It’s here! That magical time of the year, kiddos—where the holidays are upon us and most people have a little more pep in their step and cheer in their voice.
It’s also that time of year when everyone is doing up lists. Santa has a list of nice and naughty children. Entertainment critics have lists of the year’s best films, shows and songs. Everyone has their list of all the personal changes they hope to make stick in 2019, me included. May the odds be ever in our favor.I am a total nerd for lists, and one of my favorite lists each year is Watermark’s Most Remarkable People. Each year the editorial staff gets together and creates a list—one in Central Florida and one in Tampa Bay—of the unsung heroes and difference makers of the past year and name them our Most Remarkable.
This year, in honor of 2018, we have selected 18—nine in each of our coverage areas—of the most remarkable people you will ever see. We continue a tradition we started last year where we ask someone who knows each of our remarkables to write something about them. Some of the authors know the person they wrote about personally and some have worked with them in a shared field, but all of them recognized immediately why we selected each remarkable this year.
While I am a huge fan of this idea, I do sort of miss the days of writing each of the profiles to tell you why we selected them and what made them so remarkable to us. So with my limited space here, I want to share briefly why we selected the nine Central Floridians that we did.
As you can see from our cover, Rep. Anna V. Eskamani is among our most remarkable of 2018, and why wouldn’t she be? This year’s midterm election was a message to all local, state and federal offices that women are going to adamantly and unapologetically have their voices heard in government, and the self-described “accomplice to the LGBTQ community” was the loudest of all those voices.
After leaving Orlando for Indianapolis, George Wallace rode triumphantly back to be the new executive director of The Center Orlando. But building up one LGBTQ Center wasn’t enough for him, so this year saw the expansion of The Center to Kissimmee.
Jennifer Foster did something remarkable at Watermark this year that has never been done. She was so remarkable that we put her on this list two years in a row. Last year, she was so remarkable in getting the One Orlando Alliance set up that they named her the organization’s first executive director.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was a remarkable champion for transgender rights this year as City Hall became the first government building in Florida to build an all-gender bathroom.
Come Out With Pride (COWP) named a new president this year in Jeff Prystajko. He, along with the COWP team, didn’t think pulling off a huge parade and festival downtown was enough of a challenge so they expanded Pride to a full week of events. In doing so Jeff and the COWP team had the most remarkable Pride this city has ever seen.
Nikole Parker was everywhere this year. She is a big part of the onePulse Foundation team, but that wasn’t enough for her. She also is a member of the Orlando United Assistance Center, The Contigo Fund and The LGBT+ Center; it’s simply remarkable everything she is a part of.
Tymisha Harris took her embodiment of Josephine Baker to New York and was so remarkable that she got a shout out from the most famous queen of them all, RuPaul. She brings her remarkable performance to Orlando’s Winter Fringe in a few weeks. Don’t miss it!
Some may know Jerick Mediavilla as the remarkable guy who put a ring on State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith’s finger on stage at Pride, but he was also a remarkable patriot who was driving carloads of voters to the polls during the midterm elections and making sure everyone’s voice was heard.
The community couldn’t ask for more remarkable allies than Jim Philips and Moira from Real Radio’s “The Philips Phile.” For years, these two were the voices of acceptance many in the community wish they had in their own parents.
Thank you to all of the people who made 2018 a truly remarkable one. I can’t wait to see what this community has in store next year.