The Ledger Transitions to New Owners

As published on 

Halifax Media Group, Owner of The Ledger, Acquired by New Media Investment Group


Published: Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.    Last Modified: Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.

Halifax Media Group, owner of The Ledger and 35 other newspapers and affiliated web sites, has agreed to be acquired by New Media Investment Group Inc.

 New Media, a publicly traded company, said it will pay $280 million in cash for Halifax, subject to adjustments. The deal is anticipated to close in the first quarter of 2015. 

 “This is a very exciting day for our company,” Michael E. Reed, New Media’s president and CEO, said in announcing the acquisition today. “Halifax Media is one of the premier, locally oriented media companies in the United States.”

 Michael Redding, who as CEO rapidly built Halifax over the past four years, said, “By combining New Media’s geographic footprint with Halifax Media’s Southeast reach it will be a powerhouse in the industry.”

Halifax newspapers, including 24 dailies primarily in the Southeast, have total daily circulation of approximately 635,000 and 752,000 on Sundays. Combined digital traffic amounts to more than 80 million page views a month. The company has nearly 3,000 employees. 

New Media is one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the U.S with 450 community publications and over 370 related web sites. New Media has been actively acquiring newspapers, having spent approximately $430 million on local media assets in little over one year, including the Halifax deal. Last year, it added the Dow Jones Local Media Group of eight dailies and 15 weeklies to its lineup and acquired the Providence Journal earlier this year.

“Halifax’s publications are all well-established, leading providers of local news in the communities they serve,” said New Media’s Reed. “Additionally, the acquisition further diversifies New Media’s business from both a geographic and customer standpoint. These markets also present a tremendous opportunity for New Media to expand its digital businesses, Propel and BestRide, as these markets expand our footprint of small and mid-size businesses we will be able to reach.”

Read the full story at

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United Way of Central Florida President Terry Worthington Takes Position with United Way of Florida

664338_10203518424586329_1292368945_oThe United Way of Central Florida announced today the departure of President Terry Worthington. Worthington has accepted the position of Executive Vice President, United Way of Florida. In this role, Worthington will share 28 years of United Way experience with Florida’s 32 local United Ways.

Ted Granger, President of the United Way of Florida commented that, “Terry is universally respected by people throughout the world-wide United Way network. He has built strong relationships with donors, community leaders and social service organizations on a foundation of honesty and unparalleled integrity. He will be an invaluable asset to our organization and to our State.”

Worthington began his career at United Way of Central Florida in 1987 as a Campaign Associate. He was quickly promoted to Campaign Director and then to Vice President of Campaign. He continued his career as Associate Executive Director at the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula and the United Way of Middle Tennessee as Vice President of Resource Development. In 1996, after a nationwide search, Worthington was selected as President of the United Way of Central Florida.

During his 28 year career, Worthington was directly responsible for raising nearly a quarter billion dollars. His tenure as President has seen the Central Florida Campaign grow from $5 million to $9 million dollars, providing funding to over 100 programs. Beyond fund raising, the United Way of Central Florida emphasizes a focus on social service programs and partnerships that make a measurable difference in the lives of local people.

In 2014, the United Way of Central Florida earned a 97.2 rating on United Way Worldwide’s Business Performance Index, placing it near the top of the 1,400 United Ways Worldwide. The organization is recognized as a Four Star (highest ranking) Non-Profit by Charity Navigator.

On his departure Worthington states, “It has been an honor to serve Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties for the last 18 years. I am proud of what the volunteers and staff working together have been able to accomplish. We are a grassroots organization funded by hard working individuals that come together to make an impact in our communities.”

While United Way of Florida is headquartered in Tallahassee, Worthington will serve the State from Central Florida.

From the Press Release 


If I may take a moment of personal privilege, I want to thank him for instilling in me the importance of caring about your neighbors, your community, complete strangers and just about any person that touches your life. You taught us that it’s our privilege and our duty to leave this earth better than when we arrived. The Polk, Hardee and Highlands County communities are better because of your hard work, your staff and all that the United Way of Central Florida does to improve the education, income and health of this wonderful place we call home. Lived United. Good luck on this next chapter, Dad. 


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Christmas Boat Parade December 6th!


27th Annual Winter Haven Chain of Lakes Boat Parade

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Parade leaves Lake May promptly at 6:30 PM

BoatParade 10

Route proceeds counterclockwise in all lakes. Travels from Lake May to Shipp, back to May, to Howard, to Cannon and back to Howard.
Boat Decorations judged at Harborside on Lake Shipp ($100, $50, $25)
Wildest Most Creative judged at Old Man Frank’s on Lake Howard ($100)
(To be considered for a prize you must display your cell phone number on a large white poster board as you pass the above locations)

Santa will lead the parade. Please, no other Santas!

Thank you to our sponsors:

Marine Supply of Winter Haven .. The Boating Center


Old Man Frank’s


Parade Rules and Regulations Here!

The Chamber would like to express our sincere thanks to the City of Winter Haven, Winter Haven Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Department, and  Lake Region Lakes Management District for their contributions to making this 27th Annual Christmas Boat Parade a success. We also appreciate our prize sponsors including  Harborside, Old Man Frank’s Oyster Bar and Marine Supply of Winter Haven.

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‘Tis the Season to Shop Local

Well, frankly, it’s always the season to Shop Local, but it’s coming upon the most wonderful time of the year! The time when we open our hearts, homes and wallets to celebrate the holiday season. This year, we want to encourage you to focus on reinvesting in our very own community with your gift shopping list. To help aid you in that endeavor we have asked our chamber members to put together a few special deals. Check out the over 30 deals below or view and print the PDF of the specials to keep with you.

Thank you to all of those businesses that submitted specials!

For a list of more shopping, dining, attractions and other local companies you can patronize visit our website. Think before you buy! I bet you can find most of the items on your list in our very own community . . . you just might not know it! Here’s a special gift idea – an entire I Shopped Local basket!

Happy Holidays!

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Chamber Board passes Resolution of Support for the Central Polk Parkway

At their October board meeting, the Chamber’s Board of Directors passed the following resolution on the Central Polk Parkway.


October 27, 2014

The Board of Directors of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce supports the expeditious funding for the completed design and construction of the Central Polk Parkway.

The development of this road is integral to our community’s capacity to handle the increased traffic created by the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center (CFILC) as well as a gateway to our area for increased visitation to LEGOLAND® Florida and other area attractions.

            The supply chain and logistics industry in East Polk County is projected to grow substantially over the next ten years and it is of the utmost importance to plan and build the needed infrastructure to support such growth.  Seamless connectivity between the CFILC and Interstate 4 will provide efficient intermodal freight service to Orlando and Tampa, which will strengthen Florida’s position as a global trade hub and further promote economic development along the I-4 corridor.     

            Our Board of Directors believes this should be Florida’s top transportation priority and that advanced funding should be made for right-of-way acquisition and construction through the Florida Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) as well as other applicable transportation funding sources.  Furthermore, we recommend construction of the Central Polk Parkway begin first at the I-4 interchange and progress south and then west.  This sequence of construction will expedite the connection between Winter Haven and Orlando and provide traffic relief to US 27.

Initial proposal of the Central Polk Parkway

Initial proposal of the Central Polk Parkway

For those of you who may not yet be familiar with the Central Polk Parkway, it is a proposed extension of the current Polk Parkway that would loop through the Eastern parts of Polk County with proposed connections at the Winter Lake Road exit of the existing Polk Parkway and connect to I-4 near the Polk County and Osceola County line. This road will provide more direct access from the Orlando market to east Polk County as well as provide relief on US HWY 27 as the main entry point to northeast Polk County to both tourists, locals and the increased levels of logistics and distribution traffic due to the success of the CSX Central Florida ILC. While it is currently on the Florida Department of Transportation project list the design is only partially funded. The Chamber Board of Directors believe that it is vitally important that this project move forward as a top priority. For more information on the proposed development visit

Posted in Chamber News, CSX - Winter Haven, Economic Development, Transportation | 2 Comments

Barfield Insurance celebrates 10 Years!

While you often see ribbon cutting ceremonies happen at the start of one’s entrepreneurial career, it’s also important to celebrate the milestones. Recently, Chamber member James Barfield and his team celebrated 10 years in business as Barfield Insurance. This family owned and operated company has grown tremendously over the last 10 years and now has 6 locations including Winter Haven, Lakeland, Orlando and Ocoee. 

Long committed to helping customers get the best value for their insurance dollars, founder and CEO James Barfield and his staff offer many different types of insurance: auto, home, manufactured home, landlord insurance, flood, life insurance, etc.  Barfield Insurance also represents more than 30 different insurance companies.

Barfield says of the anniversary, “We are thankful to reach this anniversary milestone earned by the hard work and dedication of our staff, and the loyalty of our customers. We have truly been blessed over the last ten years.”

Congratulations to the Barfield team for having a successful 10 years and here is to many more in our community!
The team at Barfield Insurance as well as City Mayor Birdsong, Mayor Pro-tem Hunnicutt and the chamber ambassadors

The team at Barfield Insurance as well as City Mayor Birdsong, Mayor Pro-tem Hunnicutt and the chamber ambassadors

For more information about Barfield Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. please contact James Barfield at (863) 293-5400 or
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Envisors – Same Name, Same Faces, Expanded Network

Screenshot 2014-10-28 11.26.55Envisors is still Envisors but with an expanded network!

Pennoni Associates, an ENR (Engineering News- Record)* Top 100 engineering, science, and design consulting firm, is pleased to announce the acquisition of the assets of 25-person firm Envisors of Winter Haven, FL. The firm, which specializes in civil and environmental engineering and related services, will now do business as Envisors, a Pennoni Company.

“We are excited that Envisors has joined our firm,” said Pennoni’s Director of Strategic Growth, Joe Viscuso, PE. “Envisors’ services match our core services and they bring a wealth of experience in a new geographic region for Pennoni. They have a solid reputation with close to 40 years of serving the Florida community and their mission to “provide value and results through experienced and innovative professionals” reflects our values as well. Both firms are focused on the needs of our clients by providing creative, value-added solutions.”

Founded in 1975, Envisors has a strong reputation for providing engineering land development & planning, transportation, water/wastewater, water resources, land surveying/mapping and construction engineering inspection services.

The four partners of Envisors, Steve Shealey, Beth Evans, Steve Elias and Kriss Kaye will all remain active in the firm. The addition of Envisors expands Pennoni’s presence from the Mid-Atlantic and New England to the Southeast region of the US.

Front Left: Joe Viscuso, Director of Strategic Growth with Pennoni Associates, and the Envisors team and spouses at a recent celebratory dinner.

Front Left: Joe Viscuso, Director of Strategic Growth with Pennoni Associates, and the Envisors team and spouses at a recent celebratory dinner.

“Pennoni’s nearly 50 year reputation for excellent client service and recognition as a great place to work mirrors our approach to providing engineering services to our clients as well as mentoring/developing our staff. Pennoni is a US-based firm, which we believe is important to maintaining our culture and to keeping as many of our clients’ dollars in our community,” said Mr. Shealey. “We look forward to continuing relationships with existing clients, as well as developing new ones. Having the additional capacity and several new services offered by Pennoni enables us to provide even more value as well as gives us a more competitive edge in the market. ” (Check out Pennoni’s portfolio of projects here.)


*ENR attempts to bring structure to an otherwise huge construction industry by performing annual surveys of its key segments, and ranking companies engaged in general contracting, specialty contracting, engineering, architecture and environmental services, among other specialties. The rankings, based on annual revenue at home and abroad, are further divided into specific market categories.
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Funding our city’s future

The City of Winter Haven commission has not committed to large-scale capital improvements for over 12 years. You may recall that around 2002 facelift and infrastructure changes took place at the police station, in our downtown (streetscaping and Central Park) and the new public library. (If you need a reminder, check out this blog post from a few months back). Today, we are faced with many facilities used by numerous families and citizens that are decades old and beyond capacity.  We are also facing the anticipated growth of our community brought to us by economic development opportunities such as CSX as well general projections that Central Florida will be one of the highest growth areas in the country through the coming decades.

Today during a lunchtime workshop, all five of the commissioners agreed that it is time to invest in our community again. Based on a list of projects and cost estimates of those projects, the commissioners came to a consensus that pending finalized information on costs, and further discussions regarding mechanisms of funding, they would move the process forward on a $25 million bond (this was a workshop, so not a formal vote, but you can anticipate conversations at future commission meetings). The bond would commit the city to approximately $1.5 million per year in debt service over 25 years. There are several mechanisms to fund the bond which include but aren’t limited to raising the ad valorem by 1 mil or accessing a fire availability fee. To put it in the simplest of terms, if they decided to go with the ad valorem increase (property assessment) it would cost the Winter Haven resident who owns a home valued at $100,000, $80 per year to support these projects and improve our community’s resources.

The list of proposed projects include: (Click Long Range Facility Needs 2014 to view a PDF with more details regarding these projects)

  • Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center Fitness Center Renovation
  • Sertoma Park Renovation
  • MLK Park Renovation
  • Trailhead Park Splash Pad
  • Skate Park
  • South Central Park
  • Lake Maude Recreation Area
  • Winter Haven Tennis Courts
  • Chain o’ Lakes Park and Complex (pending outcome of current litigation)
Posted in City of Winter Haven | 1 Comment

Bok Tower Gardens embarks on largest expansion in its history

The Board of Directors and executive staff of Bok Tower Gardens is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, October 24 at 11 a.m., representing the start of the largest garden expansion in the 85-year history of the National Historic Landmark.

In February of this year, the Gardens announced the public phase of a $12 million capital campaign, Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future to keep the Gardens relevant and sustainable.

To date, the Gardens has raised nearly $10.5 million, which is enabling construction to begin on the major new garden spaces, including a new:

  • Children’s Garden
  • Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden
  • Wild Garden
  • Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

“It’s an exciting time in the history of Bok Tower Gardens as we are starting to realize our vision for the future,” says Gardens’ president David Price. “We’re making big changes as part of this first phase of our 25-year master plan, and everything begins October 24 as we break ground on exciting new gardens.”

“The community is invited to come out for free and join our Board and staff for a ceremony at 11 a.m.,” Price said. “We’ll have a few guest speakers, followed by visits to the sites of the outdoor kitchen, children’s garden, pollinator garden, and wild garden.” Three undeveloped acres of land north of the Visitor Center is being transformed into two of these distinctive and engaging garden spaces—the children’s garden and outdoor kitchen.

Bok Tower Gardens Rendering

Children’s Garden

Keeping children in touch with nature is important to building their confidence, independent spirit, critical thinking, and ultimately their capacity for environmental stewardship. The new 2.7-acre children’s garden will be a place of hands-on fun, natural beauty, learning, and creative play.

Reflecting the unique spirit of Bok Tower Gardens, this garden will teach conservation and the vital connection between animals, plants, and people. There will be beautiful art, cooling water features, vibrant plantings, a boardwalk, performance stage, and music area. Children will have things to climb on, under and through, as well as places to build, dig and create.

“We need to have refuges like this that can be maintained for future generations,” said Board Chair Michael Aloian. “If this place were to go away, I feel that the State of Florida would turn into a big parking lot. We have too many places where we have immediate need for gratification, and I think the Gardens offer the complete opposite of that.”

Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden

Adjacent to the children’s garden will be a new kitchen garden that connects farm to table. Lake Flato Architects of San Antonio has designed an inviting outdoor open kitchen space in harmony with the landscape. A gift from Danielle Fence & Outdoor Living is helping make possible a pizza oven, fire pit, grills, cooktops, and other appliances.

Edible display gardens surrounding the kitchen will be a welcoming destination for daytime or nighttime educational programs and events showcasing lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. Cooking demonstrations, receptions, school group programs, and private rentals will make this area a hub of horticultural and culinary activity.

The nearby discovery center, also designed by Lake Flato, will offer space for scheduled programs, small classroom learning, and staging for field trips or groups.

Wild Garden

Campaign funds are also transforming seven acres of the northern garden into a haven for wildlife and native plants. The expanded wild garden, encompassing the existing Window by the Pond and Endangered Plant Garden, will showcase a variety of Florida native plants and landscapes including an oak hammock, wet prairie, sandhill preserve, wetland and bog.

The new bog will serve as a natural filtration system for the exiting pond. Water-loving plants will absorb excess nutrients that otherwise contribute to algae growth. The pond itself will be made deeper, repaired, and replanted with a rich variety of Florida natives to attract birds and wildlife. A 170-foot boardwalk through the new wetland and bog area will provide visitors with an immersive experience into the new landscape.

Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

A gentle grade to a spectacular new oval walkway and special event lawn is being constructed behind the Visitor Center to help guests more easily find their way to Pinewood Estate, the Singing Tower, and the new expansion gardens to the north.

Because increasing numbers of visitors with limited mobility utilize wheelchairs and families with young children require the use of strollers, the primary path is being re-graded and paved to meet ADA compliance, using a material and color that blends with the garden setting.

“A ribbon of pathway was paved through the historic core gardens this summer,” explains Price. “We used a reddish-brown aggregate that will give the surface a warm brown tone as it wears. This treatment is already making the walk smoother for visitors with strollers and wheelchairs.”

The Blue Palmetto Café will offer expanded outdoor seating next to a colorful pollinator garden which will attract birds and butterflies, while a new dedicated shuttle route through the core garden will offer a convenient pick-up point adjacent to the Visitor Center, enabling guests with limited mobility to enjoy more of an immersive garden experience.

“Accessibility for everyone has been a really important piece of our planning process, so that young and old can together enjoy the entire Gardens,” said Cindy Alexander, co-chair of the campaign.

Restoration work on the Tower begins next summer and will focus on removing rust, sealing, and painting the iconic tile grilles surrounding the bell chamber at the top of the Tower.

“Most designated construction areas won’t disrupt our current visitation, and we’re staging things in a way that least impacts the visitor experience,” Price said. “This will be about an 18-month-long project and is expected to be completed in late spring of 2016.”

Supporting the Campaign

To date, the Gardens’ Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Futurecampaign has generated nearly $10.5 million of the $12 million needed to complete all the projects. Publix Super Markets Charities are bringing the Florida water story to life in the new children’s garden with the lead gift for River Run. The Mosaic Company stepped forward with both a financial gift and 492 tons of rock to surface secondary walks in the pollinator garden, kitchen garden, and along the Pine Ridge Trail.

Last month, an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation issued a challenge gift of $250k to support the new children’s garden because they were inspired by the Gardens’ vision for the future.

Dozens more unique donor stories are surfacing with this campaign. Jeanne Jahna, also known as “Granny Greenthumbs,” will forever be remembered with a gift made by her children through the Jahna Foundation to establish the Fairy House Trail in the children’s garden. Long-time supporters Frank and Carol Drake considerBok Tower Gardens one of their favorite places in the world, and with five grandchildren decided to invest in helping make the children’s garden a reality.

“We enjoy how peaceful the Gardens are and appreciate just how hard the staff works to preserve its natural beauty,” says Frank and Carol Drake. “We’re excited about the Gardens’ plans for the future, and we love the idea of a children’s garden to connect young people with nature.”

Options are now available to honor someone with a commemorative bench, chair, or table and chair set. Gifts of cash or securities may be made outright or pledged up to a maximum of five years. Specific gift provisions through one’s estate, for donors over age 70, will qualify for campaign recognition.

According to Joan Thomas, director of development at the Gardens, there are a variety of creative naming and recognition opportunities in this campaign. “You can make a gift in honor or memory of someone close to the Gardens, associate your name with a major feature in our new garden areas, or consider an endowed fund opportunity,” Thomas said.

For more information visit

Information provided by Brian Ososky, Director of Marketing & Public Relations via a press release 

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A hometown firm just got a little bigger…

Straughn & Turner, P.A. is pleased to announce the addition of a new partner and two new associates to their expanding practice in Winter Haven. Prominent local attorney Douglas A. Lockwood III will join the firm as a partner, while Richard Straughn’s daughter, Marie Straughn Prisco, and her husband, Matthew W. Prisco, will become associates.

Doug Lockwood brings more than 30 years of experience to the firm. The Winter Haven native has primarily handled civil litigation and dispute resolution matters throughout Florida. He is board certified in both civil law and business litigation, an honor held by only two percent of the members of The Florida Bar. He will join the firm on October 20.

Straughn & Turner, P.A. has been a strong supporter of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce for decades and now they are home to three Past Board Chairman, Richard Straughn (1993-1994), Mark Turner (2001-2002) and Doug Lockwood (2005-2006). 

The addition of Marie Straughn Prisco marks the third generation of Straughns to practice law with the firm. Born and raised in Winter Haven, Marie Straughn Prisco graduated from Stetson University College of Law in May 2014. While she hopes to develop a working knowledge of several areas of law, her current interests are real estate, contracts and business law.

Florida native Matthew Prisco also graduated from Stetson University College of Law earlier this year. He looks forward to concentrating on business transactions, estates, trusts and commercial litigation.

From Left: Doug Lockwood, Marie Straughn Prisco, Richard Straughn,  Matthew W. Prisco and Mark Turner

From Left: Doug Lockwood, Marie Straughn Prisco, Richard Straughn, Matthew W. Prisco and Mark Turner

Founded by Jack Straughn in 1950, Straughn & Turner, P.A. has been serving clients with exceptional legal services for more than 64 years. With core values of integrity and trust, the firm’s comprehensive practice provides counsel in a number of areas, including business law, real estate, estate planning, trusts and general litigation.

The firm has long been active in civic affairs and community service. In addition to performing countless leadership roles in local community organizations, all three partners have served as president of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.

This expansion of the firm will allow Straughn & Turner, P.A. to continue to meet the business and litigation demands of its growing client base.


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