50 Most Powerful: 21-29

Perry Jr., Sublette, Shugart, Grayson, Pugh, Marchena, Demings, Wick, Aguel

50 Most Powerful: 1-10

50 Most Powerful: 11-20

50 Most Powerful: 30-40

50 Most Powerful: 41-50

21 Belvin Perry Jr.
Attorney, Morgan & Morgan »Age: 65

Although he retired as chief judge for the Orange-Osceola circuit last fall, Perry remains a powerful voice in the community, particularly in the areas of domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Now a personal injury attorney with John Morgan’s firm, Perry has worked on legislative bills related to electronic monitoring of domestic abuse offenders, as well as increasing benefits for survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Perry is chair of the 100 Black Men Project, a mentoring program at Jones High School, and has received numerous accolades over the past year, including the local NAACP’s 2015 Community Service Man of the Year Award. One goal: “To get the conversation started about race and economics in our community so that we avoid the problems that have occurred across this nation. The citizens must respect law enforcement and law enforcement must respect the citizens.”

Pursuing a Passion for Excellence in Education

By Jennie Hess

22 Bill Sublette
Chairman, Orange County School Board »Age: 52

When Orange County Public Schools won the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education last September, School Board Chairman Bill Sublette was “ecstatic” —but also surprised. It had been just three years since the board had hired Superintendent Barbara Jenkins to lead the district, and the Broad (rhymes with “road”) still seemed to be a vision on the horizon. 

“We thought it would take us six to seven years to become a finalist for the prize and maybe eight or nine years to win it,” he recalls.

Instead, in 2014, Orange was co-winner of the $1 million prize awarded for strongest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing socioeconomic and minority achievement gaps. The win netted $500,000 in college scholarships for Orange high school seniors. 

“We were so thrilled. It is viewed as the gold standard—the Nobel prize for public school systems,” says Sublette, who credits teachers, students and parents for making the win possible. 

The only publicly elected school board chairman of Florida’s 67 districts, Sublette has pursued passionately his goals to grow and improve the district’s 189 schools populated by 13,000 teachers and 192,000 students. A lawyer and former state legislator, he’s enthusiastic about the school system’s “upward trajectory” and the community support that makes it possible. Last summer and fall, voters renewed a half-cent sales tax for school construction and passed the one-mill local option property tax for pupil spending.

Sublette says much of the district’s momentum is rooted in his effective partnership with Superintendent Jenkins and the vision and team spirit shared by the board. “That’s been a big part of our success,” he says.

Jenkins gives Sublette high marks for doing “an outstanding job of leading our board through often sensitive governance and political issues.” 

The Broad Prize win, she adds, “is a clear indication of the chairman’s, school board’s and administration’s singular focus on student success.”

That focus will have to be laser sharp as Orange County’s student population increases by more than 4,000 new students each year, and the district gears up to build 15 new or “relief” schools in the next 10 years. 

In May, during the annual State of the Schools address, Sublette announced the district would build a new performing arts magnet school “second to none in the U.S.” for high-school juniors and seniors on the grounds of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. “It’s going to be a very, very exciting opportunity for our students,” he says. Students also will benefit from sizable arts program grants and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) partnerships, he says.

When he’s not running his law practice or juggling major district challenges like improving teacher wages and paring unnecessary standardized testing, Sublette devotes time to his brainchild, the district’s Philanthropic Strategic Plan. In just two years, the program has raised $16 million for a list of projects that includes expanding pre-K offerings and recognizing a growing number of “Super Scholars,” students who are accepted into a top-20 American university upon graduation.

Sublette’s enthusiasm for creating student opportunities stems from hard times during his youth when his mom and three siblings “were left penniless.” His public school education and the chance to attend public universities while working his way through college paved his path to success, he says.

“I’ve always just really believed very passionately that public education in our society is the great equalizer,” he says. “It gives every kid the opportunity to chase whatever dream he may have.”

Is Sublette dreaming of higher office, possibly as Orange County mayor when Teresa Jacobs’ term is up in 2018? “I’m exploring,” he says. “I don’t think that decision will be made for at least another year, year and a half. I really love what I’m doing now, and I love what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

23 Sandy Shugart
President, Valencia College »Age: 58

Shugart is in his 16th year as head of Valencia College, which has over 60,000 students and is looking toward a partnership with UCF for a downtown campus in the proposed Creative Village development. The college launched a School of Public Safety in April and is planning a new campus in Poinciana. Shugart also wants to launch a major gifts campaign for the Valencia Foundation to push its endowment beyond $100 million. Aside from his Valencia duties, Shugart is chairman of the board at Orlando Health and helped lead a search for a new CEO for the hospital system. He is an accomplished poet and writer—he has released numerous books on leadership—as well as a folk guitarist, with four CDs to his credit.

24 Alan Grayson
U.S. Representative »Age: 57

Fiery Congressman Grayson is a vocal Democrat in a Republican-controlled Congress and a progressive maverick. As he ponders a 2016 run for U.S. Senate, he undergoes more media scrutiny, with a very public divorce recently making headlines. Bronx-born Grayson is a former economist and lawyer who represented whistleblowers in military contract fraud cases before being elected to Congress, first in 2009 and later 2013. He recently bucked the Obama Administration by criticizing U.S. free trade agreements, which moved jobs overseas, benefiting multinational corporations and foreign countries. But a 2014 Grayson proposal to stop the militarization of local police departments with Defense Department vehicles and equipment was adopted this year by Obama. Grayson also worked on bipartisan issues such as increasing funding for senior tax assistance. He advocated for gay-marriage equality and fought privatization of TSA screeners at Orlando International Airport.

25 Jim Pugh
Developer; Board Chairman, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts »Age: 78

Pugh has the solitary distinction of being the only person on this list to be photographed in a place named after him—that’s the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater he’s standing in below. It’s part of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the spectacular venue Pugh finally saw open last November after he contributed millions of his own money and spent a decade as the driving force behind getting it built. He continues to chair the arts center’s board, which got good news in June with the announcement of a $12 million donation from philanthropists Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz toward construction of a third and final performance hall, with completion in 2019. Pugh owns Winter Park-based Epoch Properties, one of the biggest apartment developers in the country.

26 Marcos Marchena
Managing Shareholder, Marchena and Graham »Age: 56

With the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority embarking on a $3 billion expansion to accommodate its 36 million-and-still-growing annual passengers, many contracts will be issued for upgrades, including a new south terminal and a planned train to Miami. That will keep GOAA general counsel Marchena busy. He recently negotiated a new 50-year lease with the city of Orlando so GOAA can continue to operate the Orlando International and Orlando Executive airports. Marchena serves as a member of the UCF Board of Trustees, and is chairman of the UCF Finance and Facilities Committee, working to maintain affordable tuition and fees for students. His next big project will be helping secure a downtown UCF campus. He is also working on a plan to encourage government agencies to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety in Central Florida.

27 Jerry Demings
Orange County Sheriff »Age: 56

During Demings’ seven-year tenure, crime has declined in Orange County by 16 percent. But there’s always a never-ending list of challenges to confront. In 2014, while overall crime dropped 2 percent in the county, violent crimes such as murder, rape and burglary increased by nearly 3 percent. So Demings has attacked it with a variety of undercover, rapid response and public outreach operations. His community-oriented style has helped prevent civil and racial unrest seen in other major cities around the country. In February, he testified before President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which recommended law enforcement reforms nationwide. Military Magazine also recognized the agency in 2014 as one of the best for hiring veterans. Demings remains active in youth groups including the Boy Scouts and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

28 Carol Wick
CEO, Harbor House of Central Florida »Age: 48

In the world of advocacy against domestic violence, Carol Wick is a rising star. In recent months, she has conferred with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the United Nations; and law enforcement and domestic violence-related agencies around Orlando, the state and as far away as California and Malaysia. It’s all in the name of sharing Harbor House’s strategies to reduce and prevent domestic violence and related issues of children’s mental health, bullying, human trafficking and homelessness. Wick, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and her team are attacking the problems on all fronts. They’ve raised $4 million for a new Harbor House children and family shelter addition; improved their R3 app for domestic violence first responders and emergency room physicians; provided 911 operator and police training; and worked with UCF researchers on a partner violence and law enforcement intervention study. They’ve reached out to schools, religious leaders and the media. Wick serves on several advisory boards including the Department of Children and Families Crisis Intervention Rapid Response Team and Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness.

29 George Aguel
President and CEO, Visit Orlando »Age: 61

Aguel is in his third year as head of the official tourism association that represents more than 1,200 member companies from across Central Florida’s travel and tourism community. This year produced some outstanding news, when it was announced that in 2014, Orlando became the first destination ever to draw 60 million visitors in a year (the area actually surpassed the mark, with 62 million). Aguel, along with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, made the announcement at an event in New York—ironically, the city that Orlando outdrew by nearly 6 million tourists. Visit Orlando also recently served as the official host for the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow, the travel industry’s premier international event, drawing about 5,000 attendees representing more than 70 countries over five days at the Orange County Convention Center.

Categories: People