The Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award was first established at the Florida Coastal School of Law and was given out by the Law School for three years. After the Law School reorganized, the Environmental Protection Board was approached to continue giving this award in honor of Jacksonville’s Original Environmental Champion.
The Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award seeks to highlight and acknowledge an individual who has exhibited, over a long-term, professionalism, diligence and an unwavering commitment as a Champion of the Environment in protecting or preserving the natural resources of Duval County.
Past Winners include:
- Congressman Charles Bennett
- Walt Bussells - JEA
- Neil Armingeon - St Johns Riverkeeper
- Linda Bremer - Sierra Club
- Dr. Todd Stack - EPB
- Robert Schuster –EPB
- Mark Middlebrook - Preservation Project
- Mayor John Delaney
- State Senator John Thrasher
- Barbara Broward - EPB
- Richard Maguire
- Warren Anderson
- Barbara Goodman
2017 Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award
The 2016 award was presented to the family of the late William "Bill" Brinton at the EPB-UNF Environmental Symposium held on the campus of UNF on October 4, 2017.
Bill left behind a long and rich environmental impact on both the public and private sectors of our community. He dedicated much of his adult life to protecting Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty. Bill’s involvement in environmental and scenic issues began with his service on the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) Visual Pollution study, released in 1985 which led to the adoption of new City sign regulations greatly reducing the number, size and spacing of on-site signs. When the City Council failed to follow through on the JCCI study recommendations to more strictly regulate billboards, Bill was one of the founders of Citizens Against the Proliferation of Signs (CAPSigns, now Scenic Jacksonville). CAPSigns embarked on a successful effort to place the Billboard Charter Amendment on the ballot. Bill’s leadership raised the community awareness of this issue which passed overwhelmingly, despite a massively funded effort by the billboard industry to defeat it.
He again stepped into a leadership role when the City Council weakened the City tree protection ordinance to largely exempt residential developers. In 2000, he organized Citizens for Tree Preservation (also now part of Scenic Jacksonville), which led yet another successful citizens’ initiative to amend the City Charter to restore protection for trees. Once again, the issue was placed on the ballot where it also passed by a 3-1 margin.
Bill’s commitment to scenic beauty and the environment was reflected in his community service. He served as Chair of the Jacksonville Landscape Commission and was a Past President of City Beautiful Jax and Tree Hill Nature Center. He was counsel for Scenic Jacksonville and served as Board Member and then counsel for Citizens for a Scenic Florida. Bill also served on the Board of Directors of Scenic America for over ten years and served on the Blight to Beauty Task Force chaired by former Council Member Denise Lee. In his legal career, Bill Brinton was a tireless champion of the scenic environment, becoming one of the nation’s preeminent experts on sign regulation.
Regrettably, Bill lost a battle with cancer and died June 19, 2017 at the age of 64. Few people in their lifetimes have been such passionate champions of the environment and made such a positive contribution to the scenic beauty and environment of their community. He also assisted local governments and citizen organizations across the country in fighting visual pollution, often on his own time and at his own expense.
Bill's wife Catherine, daughter Caroline and her sons Luke and Adams accepted the award
from Dr. Lucinda Sonnenberg, Chair of the Environmental Protection Board.