“Leaders lead,” Nadine Smith once said. As executive director of Equality Florida, she has long exemplified that adage herself, fighting for the rights of the state’s LGBT citizens with smarts, empathy and steely conviction. In the wake of the horrific June 12 massacre in Orlando, she showed those qualities to the world, speaking with quiet eloquence to national media and spearheading a fundraising drive that raised $9 million for survivors and victims’ families. With EQFL about to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, Smith continues to lead the way, establishing savvy partnerships with schools, businesses, churches and legislators to ensure workplace equality and safe schools. eqfl.org. —David Warner
Perhaps the most convincing indication that PolitiFact is doing a good job (besides that Pulitzer) is the fact that their fair-minded analyses of candidate-speak have riled up partisans on both sides of this season’s bitter political divide. Maybe we’re living in a post-fact world — those multiple Pants On Fire! judgments against Trump don’t seem to matter a whit to his supporters — but at a time when rumors, lies and conspiracy theories dominate the national conversation, the sober-sided truth-tellers at PolitiFact provide a much-needed dose of sanity. politifact.com. —David Warner
Runners up: Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach.
Runners up: Hogan vs. Gawker, wrong-way drivers.
Often, the first thing to go when “progress” comes to town are local historic landmarks. Often, they don’t go away without a fight from local preservationists who argue that the sense of place these old, iconic structures create is a much better economic development tool than a spattering of condos. But former cigar industry hub Ybor City is melding the two ideas, and investors are instead refurbishing old buildings, turning them into apartments and hotels for the growing number of people who live elsewhere but work in Ybor. —KB
If you’re young when you ascend to elected office, your inclination may be to play ball so that you don’t make any enemies as you seek to hold onto your seat and, you hope, climb the ladder. Maniscalco instead seems to vote in ways that reflect his district as well as his generation. As a member of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Board, he was the sole dissenting vote against imposing prohibitive rules against ride-sharing services. He also opposed the unpopular TBX tollway project. If he had lost his 2015 runoff election to Jackie Toledo (who is now running for State Rep. Dana Young’s soon-to-be former seat), the conversations at the dais would likely be very, very different. Plus, he digs Bowie, and conversing with him about music is a rare pleasure for reporters who tend to feel like a round peg in a square hole at gatherings of local politicos. —KB
Want to succeed at least somewhat as one of two major political parties? Rule #1: Cultivate a deep bench of talented candidates and operatives. Rule #2: Try not to put those people in the same races, where they’ll expend precious resources cannibalizing one another. Can we guess which of these rules Tampa Bay Democrats aren’t quite getting? Sure, some of their problems stem from gerrymandering and candidates preferring to run for open seats in districts Dems can actually win, but when you have 18 talented Democrats in six bloody primaries, it costs money and confuses voters… though it’s fun for us political reporters. —KB
Runners up: Ferg's Sports Bar, Oxford Exchange.
Runners up: Hillsborough, Pasco.