Best of Utah 2017 | Our annual celebration of the Best our state has to offer is here! | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah 2017

Our annual celebration of the Best our state has to offer is here!

Page 7 of 15


Best Elected Official
Jim Dabakis

After the Legislature avowed to lower Utah's drunk-driving threshold to .05 percent, Jim Dabakis jumped on Facebook. Podcasting from a local watering hole, he and two volunteers tried to determine how much booze it would take to break the legal limit. Instead, Dabakis broke the breath monitor (literally)—after using mouthwash and blowing a lethal .5. The stunt was typical of the gregarious state senator who's championed progressive causes for decades. From co-founding Equality Utah to chairing the state Democratic Party, Dabakis makes the word "liberal" almost palatable in the reddest-of-the-red states. (Lance Gudmundsen)
2nd place: Ben McAdams
3rd place: Jackie Biskupski

Best Nonprofit Organization
Best Friends Animal Society

When hurricanes hit, people are frightened and confused. Try to imagine, then, the terror of thousands of helpless animals caught in nature's wrath. Best Friends Animal Society does. And its volunteers even now are comforting these often-forgotten victims of natural disasters. Further inland near Kanab, another 1,600 abandoned, abused or sick animals have a safe harbor at Best Friends' sanctuary—the nation's largest no-kill facility. Looking for furry companionship? The society operates adoption centers, including one in Salt Lake City. (LG)
2. Planned Parenthood
3. Humane Society of Utah

Best Podcast
Geek Show Podcast

It looks like somebody's reworked basement. But the ragtag broadcast studio of the Geek Show Podcast could well be the holodeck of the Starship Enterprise as it transports a legion of devoted fans into the world of All Things Geek. A half-dozen irreverent dudes—encouraged by a shot or two—regularly explore such imponderables as "The Shape of Water" and "Superman's Mustache." Gee, I always thought that was Wonder Woman. (LG)
2. I am Salt Lake
3. RadioWest

Best Political Scandal
Operation Rio Grande

"Operation Rio Grande" has that military ring—like "Desert Storm." Regrettably, it's turning out like Hitler's "Operation Barbarossa," his ill-fated invasion of Russia during WWII. Police cracking down on "the worst of the worst" around the drug-infested Road Home shelter are collaring garden-variety addicts galore (some say at the expense of civil rights), but drug kingpins lurk in the shadows. Rio Grande Street's been closed—but to what good end? Dealers still ply their wares on the peripheries. Legislators are being asked for $67 million for a two-year cleanup. Sadly, though, the homeless remain homeless. And while politicians posture, winter is coming. (LG)
2. Jason Chaffetz resignation
3. Losing Outdoor Retailer

Best Radio Show
Radio From Hell

Did president No. 45—that's The Donald, incidentally—appropriate the mission statement of 96.3 FM's Radio From Hell? Maybe. Among other things, it reminds listeners "that we never lie and we're always right." Sure. First aired 31 years ago, it's one of the nation's longest-running radio shows. Always smart and often sassy, Radio From Hell treats listeners to insights of local sages like The All-Knowing Suit and Sister Dottie S. Dixon. (LG)
2. RadioWest
3. The Morning


Best Social Cause

The homeless might as well be made out of cellophane because we often look right through them. Right now, their plight is a hot-button issue because of the crackdown around Rio Grande Street and the brouhaha over where to locate new shelters. Amid the political posturing and not-in-my-backyard protests, let's try to remember we're talking about human beings—people's sons and daughters; fathers and mothers, and innocent youngsters. There's a $67 million appropriation in the wings to bandage their wounds. To the powers that be: Spend wisely. (LG)
2. Bears Ears
3. LGBTQ Equality

Best Radio Station

If Harland Sanders had grabbed a microphone instead of a pressure cooker, he might have invented X96 instead of KFC. That's because the perennial Best of Utah winner is the local airwaves' equivalent of comfort food—your solace when things go wrong. Mixing alternative music from the '80s and '90s with today's hits, X96 also adds promising up-and-comers to its playlist—a recipe that keeps listeners smiling contentedly. Turning your dial to a corporate station with its computer-generated lineup might be a change—but you'll be risking a case of heartburn. (LG)

Best Sports Reporter
David James

A quarter-century has passed since David James joined KUTV 2 as a fresh-faced
newcomer from Sacramento. Like a good vintage, the genial James has improved with age. His encyclopedic knowledge—combined with a relaxed but authoritative delivery—has made him the go-to guy for all things sports. His two Talkin' Sports weekend shows often spawn surprises, and an occasional scoop. And motorists can catch him on their morning drive at 1280 The Zone. After all these years, he's never lost his love of the game. (LG)
2. Dave Fox
3. Wesley Ruff

Best TV Anchor
Shauna Lake

Schadenfreude was in short supply—at least among her colleagues—after KUTV 2 anchor Shauna Lake was arrested on suspicion of DUI in May. (She later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of impaired driving). "It broke my heart," wrote The Salt Lake Tribune's Robert Kirby. Her resilience and resolve, however, trumped chagrin and shame—and Lake soon was back in her co-anchor seat. Viewers admire her always-affable but no-nonsense approach to the day's events. She also hosts a weekly interview segment, "Person 2 Person." (LG)
2. Hope Woodside
3. Kerri Cronk

Best TV News Reporter
Ben Winslow

On Sept. 12, the last day to vote for Best of Utah, Fox 13's Ben Winslow tweeted an "utterly shameless" request for votes to his nearly 25K followers. Clearly, it worked. Known for having some of the fastest digits in the business, he's über adept at instant-sharing information with his audience while simultaneously reporting on some of the day's biggest stories. His station describes him as a "multi-platform journalist," which sounds about right. In a nearly 20-year career, Winslow's won a plethora of honors—including a national Edward R. Murrow award—proving that underneath that beard and cuddly persona lurks a razor-sharp mind. (LG)
2. Rod Decker
3. Big Budah

Best Weather Reporter
Sterling Poulson

He's not the flashiest weatherman (err, meteorologist) on the block, but KUTV 2's Sterling Poulson knows his stuff. Viewers can count on a thorough and authoritative forecast from the 66-year-old broadcast veteran. He earned his bona fides during a 10-year stint in the U.S. Air Force where he was a forecaster. Among his squadron's clients was Air Force One. Fun fact: Poulson shares his passion for isobars with music bars as director of the 120-voice Choral Society of Utah. (LG)
2. Allison Croghan
3. Kevin Eubank


Best Utahn
Jon M. Huntsman Sr.

He'll cringe at the imagery but earlier in the year, billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr. found himself in a royal pissing match with the state's premier center of higher education, the University of Utah. The U, it seems, wanted to take control of the world-class Huntsman Cancer Institute. Not so fast, said Senior. After a couple of acrimonious weeks, the smoke cleared. Among the casualties: The U Health Care's CEO who resigned and U president who announced his retirement. Still standing tall: The octogenarian with deep pockets and a big heart. (LG)
2. Jim Dabakis
3. Gail Miller

Best TV News Station

Let's do the math: Best anchor (Shauna Lake), best sportscaster (David James) and best weatherman (Sterling Poulson) adds up to KUTV 2 walking off as this year's best TV news station in our part of the forest. A fixture on Main Street, it's picture-window studio is a magnet for pedestrians. So what's a little distraction if everyone's taking in some information—and having a bit of fun? (LG)
2. Fox 13
3. KSL 5


Worst Utahn
Jason Chaffetz

Grammarians, take heed: Jason Chaffetz is now a verb. Mother Jones reports that "in the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead." Such is the reputation of the former five-term Utah congressman who resigned his seat ostensibly to spend more time with his family. Chaffetz bailed just as Democrats were calling for the House Oversight Committee of which he was chairman to probe Trump's Russian shenanigans. If and when he seeks future office, critics hope he might end up as a dangling participle. (LG)
2. Orrin Hatch
3. Gary Herbert