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

Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections

Election supervisors are looking for young people to step up and work the polls. 

Retired seniors tend to be the general demographic of poll workers, which has been an issue in the middle of the pandemic — especially in Florida where COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

Taylor Kennedy/Courtesy Photo

After 3 1/2 hours of public comments and discussion, Fort Walton Beach City Council made no action on a citywide mask mandate.

Tuesday’s special meeting was called to discuss the city’s stance on masks and face coverings and receive public input. The input was just as divided as the council. 

Schools in Okaloosa County will start Aug. 31 after the county School Board unanimously approved the updated 2020-2021 school year calendar at the board meeting Monday night. 

Schools have been pushed back from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31 to allow teachers and staff to prepare for another school year during the pandemic. 

National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories by WUWF on the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The fatal spill began in April 2010 and oil hit Northwest Florida in June that year. The well was capped three months later.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 was a major environmental and economic disaster for the Gulf Coast. 

And even in areas that were untouched by the oil, there were economic effects as the tourism industry tried to recover from a national recession and housing collapse. 

Homes For Our Troops

Like nearly every nonprofit, the Massachusetts-based Homes for our Troops (HFOT) has faced challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Revenue is down 20 to 25%, said Executive Director Bill Ivey, and social distancing on construction sites has slowed home builds by two to four weeks. But the organization continues to press on building specially adapted homes for the severely injured post-9/11 veterans. 

Okaloosa County Commissioners did not pass a mask mandate, but instead an ordinance mandating businesses to place signage that specifies whether face coverings are required inside. The ordinance goes into effect Aug. 1. 

“I’m sad we didn’t do more,” said Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel. “At least it’s something.” 

Commissioners looked at a possible mandate similar to one passed in Leon County last month, but both Commissioner Nathan Boyles and Chairman Trey Goodwin were not in favor. Commissioner Graham Fountain was not present for the meeting.

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Navarre moms Allie Summerlin and Lynette Luster headed to the Holley-Navarre park with their kids as they normally do most Mondays during the pandemic. 

But when they arrived, they noticed the playground was covered in hate speech and swastikas. Down the slide in yellow spray paint read the words “f--- you.” Summerlin said much of the writing was racially charged. 

Pixabay

The Okaloosa County COVID-19 Advisory committee will be recommending a mask mandate to commissioners next week. 

During a Zoom meeting Friday morning, the committee, made up of physicians and healthcare professionals, unanimously voted on the recommendation that masks be required when social distancing is not possible. 

“I feel like for the first time we’ve done something really productive,” said the committee chairperson, Dr. Deborah Simpkin. 

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Before this week, Walton County Jail’s six-week welding certification program only consisted of men. But on Wednesday, the first all-female group graduated, passing the torch on to more inmates in the future. 

The program is offered in partnership with Northwest Florida State College. Classes are held outside in a trailer on the jail campus. Previously, it was only open to men. 

“The Sheriff has two daughters, and I have four granddaughters, part of that did enter into the conversation.” 

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Col. Jocelyn Schermerhorn took command of the 1st Special Operations Wing (1st SOW) at Hurlburt Field last month in the midst of a pandemic and protests against systematic racism following the death of George Floyd. 

As the first female commander of 1st SOW, Schermerhorn has not only taken command during unprecedented times, but she’s also made history. However, Schermerhorn said the fact that she’s a woman is not what defines her as a leader. 

Courtesy Photo

Timothy Hendrix said he was the “biggest nonbeliever” in the hysteria around COVID-19. 

That is, until the virus took the life of his non-biological son, 24-year-old Davon Hill.

Davon died from COVID-19 at Santa Rosa Medical Center on Thursday. Reports of the Milton man’s death had been made by local stations without naming Hill. 

After reading online comments, Timothy shared a public post on his Facebook page to tell Davon’s story and to tell other nonbelievers that COVID-19 is very much a real threat. 

Courtesy Photo

Local author Julie Still-Rolin got the idea to write about her experience of coming out while on a book tour in 2018. 

“I was on a tour for my last book … and one stop was at this small, volunteer-run LGBT bookstore and the audience had so many questions about growing up gay in the South,” she recalled. 

So, she wrote “Coming Out in the South.” The book was released late last year and shares the story of how she came out in her early 30s after marriage and two kids. 

Walton County Politics

While cities and organizations in the South are rethinking Confederate monuments in the light of protests against systemic racism, Walton County is not making any moves to change. 

After public discussion, the board voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to keep the Confederate Flag flying at the courthouse. The issue was added to Tuesday’s agenda by two county residents, Jack Adair and Michael Bowden. At the meeting, Adair said while he’s proud of his southern heritage, the flag represented division and did not belong at the courthouse.

Dave Palmer/Courtesy Photo

COVID-19 and self-quarantine have forced a lot of us to learn to cook these past few months. 

Since the quarantine, top search trends online have been about cooking. Even as recent as this week, there was an increase of people searching how to cook Bagel Bites.  

But Paxton chef Dave Palmer says cooking doesn’t have to be so intimidating. 

Courtesy Photo

Residents of Niceville have added their voices to the calls for equal justice for African-Americans. 

Sunday afternoon, hundreds of protesters gathered and marched from Niceville City Hall to the city’s skate park in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a “perfect” protest, said Niceville Police Chief David Popwell. 

“It was very orderly; there were no issues,” he said. 

Except for the calls he received about signs. 

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