DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- What was the top story of 2016 in the greater Daytona Beach, Sanford and Orlando region?
There certainly is no shortage of choices.
• How about the terrorism-related massacre shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, the worst terrorist act on American soil since 9/11 with 49 people killed and 53 others wounded. Several of the fallen victims were from Deltona. The massacre put the focus on terrorism and the rights of the LGBT community. In a 9-1-1 call shortly after the shooting began, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, a security guard, swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said the shooting was "triggered" by the US killing of Abu Waheeb in Iraq the previous month. Mateen was ultimately killed by Orlando police, but not before the carnage that was unleashed on the patrons inside.
* The 2016 election cycle was particularly nasty at all levels of government, though none more polarizing than the race for the White House that ultimately came down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both candidates made visits to Daytona Beach and Sanford.
• How about the other federal elections? Marco Rubio ran back to his US Senate seat after his failed bid for the presidency (Little Marco label given to him by Donald Trump) and created a domino effect where candidates like Congressman Ron DeSantis was forced to retreat to his old seat (in a new district) and stalwart John Mica was bounced by a political newcomer, Democrat Stephanie Murphy in her quest for Congress.
• How about the issue of homelessness in Volusia County, especially Daytona Beach? While the trio of business entrepreneur Forough Hosseini, Halifax Urban Ministries Director Mark Geallis and County Manager Jim Dinneen led a successful campaign for the unanimous County Council passage of Hope Place, converting a former elementary school into a facility for homeless families and unaccompanied teens, the issue of how to help the chronic homeless population was stalled by politics and the controversy has not ended.
Denny Hamlin just gets by Martin Truex, Jr., win the 2016 Daytona 500, the closest margin of victory in the history of the great American race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach back in February. And not to be outdone, Jimmie Johnson won his record-tying seventh NASCAR racing championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month, tying all-time greats Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
• How about the year NASCAR had, especially at thew two International Speedway Corp. tracks, Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach and Homestead-Miami Speedway? It was at Daytona, that Denny Hamlin won the closest Daytona 500 in history over Martin Truex, Jr. And if that weren't enough speed for you, Jimmie Johnson accomplished a record-tying fat with his seventh NASCAR championship, equalling the feat accomplished only twice before by two legends -- "The King" Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
• How about the battle for the three open seats on the Volusia County Council? Certainly there was no lacking of drama with Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley crushing first-term incumbent chair Jason Davis by 75,000 votes in the Nov. 8 elections. Daytona Beach Shores' Billie Wheeler easily got by Daytona Beach's Willie J. Kimmons, amid allegations of rape, even after the charges were dismissed when there was a hearing the day after the election in which he agreed to stay away from the woman who accused him of raping her. And there was a near-record amount of campaign money spent in the race won by former Sheriff's deputy Heather Post over WNDB morning radio personality Al Smith, the latter candidate backed heavily by J. Hyatt Brown.
• Daytona Beach again had the distinction of being one of the most violent crime-ridden cities, not only in Florida, but in the U.S with highlighted by nine homicides this year, on top of the double-digit homicides (10), the tourism-driven city experienced in 2015, the most in Police Chief Mike Chitwood's decade-long run as top cop in Daytona. The violence was punctuated by the pistol-whipping last month of State Rep.-elect Patrick Henry's 22-year-old son, Patrick Henry, Jr., who refused to cooperate with cops in the investigation.
• There was the slaughter of an entire family in Seminole County by a Casselberry man back in February, who, in the course of one night, ran over his wife outside a Lake Mary restaurant, engaged deputies in a gun battle at the hospital in Sanford in an attempt to finish her off (she died any way) before fleeing in a pick-up truck with their two small kids, killing both of them before turning the gun on himself.
• And how about the inquest in DeBary, where his elected colleagues voted to in August to remove Mayor Clint Johnson from office on allegations he violated the city's charter?
One of these 10 news events described above is the Headline Surfer Story of the Year for 2016, and will be unveiled when the clock strikes midnight to the year 2017. In the meantime, enjoy the Headline Surfer countdown of the Top 100 Stories of 2016 over the next several days. The award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet also will unveil its choices for Politician of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, Top Cop of the Year and Newsmaker of the Year.