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BEST LOCAL VISUAL ARTIST

GEORGE FLETT

A letter to the artist George Flett (acknowledging that words and typefaces are inadequate to the task):

This is a missive shaped in the elongated stretch of the horses that come galloping out of the imagination of the artist George Flett, at once gentle and arresting. Also, this missive is shaded the palest of greens and will run doggedly and true through all of time.

Dear Mr. GEORGE FLETT, the letter begins (the words of greeting resemble the sky-shimmering color of camas in bloom).

Unable to reach you by telephone, we offer this alternate communication. We are pleased to inform you (a foot begins to piston softly against the duff of a powwow ground) that the readers of The Inlander have voted you the best local artist.

(Now comes the singing of a drum, the uncoiling of young men who had awaited, crouched and tensed, the beginning of the Prairie Chicken Dance.)

Your ledger art and your paintings invite us to understand our place and our history and our relationships with a power words cannot convey. (The Prairie Chicken dancers spread into a great kicking wheel, spinning.)

Please accept our congratulations and may good fortune attend your ongoing work. (A young man wrapped in the stars of the night sky plays a flute.)

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Sincerely, the readers of The Inlander.

(The spring-green horse runs, the great arch of its legs spanning culture and time.) - Kevin Taylor

2nd place: Harold Balazs; 3rd place: Dan Spalding


BEST REALTOR

KATHY BIXLER, TOMLINSON

When it was first suggested to KATHY BIXLER in 1985 that she try her hand at selling real estate, she said, "I can't sell anything." Since 1986, she's been in the Multimillion Dollar Club and among the Residential Top 10 producers in listings and sales every year. Guess it's OK to be wrong about some things.

Bixler moved to Spokane in 1970 from Seattle, where she was born and raised. "I thought I'd be bit by a rattlesnake," she says. "That was my first impression of Spokane." She expected to last maybe two years here, but the city won her heart. "I love Spokane. I sell Spokane every day of my life," she says.

What she means by "every day" is seven days a week. Bixler admits to workaholic tendencies. "I'm a hands-on realtor," she says. "I don't like to pass [work] on to someone else. I like to do it myself."

Asked why Inlander readers voted her the best realtor, she says it's a matter of working hard to make people happy. "It's about solving people's problems," she says. "That's satisfying. You think of the money when the job is over and you get your paycheck, but during the process, it's the last thing you think about."

Aside from kicking butt at selling real estate, Bixler is a firm believer in giving back to her community and she's proud of her involvement. She spent six years on the board of the United Way, six years on the board of the Spokane Symphony and "I'm on the Fox board, I think, for life. That's what they tell me." Bixler calls the Fox "a great gift to this city" and claims it was a most wonderful project to work on. "Of course," she says of the Fox, "you work at what your true love is."

- Mick Lloyd-owen

2ND PLACE: Marianne Guenther, Windermere; 3RD PLACE: Suzy Dix, Windermere; BEST NORTH IDAHO REALTOR: John Beutler, Century 21


BEST DOCTOR

DR. DAN COULSTON

Spokane critical care physician DR. DAN COULSTON chuckled over the phone when asked why he became a doctor. "I was working at a day care center and several of the children I was caring for were children of the residents at a nearby hospital," Coulston remembers. "The parents thought I was so good with the kids that I should become a pediatrician."

Coulston did, of course, go on to become a doctor, although not a pediatrician — "that would have been too much hard work," he jokes. Instead Coulston focused on internal medicine and now runs the Intensive Care Unit at Deaconess, tackling some of the toughest cases in the hospital. "We manage patients and their diseases," he says. "Actually, the nurses do most of the work. We [the doctors] take the glory."

Coulston is a board-certified intensivist, a doctor who works as a liaison between patients and the doctors who are providing their care. He helps patients and their families make sense of the complicated information that comes their way.

Communication is one of the most important parts of Coulston's job. Perhaps that's why Inlander readers have chosen him as the Best Doctor. He has close and frequent contact with his patients, and they trust him.

That trust and communication has been especially important in Coulston's work with AIDS patients. He says he's the primary AIDS caregiver in Spokane; he was also one of the creators of the Spokane AIDS Network back in the mid-1980s.

— DOUG NADVORNICK

2ND PLACE: Dr. David Morgan; 3RD PLACE (TIE): Dr. Nick Curalli, Dr. Elizabeth Ho


EDITORS' CHOICE

BEST PERSON TO BE HONORED IN A FREEDOM OF SPEECH PARK - ELIZABETH GURLEY FLYNN

We can't take credit for the idea ourselves — that honor goes to Neil Beaver, legislative aide to Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown — but it's so good we couldn't avoid repeating it here. First, we have to create a Freedom of Speech Park. Why? Because it's part of our history, that's why. In November 1909, Spokane became a breeding ground of labor radicalism, the front lines of free speech and the First Amendment debates. (So if we hurry it up, we could even open it in time for the 100th anniversary.)

Around that time, members of the Industrial Workers of the World, known as Wobblies, were in Spokane trying to sign up new supporters and advocate for workers' rights. The fat cats weren't about to take that affront lying down and on Dec. 22, 1908, the Spokane City Council made it unlawful "for any person ... to do any act which shall tend to draw a crowd." Heavy stuff.

Enter Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a 19-year-old Irish firebrand out of New York City. "This is my first trip to the 'wild and wooly' West, but I have failed to see the much wanted independence and democracy," she said soon after arriving. She would go on to chain herself to a tree along with a huge mob of Wobblies, exercising their freedom to speak out against anti-union businesses and practices in the face of a city ordinance prohibiting street meetings. Some 150 men were arrested that day; more than 400 were jailed in the following weeks. Eventually, with the national spotlight on Spokane, the city stopped rounding up everyone on a corner. The fight was over. Free speech won.

Flynn, for her part, went on to become one of America's most notable Communists. As far as we know, she's never yet been memorialized in a park or a statue.

— JACOB H. FRIES


BEST LOCAL ATHLETE

ADAM MORRISON

For the third year running, Inlander re

aders gave ADAM MORRISON the nod, which is a little surprising considering he's no longer local (always a Spokane scion, though) and, as of last fall, not playing basketball. A pre-season knee injury ended his second season with the Charlotte Bobcats. The team hopes to have him back by the start of next year. If nothing else, you've got to admire his courage; it's not easy walking around in this day and age with a mustache like that. Plus at 23, Morrison still has plenty of game in him. Next year, Stache.

2ND PLACE: Jeremy Pargo; 3RD PLACE: John Stockton


BEST LOCAL CELEBRITY

PATTY DUKE

Oscar-winning actress PATTY DUKE calls North Idaho home, and we're glad to have her. Our readers put her in elite company (she beat out golden boy John Stockton and icon Bing Crosby). Starting on the big screen as kid, she's done more TV in recent years, including appearances on Touched by an Angel and Judging Amy. We also tip our caps in recognition of all the work she's done raising awareness about mental health issues.

2ND PLACE: John Stockton; 3RD PLACE: Bing Crosby


BEST RADIO DJ OR TEAM

DAVE, KEN & MOLLY, ZZU-FM

They've been brightening your morning drive and now they're even in The Inlander's Hall of Fame. DAVE, KEN & MOLLY (aka "The Breakfast Boys")— Dave Sposito, Ken Hopkins and Molly Allen — credit their success to just being themselves, warts and all. "None of the disagreements or dialogue is scripted or forced," Sposito says. "It's just us." Their chemistry is evident during a visit to the studio. "It's as good now as it's ever been," Sposito says.

2ND PLACE: The Radio Men, KKZX; 3RD PLACE: Jay and Kevin, KDRK


BEST TV WEATHERCASTER

TOM SHERRY, KREM-TV

KREM'S TOM SHERRY is an institution, an unstoppable force of nature, a TV god wrapped in a smiling, likable package. Just ask Inlander readers, who, for the 13th time, have picked him as the area's most popular forecaster. It seems nothing can unseat this guy and it's not hard to understand. He's funny, engaging, he doesn't take the weather — or himself — too seriously. And his love of the region and the people in it comes through every forecast.

2ND PLACE: George Maupin, KHQ; 3RD PLACE: Kris Crocker, KXLY


BEST LOCAL AUTHOR

SHERMAN ALEXIE

Poet, comedian, author, storyteller, National Book Award winner, screenwriter, director, general badass. SHERMAN ALEXIE is all these things and now — drumroll, please — he's been named The Inlander's Best Local Author of 2008. We at the paper have been fans for a long time and we're happy to see Alexie get his due. We've got to assume his victory is all more the sweet because he beat out friend and fellow writer Jess Walter by a single vote.

2ND PLACE: Jess Walter; 3RD PLACE: Patrick McManus


BEST TV SPORTCASTER

DENNIS PATCHIN, KXLY-TV

For many in the area, KXLY'S DENNIS PATCHIN is the voice of sports, the guy with the highlights and plenty of insight. He's been at the station for 24 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Along with Rick Lukens, he was the one who created Friday Night Sports Extra for high school football. Now, to add to his collection of accomplishments, he is the winner of his seventh Inlander's Best TV Sportscaster Award.

2ND PLACE: John Fritz, KHQ; 3RD PLACE: Tom Hudson, KREM


BEST TV ANCHORPERSON

STEPHANIE VIGIL, KHQ-TV

This category used to be dominated by Nadine Woodward and Randy Shaw, who seemed to take turns winning the award every other year. Now, it's KHQ's STEPHANIE VIGIL's time to shine. At least Inlander readers think so. She has won Best TV Anchorperson four years running now, and with that smile we're betting she's not done amassing her local fan club.

2ND PLACE: Nadine Woodward, KREM; 3RD PLACE: Randy Shaw, KREM


BEST PUBLIC OFFICIAL

MAYOR MARY VERNER

After only a few months in office, MAYOR MARY VERNER has already become the area's favorite public servant. The cynical among us might suggest people don't actually know many of their public officials (aside from mayor), but we're not that cynical. We like to believe that Inlander readers chose her because they're hoping beyond hope that she'll make good on campaign promises and ultimately make us proud to live in or near the great city of Spokane. You got the support of our readers. The rest is up to you, Mayor.

2ND PLACE: Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick; 3RD PLACE: Former Mayor Dennis Hession


BEST LOCAL SPORTS TEAM

GONZAGA MEN'S BASKETBALL

From Cinderella team to national powerhouse, the GONZAGA MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM is certainly a source of pride for Spokane and a favorite among Inlander readers. What's not to like? It's the alma mater of NBA great John Stockton and this year's Best Local Athlete Adam Morrison. They're scrappy, they're smart and they got skills. And best of all, they give us a reason to dream every March for that elusive Final Four. Go Zags!

2ND PLACE: Spokane Chiefs Hockey; 3RD PLACE: Spokane Shock Arena Football


BEST OF HALL OF FAMER

DAVE, KEN & MOLLY

"Real people. Real issues. Really..." Dave Sposito jokes about the appeal of their morning show, drawing out the word "really," as in "reeeaaaallllly." His delivery falls somewhere between a question and a wise-ass remark. It's funny. Everyone in the studio busts up. Ken Hopkins, Molly Allen and producer Dave Spencer — the rest of the team — mimic Sposito's answer. But in the end, it may be as good an explanation for the group's popularity as any. Really.

"We don't have to fake anybody out," Sposito continues. "We don't have to be people we're not ... We're just able to be ourselves and I think that builds credibility with listeners." No one here is acting, playing funny or stupid or assuming an alter ego. There's not the Grumpy Guy, the Clown, the Witchy Woman. There's just DAVE, KEN & amp; MOLLY.

"Hopefully we're relatable," adds Hopkins. "There are tons of people like us."

The three of them are radio veterans, and they've bounced around a bit. But they say they're as happy as ever, working the morning drive on ZZU-FM from 6 to 10, Monday through Friday. And if Inlander readers are any indication, their audience has stuck with them, grown with them, aged with them. ("I'm getting old enough that I can feel it in my joints," jokes Hopkins during the weather report, suggesting rain is on the way.)

Earlier in the show, Sposito told a story about going to the store wearing sweats and slippers. "Like a disoriented Grandpa," he says. It becomes the question for the Know The Show quiz just before 10 to test how closely listeners listened during the four hours. The first caller nails it.

Unlike some other shows around the country, they didn't have to change much when the FCC cracked down on obscenity. They don't do shock and awe. It's more like, Did you ever notice? "It's more storytelling, more slice-of-life stuff," Sposito says.

They have no plans to leave. The area is growing, the fans are good, and now they're in The Inlander's Hall of Fame. "If we went to some other market, people might not get the show," Hopkins says. "It's very Spokane." Really.

— Jacob H. Fries


Good Answer!

Wisdom from the ballots of our Best Of Voters

New Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush admitted he'd never filled out an Inlander Best Of ballot before, but his 7-year-old son Jasper read the rules and saw that, hey, if you fill out and send in a ballot, you have a chance to win four Southwest Airlines tickets. That appealed to the young man, who had visions of getting on an airplane and flying somewhere for vacation this summer.

"So we sat down and started filling it out," says Jasper's dad. "We got about two-thirds done. There weren't many easy ones for guys like me in their mid-50s, so I had to rely on him for a lot of the answers."

There are places where you can see Jasper's influence. Best Kid-Friendly Dining: Moon's Mongolian Grill (it's a fun place to watch the chefs cook your meal). Best Kids' Event: KPBX Kids' Concerts. Best Band: An Dochas (an Irish and world music band that often performs with the Haran Irish Dancers, with which both Rush children dance).

But there are signs of Dad's influence as well: Best Mall: "This is an oxymoron," Rush writes. (The councilman has long been known for his views on land use and urban living.) Best New Workout Trend: Walking (although Rush is known more for two-wheel transportation than two-foot transportation. Best Breakfast: My House. "My wife and I have this theory about eating breakfast out," he says. "There's an inverse relationship between the cost of a meal and how much we enjoy it." So the Rushes tend to do most breakfasts at home, "grits and eggs, biscuits, scones," says the Alabama-born Rush.

So, Richard and Jasper Rush's opinions have been counted. Who knows? Maybe we'll soon be waving goodbye to the Rush family as it jets off to a cool vacation spot.

— DOUG NADVORNICK

Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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