50 Most Powerful




Some are outspoken, while others work behind the scenes. They make our laws, run our hospitals, hospitality industry and schools, give us a voice, strive to keep us safe. Their vocations and visions are wide-ranging, but the individuals on our eighth annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Orlando have this in common: They think Central Florida is a great place to live and work, and they are committed to using their considerable influence to keep it that way.

Just as the Orlando area is ever-changing, so is our list: You’ll find that some people have moved up from last year while others have slipped. Some who appeared previously are not on it anymore, making room for up-and-comers.

We also have added five individuals to our Hall of Power, a designation given to those who have made at least five consecutive appearances on the list and have a reputation for being influential in political, business or civic circles.
 

2 Dean Cannon
Speaker of the
Florida House
Age: 42
HALL OF POWER ’11

The argument could be made that Cannon is the most powerful person in Central Florida, maybe even in the entire state. But the Winter Park resident came in a close second to Teresa Jacobs on our list because his base of power is in Tallahassee, where he has spent years preparing his Republican Party colleagues for his takeover of the Florida House of Representatives. The timing of his long-awaited ascension to speaker couldn’t have been better for him, either: The last election handed Republicans supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature and installed a right-wing governor who shares some of Cannon’s conservative views, many of which came to fruition during the recent legislative session. Cannon has one more term as speaker, after which look for him to seek higher office. 2010 Rank: 11
 


 

3 Alex Martins
President
Orlando Magic
Age: 47

Looking at the list of civic, charitable and business groups Martins serves on, you might wonder where he gets the time for his job. Martins seems to be spread so thin he could be faxed to all the meetings he attends as a community leader. Somehow he still carved time out of his schedule to oversee construction of the most expensive public project in city history, the $480 million home arena for the NBA team he runs. The Amway Center’s on-time—and reportedly on-budget—opening in October was a crowning achievement. But by getting the arena done right, he found himself with another unpaid “volunteer” position: the chair of a group tasked with managing the construction budget of the embattled downtown performing arts center. Add it all up and Martins cracks the top 5 as the highest-ranked private citizen on the list.  2010 Rank: 7
 


 

4 Buddy Dyer
Mayor of Orlando
Age: 52
HALL OF POWER ’10

While 2010 ended with Dyer on a roll, with the opening of the city-owned Amway Center the highlight of that year, early 2011 seemed to hand him one setback after another at the hands of two new officeholders. First, Gov. Rick Scott treated two mass-transit projects Dyer championed—high-speed rail and commuter rail—like they were toxic, eventually rejecting the former while signaling he might do the same to the latter. Then Orange County’s new mayor, Teresa Jacobs, publicly shamed another pet project of Dyer’s, the downtown performing arts center, as she rejected the mayor’s plea that the county chip in more money so the city could build it. And all that happened in only the first four months of 2011. But by May, Dyer showed why he has topped the 50 Most Powerful list twice since 2008: He won’t give up on his dream of building a “world-class” city. He maneuvered around Jacobs and announced DPAC would break ground in June. Meanwhile, Scott seemed to be softening his view of SunRail. Look for Dyer to pull a few more victories out of the grasp
of defeat as he runs for re-election. 2010 Rank: 1
 


 

5 John Hitt
President,
University of Central Florida
Age: 70
HALL OF POWER ’09

Hitt has always been near the top of our power rankings, and it’s no wonder. When he took over as president in 1992, UCF was still trying to shed the label of a commuter school in the east Orlando hinterlands and hovered around No. 85 in national ranking of college enrollment. Today, the school is the second largest university in the country and ranks among the nation’s top research institutions, with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching putting it in the same class as Harvard, MIT and Stanford. Under Hitt’s watch, research funding has risen from $6.2 million to $133.3 million. The UCF College of Medicine opened last year, and a dental school is likely on the way. The sports world no longer ignores UCF (the Knights beat Georgia in a bowl game last season and Michael Jordan’s son plays for the hoops squad). All told, Hitt has awarded nearly 160,000 degrees. That’s one powerful handshake. 2010 Rank: 4.
 


 

6 Meg Crofton
President,
Walt Disney World Resort
Age: 57

A kid by the name of Potter bloodied the nose of the Mouse, but Disney fired back at Universal with an announcement of an expansion that will nearly double the size of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Crofton, of course, will oversee that project and all the other activities of the 62,000 cast members at the region’s biggest employer. The Disney veteran continues to step out in the community too, chairing the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission and serving on boards entrusted with building the performing arts center and fighting homelessness. Crofton also is at the forefront of Disney’s efforts to reach out to kids in ways beyond Mickey meet-and-greets: The company recently concluded a 40-day campaign that awarded $1.2 million in “Helping Kids Shine’’ grants to school districts and organizations that improve the lives of local children. 2010 Rank: 2
 


 

7 Jim Pugh
Chairman, Dr. Phillips Center for the
Performing Arts
Age: 7

With a stroke of the proverbial pen in May, Pugh moved the downtown performing arts center from the conceptual to the concrete. The wealthy developer led a group of DPAC donors in signing off on a personal $16 million line of credit, removing the last obstacle holding up construction on the project and handing Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer a victory in his fight to revive the recession-delayed downtown venues plan. A go-to fundraiser for Democratic candidates, Pugh makes the biggest jump on our list because his leadership on DPAC will have a profound impact on employment opportunities in the short term and downtown’s ambience and livability in the future. 2010 Rank: 35
 


 

8 Ronald Blocker
Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools
Age: 58

Blocker plans to retire in 2012 after 12 years at the helm of the nation’s 10th largest school district. Like all school chiefs in the state, he’s had to deal with severe cuts, but Blocker helped persuade Orange County voters to approve a property tax increase last November that will generate $83 million annually for four years. He has taken some heat because of lax oversight in the school’s $1.3 billion construction department. On the other hand, Blocker was selected as the state’s Superintendent of the Year for 2011, Orange has received an A rating from the state for three straight years, and on his watch, the graduation rate has risen to 79 percent, a jump of nearly 30 percent since 2000. 2010 Rank: 10.
 


 

9 John Morgan
Attorney, Political Powerbroker, Philanthropist
Age: 55
HALL OF POWER ’11

The general public may know him best as the face of Morgan & Morgan, the law firm that proclaims it’s “for the people,” but that image doesn’t fully represent Morgan’s ambitions. He is less the lawyer than the CEO of the diverse business interests he runs from his downtown office. His power is in his connections—and contributions—to political leaders in Orlando, Tallahassee, Washington, and even on Air Force One, from which President Obama recently called just to chat with Morgan. While his political profile has risen since failed U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. Charlie Crist joined Morgan’s firm, his altruistic side remains under the radar, as he prefers. Morgan has given generously to many local charities, including $2 million he and his wife, Ultima, the other Morgan in the firm, pledged to the Second Harvest Food Bank. 2010 Rank: 20
 


 

10 Craig Ustler
Downtown Developer, Restaurateur
Age: 42
HALL OF POWER ’10

Ustler continues to be a very active power player downtown. He has lined up about $25 million in grants and other commitments for Creative Village, the mix of high-tech businesses, digital media schools and residences he hopes to build on the old Amway Arena site. He recently opened the GAI building on Summerlin Avenue, a $32 million green office building that was one of the few substantial structures erected downtown over the past year. His dining group runs some of the best-known restaurants around (Citrus, Hue, Cityfish). Now that the performing arts center is on track, Ustler will keep busy with that too: He’s on the center’s board and is a member of its urban design task force and operations committee. 2010 Rank: 8
 


 

11 Gary Sain
President and CEO,
Visit Orlando
Age: 60

If there is one economic indicator that brings smiles to recession-weary Orlando-area leaders’ faces it’s tourism, but no smile is brighter than Sain’s. The head of the renamed Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau has overseen an aggressive use of social media and traditional marketing platforms to sell Orlando’s family-friendly features to the world. And the world responded as never before: Central Florida topped 50 million visitors in 2010, a record number for a U.S. travel destination, and raked in $30 billion in visitor spending. Sain owes some of that good fortune to Universal Orlando, which opened its much-anticipated Harry Potter attraction at a time Orlando needed a game-changer the most. Still, Sain deserves credit for luring new convention business to Orlando and for the turnaround in the all-important tourist development tax. If Orlando tourism exceeds the 2010 record this year, Sain will be smiling from ear to ear. 2010 Rank: 32
 


 

12 John Mica
U.S. Representative
Age: 68
HALL OF POWER ’10

The early months of 2011 were bittersweet for Mica. On the one hand, he took control of the Transportation Committee after the GOP takeover of the House, while on the other hand, his higher position failed to sway newly elected Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, to cash a $2.4 billion federal check set aside for an Orlando-Tampa high-speed rail line. If Scott kills the SunRail project, Mica could extract political payback by opposing the governor’s request for $77 million in federal aid to deepen the port of Miami. Mica has said he’ll announce which way he’s leaning on the request at about the same time Scott makes his decision on SunRail. Coincidence? Nah. 2010 Rank: 3
 


 

13 Tom Williams
Chairman and CEO,
Universal Parks & Resorts
Age: 63
HALL OF POWER ’11

Tourism officials like Gary Sain (No. 11) may cite pent-up demand as a chief reason a record number of visitors came to Orlando last year, but Williams’ deserves an “accolades” for his part in the tourism turnaround. His $200-million-plus gamble to build The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction amid a recession paid off big for both Universal and the local tourism market. The sooner-than-expected rebound in travel has given the area economy a much needed boost. Williams’ home run with Potter also raised the competition level between Universal and Disney World, which can only be good for Central Florida. 2010 Rank: 25
 


 

14 Scott Maxwell
Orlando Sentinel Columnist
Age: 39

Maxwell is the Jack Russell terrier of newspaper journalism: a hyper, stubborn, aggressive digger who’s great to have around. The veteran columnist, whose stature has steadily risen in our rankings the last few years, is a politician’s nightmare, using his “Taking Names’’ column to ferret out double talk while unabashedly labeling dubious proposals as “idiotic’’ or “box-of-rocks awful.’’ The election of Rick Scott seems to have energized Maxwell even more: He has called the governor an outright liar on budget issues ranging from education funding to care
for the elderly. Those are powerful words. 2010
Rank: 18
 


 

15 Helen Donegan
Vice President of Community Relations, UCF
Age: 64
Hall of Power ’10

She knows all the right people, and many of them are on our list. Donegan is so sought-after by women interested in making connections that she has her own women’s networking group. She has a knack for planning big-time galas that bring the area’s most influential under one roof, as seen with the grand opening of UCF’s medical-school building in October. It’s hard to say if Donegan hitched her wagon to UCF’s rising star or it’s the other way around. She and her husband, Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan (No. 36) remain atop our Most Powerful Couples list (see
facing page). 2010 Rank: 13
 


 

16 Lars Houmann
President and CEO, Florida Hospital
Age: 53
HALL OF POWER ’11

As Florida Hospital continues to grow, so does Houmann’s influence on the future of Orlando as a healthcare mecca. The hospital’s location on North Orange Avenue is a major employment center, which is one reason Houmann is such an ardent backer of a commuter rail system that would include a stop at the downtown campus. He has been involved in high-powered efforts among business leaders and elected officials to persuade Gov. Rick Scott to allow the $1.2 billion SunRail line to be built. 2010 Rank: 12
 


 

17 Jerry Demings
Orange County Sheriff
Age: 52

Demings didn’t ask anyone for power. He earned it all on his own as the leading crime fighter in Central Florida. Under Demings, Orange County recorded a double-digit drop in crime rates last year, the largest decrease in Central Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. His wife, Val Demings (No. 18), didn’t do too badly in the crime-fighting department either. 2010 Rank: 21
 


 

18 Val Demings
Recently retired Orlando Police Chief
Age: 54

Her decision to retire after less than four years at the helm of OPD came as quite a shock, but it only stirred speculation on what lies ahead for this hard-charging public figure. The first woman/African-American woman to lead OPD, Demings oversaw a department that aggressively patrolled the streets and made Orlando safer, with back-to-back years of double-digit declines in violent crime. In stepping down, Demings, a Democrat, hinted that a political run may be her next move, setting up the possibility she will remain a powerful presence for years to come.  2010 Rank: 22
 


 

19 Dr. Deborah German
Dean, UCF College of Medicine
Age: 60

She is a leading figure in the effort to turn Lake Nona into a company town for medical care, research and education. Being associated with the UCF juggernaut may help explain how she has established herself so quickly in some of Orlando’s inner circles, including board positions on Fifth Third Bank and the Edyth Bush Foundation, a charitable group stocked with movers and shakers. 2010 Rank: 27 
 


 

20 Bill Nelson
U.S. Senator
Age: 68
HALL OF POWER ’10

Nelson is up for re-election to a third term next year, and a recent poll shows the lawmaker with leads of 20 to 25 points over three GOP challengers, all with little name recognition. The veteran politician, who has a home in Orlando’s Baldwin Park, is chairman of the Senate’s space subcommittee and therefore will have a big say in the direction of the space program post-shuttle. And, considering Florida’s large population of retirees, expect Nelson’s to be a key voice as Democrats battle the GOP’s plan to reform Medicare. 2010 Rank: 14
 


 

21 Clarence Otis
Chairman and CEO, Darden Restaurants
Age: 55
Hall of Power ’11

Under Otis’ guidance, Orlando-based Darden weathered the economic bust better than most dining chains and is once again posting impressive gains. Best known for its Olive Garden-Red Lobster-Seasons 52 triumvirate, Darden also made this year’s Fortune magazine list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. That’s a first for the company, reflecting the talents and philosophy of a CEO who’s also a powerful philanthropist: Last year Otis received a prestigious national award from the Business Committee for the Arts for Darden’s financial support of the performing arts. 2010 Rank: 15
 


 

22 Andy Gardiner
Majority Leader, State Senate
Age: 42

Gardiner has made our list six times in eight years, and considering what’s coming up, he’s not likely to be falling off any time soon. Selected as Senate majority leader late last year, the Orlando Republican is in line to become Senate president in a couple of years and is firmly entrenched in the inner circle of GOP leadership in the Legislature. He continues to have a leading role in deciding transportation issues in particular and helping to guide the Republicans’ conservative agenda. No less important is his job as vice president of external affairs and community relations for Orlando Health, which like crosstown competitor Florida Hospital stands to benefit if SunRail gets Gov. Rick Scott’s go-ahead. The commuter train would make a stop at Orlando Health’s downtown location. 2010 Rank: 24
 


 

23 Frederick Leonhardt
Attorney/Lobbyist,
GrayRobinson
Age: 61

With such clients as UCF, Darden Restaurants and the Orlando Magic, and close connections to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon (a former GR colleague) and state Attorney General Pam Bondi, Leonhardt is a bonafide major league player. Maybe that’s why he’s the heavy hitter behind a young businessman’s effort to bring a New York Yankees minor league team to Orlando. Working at one of the most influential law firms in the state certainly helps his standing on the list.  2010 Rank: 30


 

24 Karen Dee
Florida Regional President,
Fifth Third Bank
Age: 50

Dee’s ballroom dance lessons may have helped her move gracefully up our list, climbing 26 places (second most to Jim Pugh, No. 7) since her debut last July. In only two years since she moved here, Dee has established herself as a one of the area’s more prominent business executives, with the Orlando Business Journal naming her its “2011 Businesswoman of the Year.” She recently raised Fifth Third’s profile in the community by launching a summer program whose aim is to help all 3,000 homeless schoolchildren in Orange County, providing them with food, school supplies and activities. 2010 Rank: 50
 


 

25 Kelly Cohen
Lobbyist/Managing
Partner, Southern
Strategy Group
Age: 37

Identified as an “up-and-comer” in her debut on last year’s list, Cohen jumps 21 places. Still the second-youngest person on our list to Dwight Howard (No. 26), Cohen is the face of downtown’s emerging class of people who get things done. She’s involved in the inner workings of politics and development in the city, using her connections to get results. Mayor Buddy Dyer has called on Cohen to work on all of his campaigns. She helped organize the launch party for Dyer’s 2012 re-election bid, which drew 500 people and raised $125,000. 2010 Rank: 46
 


 

26 Dwight Howard
Orlando Magic Center,
Philanthropist
Age: 25

In his case, power could be as obvious as a slam dunk over LeBron James. But with the superstar center now entering his final season under contract with the Magic, Howard’s power has wider implications than a 2-point basket. Howard’s status has the city—and the sports world—abuzz. His decision to stay or leave will have a definite impact on the futures of the team, the city’s new arena and—just as importantly—the many charities he personally supports here through his D12 Foundation. 2010 Rank: 39
 


 

27 Rich Crotty
Former Mayor of Orange County
Age: 62
Hall of Power ’09

We wondered last year if Crotty, who was near the end of his final term in office, had made his last appearance on the list. But he still ran the county for much of the time our rankings cover (May to May), maintaining a parsimonious attitude during a tough economy. Now working for a property management company, Crotty still deserves recognition for connections made during his years of public service, and as a three-time No. 1 on the 50 Most Powerful list. His place on the next list, however, is far from assured. 2010 Rank: 6
 


 

28 Mark NeJame
Attorney
Age: 56

His profile continues to rise because of the sensational cases he handles and his role as a local TV-news legal analyst commenting on the Casey Anthony trial. It was NeJame, by the way, who accurately predicted the Anthony defense team’s strategy while making one of his many appearances on Nancy Grace, a show that gives him national exposure. It seems as if anytime a legal matter makes headlines in this town, NeJame is involved in it. But he has also put his name behind a good cause (see Most Powerful Couples, page 49), political campaigns and business deals. Look for him to be a player on Church Street in the coming months. 2010 Rank: 31
 


 

29 Jacob Stuart
President, Central Florida Partnership
Age: 62
HALL OF POWER ’09

It seems Stuart is connected to nearly every local civic group with “chamber,’’ “partnership’’ or “leadership’’ in its title. Little surprise: For the past quarter century, he has been arguably the biggest booster of his native Orlando. Stuart and other business leaders took a hit when, despite heavy lobbying, Gov. Rick Scott killed high-speed rail. Now he’s helping lead the charge to persuade the governor to spare SunRail. Stuart’s group also traveled to Washington recently to stress to lawmakers the importance of the space industry to the region. 2010 Rank: 33
 


 

30 Rasesh Thakkar
Senior Managing Director,
Tavistock Group
Age: 49

He is a linchpin in the transformation of Lake Nona into a so-called Medical City. Tavistock is a major land holder in the area near the airport, and, under Thakkar, has helped lure research facilities, UCF’s medical and (proposed) dental schools, and separate hospitals for veterans and children. Coming up from Thakkar & Co.: A Baldwin Park-style 2,500-home residential development called Laureate Park. 2010 Rank: 17
 


 

31 Sherrie Sitarik*
President and CEO, Orlando Health
Age: 54

Sitarik may be a newcomer to the list, but hers is not an unfamiliar name in certain circles. She has been with Orlando Health 33 years, working her way up from a nurse. She ran the hospital group’s strategic planning process for several years before being named to replace John Hillenmeyer, who had been a regular on our list. Orlando Health has played a major role in the development of the SoDo (south of downtown) district, which has begun to take off with the improved economy.
 


 

32 Harris Rosen
Founder, Rosen Hotels and Resorts
Age: 71
HALL OF POWER ’09

The hotel magnate is known for his “my-way-or-the-highway” style, but his way has been good for both the I-Drive tourism corridor dominated by his properties and the causes his foundation benefits. Rosen tends to stay out of Orlando’s political and charity scenes, but he, nonetheless, can move their needles with his influence in the former and philanthropy in the latter. 2010 Rank: 16
 


 

33 Kathy Ramsberger
President, Dr. Phillips Center for the
Performing Arts
Age: 49

When the downtown performing arts center became a political hot potato earlier this year, Ramsberger remained quietly on the sidelines while Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer played one-upmanship. But when the game ended, it was Ramsberger who could claim victory (not that she would publicly), as her group of arts center backers and Dyer sidestepped Jacobs and secured funds to start Phase I construction. Unshakeable perseverance is her power. 2010 Rank: 29
 


 

34 Mike Thomas
Orlando Sentinel Columnist
Age: 56

If colleague Scott Maxwell is the Sentinel’s persistent Jack Russell terrier, Thomas is its bloodhound, patiently sniffing out abnormalities in the world around us, from police beatings to water-wasting grass (environmental issues are a specialty for this veteran writer). The straightforward Thomas isn’t afraid to take bold stands, as when he downplayed the threat of the BP oil spill to the Gulf or took officials to task for arresting a teenager on child kidnapping charges even though the boy said he was just trying to help a girl find her mom. 2010 Rank: 36
 


 

35 Thomas Chatmon*
Executive Director,
Downtown Development Board
Age: 56

Amway Center may have saved Church Street from further decay, but it was Chatmon who brought new life to the entertainment district. The city official has been influential in bringing new bars and restaurants to Church Street, with more openings in the works. While the performing arts center and Creative Village projects offer promise a few years in the future, the city faces other challenges now, such as getting the stalled Carver Square condo/retail project in Parramore restarted and making areas farther north on Orange Avenue as vibrant as the central business district.
 


 

36 Bill Donegan
Orange County Property Appraiser
Age: 71

Increasingly, Donegan has been the bearer of bad news because of falling property values and tax revenues. But the property appraiser remains a respected public figure after nearly nine years in the post and continues to be a top power player in the community (along with wife Helen, No. 15). Donegan supported the successful campaigns of County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster and ran Bill McCollum’s Orange County campaign in that veteran politician’s unsuccessful bid for governor. 2010 Rank: 26
 


 

37 Dick Batchelor
Business and Political Consultant, Advocate for Children’s Causes
Age: 63
HALL OF POWER ’09

His name is among the few on the list that can claim household status. Batchelor is that well known, thanks largely to his TV persona as a political analyst. But it’s his role as an advocate to help children (abused, hungry, ill or otherwise) that has made him a force of positive change. 2010 Rank: 28
 


 

38 Daniel Webster
U.S. Representative
Age: 62

With his victory over Democrat Alan Grayson in the 8th Congressional District race last November, the 28-year veteran of the state Legislature returns to our list after a two-year hiatus. In Washington, Webster has been a reliable ally in the GOP effort to frustrate President Obama’s spending plans and has continued his socially conservative agenda. 2008 Rank: 24
 


 

39 Belvin Perry Jr.
Chief Judge, 9th
Judicial Circuit
Age: 61

Perry runs the Orange-Osceola court system, which handles more than 600,000 cases a year. But Orlando—and possibly the nation—knows him as the by-the-book jurist overseeing the Casey Anthony trial, which has put him back on our list after a seven-year absence. Perry is an active, founding member of 100 Black Men Orlando, which helps put African-American students on a college track, and he also chairs the Florida Innocence Commission, created to identify and correct the causes of wrongful conviction and incarceration. 2004 Rank: 27
 


 

40 Richard Maladecki
President/CEO, Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association
Age: 57

As head of the largest regional lodging association in the world, Maladecki represents an area industry that employs about 100,000 people. His position opens doors to officeholders in Orlando and Tallahassee, while his group’s influence is felt locally in races for the Orange County commission (it endorsed Bill Segal for mayor) and school board. 2010 Rank: 37
 


 

41 Bill Sublette*
Chairman, Orange County School Board
Age: 48

Just seven months into his job as the county’s first elected school board chief, Sublette has taken a full-speed-ahead approach, holding admini-strators’ feet to the fire over mismanagement in the school construction department and establishing measurable goals (including, within four years, no D or F schools). The former Republican state House legislator (1993-2001) will lead the way in picking a replacement for retiring superintendent Blocker.
 


 

42 Harriett Lake*
Philanthropist
AGE: 89

Her generosity disproves the old adage that money can’t buy happiness. Lake has made a lot of people wildly happy with her donations to charities, arts groups and hospitals in Orlando. In 2010 alone, “the woman of many hats” signed more than 180 checks made out to good causes, with Orlando Health, Florida Hospital and UCF’s theater program each landing $500,000 donations. Her power is in her pocketbook, which has changed—and likely saved—countless lives in the area. 
 


 

43 Joel Hunter
Pastor, Northland,
a Church Distributed
Age: 63

You won’t get any fiery sermons out of this pastor. Hunter has a way of reaching people with a message delivered in a plainspoken manner, which may help explain why he has remained a spiritual adviser to President Obama. His high-tech, Internet-wired mega-church also reaches people outside of the area, and not just for preaching. Northland recently dispatched a disaster response team to Pleasant Grove, Ala., to help victims of a killer tornado. 2010 Rank: 34
 


 

44 Marcos Marchena*
Attorney, Marchena and Graham
Age: 52

Marchena is a behind-the-scenes player who wields substantial influence on a variety of panels. The Cuban-born attorney is vice chairman of the University of Central Florida Foundation and general counsel to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Marchena, who’s also active in local Republican Party circles, just completed seven years on the Florida Transportation Commission.
 


 

45 Matthew Falconer
Political Activist
Age: 50

Falconer’s last-place finish in the 2010 Orange County mayoral primary didn’t deter his zeal for spreading his anti-tax agenda. He continued to fight the Orlando-Tampa high-speed rail project and SunRail, with the former being derailed by fellow Tea Partier Gov. Rick Scott, who, at press time, remained undecided on the latter’s fate. Falconer is working to register 500,000 conservative voters in Florida by 2012, and the small-business owner has mentioned that he may run for Congress in 2012. 2010 Rank: 43
 


 

46 Jim Atchison
President and CEO,
SeaWorld Parks
& Entertainment
Age: 45

He led SeaWorld Orlando through the fallout over the death of a killer-whale trainer in early 2010, unveiling a revamped Shamu show a year later. Atchison oversees the entire 10-park chain, including Busch Gardens in Tampa, where he began working for the company as a parking lot attendant while attending college. Atchison maintains a low profile in Orlando’s power circles, but his influence on tourism is considerable, as is SeaWorld’s global reach with marine-animal rescue and conservation. 2010 Rank: 44
 


 

47 Lawson Lamar
Orange-Osceola State
Attorney
Age: 69

Lamar’s lone election opponent in two decades told an interviewer in 2008 that the state attorney had developed a “God-like complex.’’ Then she got trounced at the polls. Despite the annual media rants (this year he took heat over the mistaken-identity jailing of a Haitian woman), Lamar doesn’t seem any worse for wear. And the Casey Anthony case has elevated the profile of his office. Seventh term, anyone? 2010 Rank: 38.
 


 

48 Alan Villaverde*
Managing Director,
The Peabody Orlando
Age: 65

Villaverde, who has been with the local hotel for 18 years, has emerged as a key player in the area’s tourism and convention industry, deftly shepherding the dazzling $450 million expansion of The Peabody through grim economic times. As chairman of the I-Drive Improvement District and the I-Drive Community Redevelopment Agency, Villaverde is at the forefront of bringing elected officials and hotels together to promote the tourist corridor to the community and visitors alike, get I-Drive road widening projects on the table, and keep the vital hotel/convention economic engine purring.
 


 

49 Sara Brady
President,
Sara Brady Public
Relations
Age: 54

When a police scandal rocked Windermere in January, the affluent town brought in Brady to manage its official response to the controversy. If only the PR crisis had ended there for her. Windermere, the world has since found out, was not all that it seemed to be. As for Brady’s community involvement, she chairs the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Orange County Public Library’s board of trustees as well as the United Way Women’s Leadership Committee and the Go Red for Women campaign. 2010 Rank: 41
 


 

50 Doug Taylor*
Co-Owner, Church Street
Entertainment,
Downtown Booster
Age: 45

Taylor, whose group owns several downtown bars, has been leading a charge to re-establish Church Street as THE gathering place for locals and visitors—and not just at night. Taylor’s plan includes marketing the entertainment strip to conventioneers staying on I-Drive and staging multi-day festivals on Church, where most of his bars are located, including the chic indoor/outdoor One80 Grey Goose Lounge in the Amway Center.

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