With unemployment, foreclosures and the banking crisis many are likely happy 2009 is finally over. At the beginning of the year, we put together a list of the top people to watch in 2009. Here’s a look at how they fared.
BARACK OBAMA: He’s probably thankful that he’ll be judged on four years and not just one. He sent more troops to Afgahanstan. He introduced a stimulus package and championed health care reform, both of which have had mixed reviews. Some may remember him for organizing a Beer Summit between a Harvard professor and a cop who arrested him. But so far, the public isn’t toasting Obama, as his approval rating dropped below 50 percent in December.
GEORGE WASHINGTON (The Dollar Bill): The value of the dollar is still dismal but Wall Street did see its first annual gain in two years even after frightening lows in March. However, Americans overall were still apprehensive when it came to spending in 2009.
JAMES BROWDER and DENNIS THOMPSON: The Lee and Collier school superintendents survived the financial upheaval that faced most of the government subsidized entities. They accomplished more with less — including less money and fewer students. Yet, they continue to face more battles. From rezoning in Collier County to complaints of bus rides that are too long in Lee County, the hot seat rarely cools off for these two. Next year, they’ll have to deal with classroom-size regulations.
JULIE SPRAGUE: In her first year on the Collier County School Board she has become Vice Chairwoman but the rank comes at default because of the unpopularity of other members. Sprague can be credited for being instrumental in getting the sex education policy reviewed and changed.
KEVIN RAMBOSK: The new sheriff in town had a hard time staying out of the limelight in 2009. From the disappearance of an Immokalee boy, Adji Desar, to a North Naples man accused of slaying his family and an investigation into his own election campaign, national headlines caused Rambosk to come under great scrutiny.
BANKERS: Jerry Williams, the former CEO, President and founder of Orion Banks, is the poster child for banking institutions in 2009. Williams’ bank was shut down by the Feds after an estimated $84 million in losses in the first nine months of the year. Like Orion, four other local banks — part of more than 100 across the country — were forced to close their doors.
HOME BUYERS: Home sales certainly were up in 2009. Prices are down, and some shoppers took advantage of it. But confidence is still wavering. Naples area sales in November saw a 300-plus increase from a year ago and investors have reemerged but there are still hurdles, such as financing and mortgage requirements that are leaving this industry at a bit of wait-and-see mode.
TOURISTS: Well there weren’t as many to watch and that’s not a good sign. You name it — rates, occupancies and visitors — and the numbers are down. Blame it on the economy but unfortunately there’s also a lot of competition for the travelers’ dollars.
JIM MUDD: Unfortunately, Mudd’s year was overshadowed by his battle with a brain tumor and his sudden retirement. As the county manager, he still didn’t ignore his duties, slashing spending, reorganizing budgets and controlling furloughs and layoffs. His presence and dedication to Collier County government will be missed.
TOM GRADY: A look at his Web site might say he didn’t make much news in his first year as Naples representative in the Florida House. The latest story is from 2008. He did sponsor a bill to give a tax break for those interested in buying a luxury plane or a boat. But that might not fly or float with constituents if he seeks reelection.
BLOGGERS: So much for The New York Post prediction that bloggers were going to be out in 2009. We wouldn’t have the gruesome details of the upheaval in Iran if it wasn’t for bloggers. And here locally, the Daily News received one of the first tips about the Damas family slayings from a citizen on a social media site. Tweet, tweet, citizen journalists remain a force.