or cough. 

City of Fort Walton Beach

There are three open seats on the Fort Walton Beach City Council, and twelve candidates vying for votes in the March 9 municipal election.

Tuesday evening, they all got a chance to speak at a moderated forum hosted by the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Current council members Nic Allegretto and David Schmidt are running for re-election alongside 10 new faces: Gloria DeBerry, Jason Floyd, Sean Murphy, Debra Riley, Brad Roehrig, Michael Rojas, Travis Smith, Gareth Stearns, Sonya Vazquez, and Payne Walker.

Santa Rosa County

Recycling in Santa Rosa County has been a complicated issue for almost two years. Now, with a new subscription-based recycling program, the county’s environmental supervisor, Andrew Hill, says he’s optimistic this approach will lead to better recycling habits.