50 Most Powerful People in Orlando


They are the people who make things happen in Orlando. They run our hospitals and theme parks, raise money for good causes, help politicians get elected and are involved in setting the course for Central Florida’s future. They are some of the most influential people in Orlando, weighing in on everything from what gets built here to how to improve our quality of life to who runs for office.

And 50 of them make up our ninth annual list of the Most Powerful People in Orlando. 

Some of their names are well known, while many are known only within certain circles. But all of them have a knack for getting things done, often with the help of their connections to other powerful people. 

Included on our list are five Hall of Power inductees. To gain that distinction, an individual must have made the 50 Most list five consecutive years and have a reputation for being highly influential in political, business or civic circles. We also highlight five Power Couples, with a new No. 1 this year.

1 Alex Martins
CEO, Orlando Magic
Age: 48


(Click on Martins' name for profile.)


2 Teresa Jacobs
Orange County Mayor
Age: 55

Since taking office in January 2011, Jacobs has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with, so much so that she debuted on our list at No. 1 last year. Jacobs is a tough leader with a microscopic eye on financial issues. It was her displeasure with the finances of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority that led Mike Snyder to step down as head of the agency. Jacobs also helped put together a new funding plan for the $1.7 billion Wekiva Parkway that will relieve Orange County toll payers of footing a big chunk of the project’s cost. She has taken a hard stand against pleas that the county commit rebounding tourist development tax revenues to help fund the planned but long-delayed $175 million renovation of the Citrus Bowl. Jacobs has made upgrades to the county convention center a greater priority. Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer have had a rocky relationship since early 2011 when she wrote a memo criticizing plans to build the downtown performing arts center.  2011 Rank: 1



3 Buddy Dyer
Mayor of Orlando
Age: 53

He could be mayor for life if he chooses to remain at City Hall, but Dyer, who easily won a third term in April, could also be the state Democratic Party’s best hope of beating Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. Insiders say he is considering—and is being pressured—to run for governor. In the meantime, Dyer continues to remake Orlando into a big city, with two public projects he championed—the downtown performing arts center and SunRail—now under construction. As his re-election showed, Dyer has Orlando’s business community in his corner. The schism between him and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has precipitated a mutual feeling of distrust between the city and county administrations. 2011 Rank: 4


4 John Hitt
President, University of Central Florida
Age: 71

Hitt is the dean of state university presidents, having just celebrated his 20th anniversary at the helm of the country’s second-largest academic institution. UCF has consistently landed more than $100 million a year in research contracts and grants, and its 2-year-old medical school is purring along.  Although the sports programs suffered a black eye because of recruiting violations, UCF got a boost in visibility by joining the Big East Conference. So has UCF become Hitt’s magic kingdom? Maybe. Wrote former Gov. Jeb Bush in a recent Orlando Sentinel column: “John  Hitt and Walt Disney have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant, dynamic place than any two people in the region’s history.’’ 2011 Rank: 5


5 Gary Sain
President/CEO Visit Orlando
Age: 61

Sain’s untimely death on May 4 didn’t alter his standing on the 2012 Most Powerful list. His successes as the chief of the group that promotes Orlando as a travel destination justifies his highest ranking and posthumous induction into our Hall of Power. Sain helped lure away from Chicago the plastics industry’s annual trade show, bringing 55,000 conventioneers to Orlando in April. But that was small potatoes compared with the estimated 54 million visitors who came here in 2011, a record-breaking number greatly influenced by Sain’s marketing prowess. Sain moved the needle in the local tourism industry’s $29 billion impact on the area. He leaves an impressive legacy. 
2011 Rank: 11


6 John Morgan
Attorney, Business Owner, 
Major Obama Supporter
Age: 56

The founder of what is today one of the largest personal injury law firms in the country is quite the rainmaker for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Morgan hosted Obama at his family home in Lake Mary in October and, in March, at former Magic player Vince Carter’s Isleworth estate, bringing in $2 million to the president’s re-election campaign. Morgan’s political influence is far-ranging, with close ties to Mayor Buddy Dyer (No. 3), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and some of the most powerful Republican and Democratic politicians in Florida. His business interests are diverse, too, with billboard advertising, amusement venues and hotels among his holdings. Morgan’s empire now extends to New York, with a law office in New York City and a WonderWorks attraction opening in Syracuse in September. 2011 Rank: 9


7 Meg Crofton
President, Walt Disney Parks and
Resorts Operations, United States and France
Age: 58

Crofton now oversees not only Walt Disney World operations, but also those of the Disneyland parks in California and Paris. Her kingdom only shows signs of strengthening: In the first quarter of 2012, revenue in Disney’s parks division increased 10 percent. Lately, the Fantasyland revamp at the Magic Kingdom is progressing nicely and the Art of Animation Resort joined the lineup of nearly two dozen local Disney hotels. Crofton remains a charitable force in the community, with her company generating $28 million in cash and in-kind support through volunteer hours in the past year. Disney recently donated $5.7 million to Heart of Florida United Way, and doled out $1.7 million to local nonprofits through its “Helping Kids Shine’’ program. Crofton also serves on  UCF’s Board of Trustees. 2011 Rank: 6


8 Dean Cannon
Speaker of the
Florida House
Age: 43

His reign as speaker ends in November, setting up speculation about what’s next for the term-limited Republican. He says he is weighing his options, but some political insiders say Cannon will join a lobbying firm. He’d be a natural fit for that line of work, knowing how government works and who can get things done. Perhaps that is why the Florida Chamber of Commerce named him the 2012 Most Valuable Legislator. Some, however, will remember Cannon for using taxpayer money to fund a legal challenge to the Fair District amendment voters approved in 2010. 2011 Rank: 2


9 Ronald Blocker
Superintendent, (now retired), Orange County Public Schools
Age: 59

Blocker retired last month after 12 years at the helm of what is now the 10th largest school system in the country. And while it wasn’t always smooth sailing trying to deal with budget cuts and sagging morale, he leaves with some numbers to be proud of. Orange County’s graduation rate has risen from 50 percent a decade ago to the current 91 percent, and in 2011, for the first time, no high school received a grade below C from the state. Blocker has made the Top 10 every year since debuting on the list in 2008, with No. 2 his highest ranking, in 2009. Those kind of numbers merit Hall of Power recognition. 2011 Rank: 8


10 John Mica
U.S. Representative
Age: 69

The Winter Park Republican is gunning for a whopping 11th term in the House and, because of the oddball results of redistricting, will be going up against Congresswoman Sandy Adams in the primary. Mica’s influence in Washington is huge because he heads the House transportation committee, which puts him in the middle of national issues ranging from airport security to highway infrastructure to the controversial Keystone Pipeline. Closer to home, Mica is a powerful supporter of the 61-mile SunRail commuter train project. He’ll be very influential in finding ways to pay for the system’s operating costs. 2011 Rank: 12


11 Craig Ustler
Downtown Developer
Age: 43

With the economy making substantial strides, Ustler is racing ahead, solidifying his role as the major force in downtown development. With the demolition of the Amway Arena, his concept for the high-tech Creative Village development for the site is taking form, starting with the design of infrastructure to provide for a Lymmo bus route and its link to SunRail.  Elsewhere, Ustler is about to break ground on a 230-unit apartment project on Florida Hospital’s Health Village campus, and he recently announced plans for an eight-story hotel at Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive. 2011 Rank: 10


12 Fred Leonhardt
Attorney/Senior Partner, GrayRobinson
Age: 62

Leonhardt’s background in business, finance and government law gives him a far-reaching influence beyond the local level. Gov. Rick Scott tapped him for the board of directors of Space Florida, the state agency that promotes space business. And when he’s not going to bat for clients such as Darden Restaurants, LYNX, the Orlando Magic and the Canaveral Port Authority, Leonhardt acts as chairman (a volunteer position) for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization. Leonhardt is a member of The Florida Council of 100, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advises the governor on how to improve the quality of life in Florida. 2011 Rank: 23


13 Rasesh Thakkar
Senior Managing Director, Tavistock Group
Age: 50

With the pieces rapidly falling into place at Tavistock’s Lake Nona development, Thakkar’s stature grows. This year, Medical City, which already boasts UCF’s medical school and two research institutes, will see the opening of three huge additions—Nemours Children’s Hospital, a VA hospital and a University of Florida medical research center. Also in the works: a branch of Valencia College and a housing development called Laureate Park. Thakkar and his company project an image of fostering regional and national partnerships, and that concept goes over well in these parts. 2011 Rank: 30


14 Dr. Deborah German
UCF Vice President for 
Medical Affairs and
Dean, College of Medicine
Age: 61

Diminutive in stature, German knows how to dream big. Since she came on board as dean of UCF’s College of Medicine, her leadership has been instrumental in establishing Lake Nona as a medical hub. German’s ability to create strategic partnerships—she’s a board member of Fifth Third Bank and the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation—have benefited not only the school, but also the community at large. Most recently, she had a role in the land purchase for the UCF College of Medicine Clinical Enterprise, and she developed Pegasus Health, the school’s faculty practice. 2011 Rank: 19


15 Andy Gardiner
Majority Leader, Florida Senate
Age: 43

Gardiner’s quest to become Senate president in 2014-16 is a done deal, but it wasn’t achieved without coup attempts by other lawmakers last session that resulted in some backroom wheeling and dealing. What’s impressive is that two years before his ascension to that post, the Orlando conservative has already amassed huge amounts of political influence. Gardiner has his eye on transportation issues and is a friend of the tourism industry. His sphere of influence is great elsewhere too—he’s vice president of external affairs and community relations for Orlando Health. 2011 Rank: 22


16 Helen Donegan
Vice President of Community 
Relations, UCF
Age: 65

Donegan is one of Orlando’s most prominent female executives; she has served on numerous local boards and devoted her time to countless charitable committees and organizations. Word is, her boss, UCF President John Hitt, dreads the thought of her retiring because Donegan is so well-connected and an expert at organizing large-scale events. This year, her Women’s Leadership Council luncheon raised more than $100,000 for United Way. Recently, Donegan was the recipient of the Women’s Summit Award given by the Central Florida Women’s Resource Center for outstanding community service and leadership. 2011 Rank: 15


17 Karen L. Dee
Florida Regional President, 
Fifth Third Bank
Age: 51

The only banker on the list, Dee has come a long way since debuting at No. 50 in 2010. She has made Orlando the statewide headquarters for Fifth Third, adding two locations here and boosting lending to small businesses. Dee’s board memberships on the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, Citrus Club and the Central Florida Partnership, a business development group, add to her clout as a top executive in Central Florida. She has become involved in local politics, too, serving on the re-election host committee for Mayor Buddy Dyer (No. 3). Fifth Third’s community involvement has taken off under Dee, with efforts to help the homeless and veterans returning home. 
2011 Rank: 24


18 Lars Houmann
President and CEO, Florida Hospital
Age: 54

Florida Hospital’s growing medical complex on North Orange Avenue is a testament to Houmann’s aspirations for creating a medical giant. Plans are under way to expand its College of Health Sciences, as part of a $25 million multi-phase project for the downtown campus, one of eight in the area. And with a planned SunRail stop at the hospital’s downtown location, Florida Hospital is primed for another growth spurt—namely The Ivy, a 114-acre health care village with housing. 2011 Rank: 16


19 Kelly Cohen
Lobbyist/Managing Partner, Southern
Strategy Group
Age: 38

She is the most powerful person under 40 on the list, with close ties to Mayor Buddy Dyer (No. 3),  John Morgan (No. 6), Craig Ustler (No. 11), Rasesh Thakkar (No. 13) and Ted Maines and Jeffrey Miller (26-27 and the No. 1 Power Couple), among others on the list. Cohen has statewide connections, too, but her focus is closer to home. She is on the Metro Orlando Economic Development executive committee, Wells Fargo’s Community Bank advisory board of directors, and she co-chaired the Nap Ford Community School fundraiser, a big draw among downtown’s powerful. Should Dyer run for governor, Cohen will be behind him as she has been since he ran for state attorney general in 2002.    
2011 Rank: 25 

20 Dwight Howard
Orlando Magic Center,
Age: 26

The NBA superstar’s power in Orlando was never more obvious than this past season when he kept Orlando on edge about his future with the Magic. Would he stay or go after the season, or would the team trade him by midseason? The drama was a national media sensation, making Orlando a nightly mention on SportsCenter. Howard decided to stay as the NBA trade deadline neared, bringing a sigh of relief to the Magic and its fans, not to mention merchants near the arena and the local causes his D12 Foundation supports. But all still didn’t end well for the Magic: Howard suffered a season-ending injury, and the team bombed in the first round of the playoffs (again). That tumultuous year and Howard’s discontent with the team’s direction likely cost Coach Stan Van Gundy his job and forced General Manager Otis Smith to quit.  
2011 Rank: 26


21 Bill Sublette
Chairman, Orange County
School Board
Age: 49

The former state legislator is a speak-up/take-action kind of leader—and given the challenges facing Orange’s school system, including tougher state standards, that’s a good thing. In his first year as school board chief, Sublette headed the search for retiring Superintendent Ronald Blocker’s replacement, demanded stringent lobbying and ethics policies for the school system, and spearheaded a “philanthropic plan” that would encourage businesses to donate to underfunded school initiatives. 2011 Rank: 41


22 Clarence Otis
Chairman and CEO, Darden Restaurants
Age: 56

Otis’ stature is enhanced not only by Darden’s financial success—it remains Central Florida’s only Fortune 500 company—but also by the company’s reputation as a good neighbor here and beyond. Darden, the parent of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Seasons 52, recently awarded more than $1.7 million to nearly 900 nonprofit groups across the country as part of an inaugural community grants program. And for the second consecutive year, it was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.’’ Darden continues to see its profits rise and it added a seventh brand to its portfolio, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. 
2011 Rank: 21


23 Tom Williams
Chairman & CEO, Universal Parks & Resorts
Age: 64

Universal continues to generate a lot of talk as one of Orlando’s top two attractions, with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter addition boosting park attendance as well as overall tourism here. Next on Williams’ agenda: expansion of Wizarding World and development of the popular attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in Southern California. 
2011 Rank: 13


24 Jerry Demings
Orange County Sheriff
Age: 53

Demings has demonstrated, in his low-key, reserved style, that he is an effective leader. Violent crime throughout Orange County has been consistently on the decline since he took office in 2008. An advocate of community involvement, he walks the walk: Demings serves on the boards of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and the Central Florida Boy Scouts of America. Demings has the politically powerful and financially well-off in his corner as he seeks a second term in November. 2011 Rank: 17


25 Bill Nelson
U.S. Senator
Age: 69

At press time, Nelson, up for re-election to a third term, was outpacing his Republican challengers in both poll numbers and campaign cash raised. The senator, who has a home in Baldwin Park, serves on five committees—including budget, intelligence and aging—and has been especially vocal for Florida on the BP oil spill aftermath, co-sponsoring a measure that requires any fines leveled against the company to stay in the communities that were harmed. His fortunes will almost certainly be tied to how President Obama does in our battleground state. 2011 Rank: 20


26-27 Ted Maines*
Interior Designer, Activist
Age: 54
Jeffrey Miller*
Lawyer, Activist
Age: 60

Recognized as a powerful couple in 2010 and 2011, the longtime partners make this year’s highest debut on the 50 Most Powerful as individuals. But we can’t decide if one is more powerful than the other, so let’s call it a tie. Although they work as one on various interests (anti-bully efforts and equality issues being especially important to them), each is well established in civic and charitable endeavors as well as in Orlando politics. They are extremely involved in former city Police Chief Val Demings’ campaign for Congress, and often host fundraisers for her and other Democratic candidates. Maines and Miller, collectively or individually, work on a slew of committees and donate generously to local causes. The two also jumped to the top of this year’s Power Couples list (see page 40). 


28 Sherrie Sitarik
President and CEO,
Orlando Health
Age: 55

With Sitarik at the helm, Orlando Health just keeps growing. A 10-story, $297 million patient tower is in the works at Orlando Regional Medical Center, scheduled for completion in 2014. The huge health-care system recently added its eighth hospital, Health Central in Ocoee. And Sitarik is at the forefront of a “Patient First’’ initiative that puts the focus on the patient, rather than the business. 2011 Rank: 31


29 Frank Kruppenbacher *
Attorney, Chairman of the Greater Orlando
Aviation Authority
Age: 59

In April, Kruppenbacher took over the board that runs the nation’s 13th busiest airport and controls a $386 million annual budget. He has been in or near the seats of power for decades, including serving as the Orange County School District’s chief legal counsel for nearly 30 years and as Apopka’s city attorney for more than 20 years.  He left the school board post in 2010 and joined the high-powered law firm of Morgan & Morgan. He focuses on children’s issues there and is a board member of Children’s Campaign, a statewide advocacy group.


30 Mark NeJame
Attorney, CNN Legal Analyst,
Age: 57

NeJame is well known for taking on high-profile cases that bring him a lot of media exposure. But with his recent move to join CNN as its legal analyst, NeJame is assured almost daily appearances on the global news network. In reporting and commenting on such controversial cases as the Trayvon Martin shooting death, he influences opinions and fuels national debates on hot-button topics like race and gun laws. But his affiliation with the news network brought an end to his political fundraising activities. In only a few years since he and his wife, Josie, founded a charity benefiting pediatric cancer patients, Runway to Hope has grown into one of the biggest charity galas of the year. The organization has made $1 million pledges to both Florida Hospital and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. 2011 Rank: 28


31 Jacob Stuart
President, Central Florida Partnership
Age: 63

Stuart and the regional business promoter he leads played a role in killing, in February, a state House bill that would have allowed casino gambling in South Florida. He and other top business leaders viewed casinos as a threat to Florida’s reputation as a family-friendly travel destination. Stuart came under some fire earlier this year when the Orlando Sentinel and various political leaders questioned local governments’ hefty contributions to his group for things like Chamber of Commerce summits and leadership classes. 
2011 Rank: 29


32 Mayanne Downs*
City Attorney; Partner,
Age: 55

Downs holds a lot of power inside and outside of City Hall. She has been city government’s top legal representative for five years and is a longtime policy adviser to Mayor Buddy Dyer (No. 3). But it was her recent move to the high-powered GrayRobinson law firm as a partner that solidified her placement on this list. Downs also is on the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council, which seeks to improve the lives of the elderly in settings like nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.


33 Harris Rosen
President and COO,
Rosen Hotels & Resorts
Age: 72

The self-made hotel mogul has his own way of doing business and doesn’t always fall in step with everyone else, but there is no doubt about Rosen’s commitment to his employees and the community. Recently, he opened the freestanding Rosen Medical Center to serve all of his employees and their families. His charitable foundation has provided educational opportunities for local disadvantaged children, and donated medical supplies to the people of Haiti. For all of his philanthropic efforts, the disciplined visionary was named “Central Floridian of the Year” (2011) by the Orlando Sentinel, and was voted “2011 Entrepreneur of the Year” by Cornell University, his alma mater. 2011 Rank: 32


34 Doug Taylor
Downtown Business Owner, Political
and Community Supporter
Age: 46

Since debuting on the list last year, Taylor has made the leap from Church Street promoter to political and civic benefactor with an eye toward improving downtown. The co-owner of six downtown nightclubs also kicks in substantial cash donations and in-kind support to some charities, providing alcoholic beverages for fundraising galas. He has hosted and co-hosted with Mark NeJame (No. 30) campaign fundraisers for Mayor Buddy Dyer (No. 3) and Sheriff Jerry Demings (No. 24). He sits on two key downtown boards—the Nap Ford Foundation, the principal fundraiser for the Nap Ford Charter School, and the Orlando Downtown Development Board, which aids businesses with funding. Taylor remains committed to bringing out-of-towners back to Church Street. 2011 Rank: 50


35 Scott Maxwell
Orlando Sentinel columnist
Age: 40

With the departure of columnist Mike Thomas, Maxwell has become the principal voice of outrage at the Sentinel, taking on everyone from Gov. Rick Scott to the local Chamber of Commerce, mainly over how our tax dollars are spent. He remains a valuable watchdog for the masses, but the newspaper’s decision to charge a fee to access online content certainly isn’t going to help his visibility. 2011 Rank: 14


36 Sandy Shugart*
President, Valencia College
Age: 55

After almost 12 years in the job, Shugart today sits at the helm of seven campuses and oversees a diverse student body of more than 70,000. Under his leadership, Valencia received national recognition last year when it was chosen from more than 1,000 colleges to receive the inaugural Aspen Award for Community College Excellence, plus a $600,000 cash prize. That kind of attention puts Shugart’s profile—and that of Valencia—on our list. 


37 Richard Maladecki
President/CEO, Central
Florida Hotel & Lodging Association
Age: 58

Maladecki and hoteliers have revived the call to renovate the Citrus Bowl, but where the money will come from remains an obstacle to advancing the project. Still, his group’s clout is considerable, given its impact on the local economy, with 100,000 people employed by hoteliers. Maladecki has influence in the community as president of the Orange County Library System’s board of trustees, and he served as a member of the superintendent search committee for Orange County Public Schools. 2011 Rank: 40

38 Dick Batchelor
Business and Political Consultant, Advocate for Children’s Causes
Age: 64

As a savvy businessman/consultant/political analyst/children’s advocate, Batchelor is the ultimate multi-tasker. One of Central Florida’s best-known faces, he comments regularly on political hot topics for various news outlets. A topic perhaps nearest to his heart is children’s issues. For more than 30 years, he has given back through his namesake Run for the Children, which to date has raised more than $1 million to treat abused kids. He also chairs the Florida Children’s Hospital Board, among many other nonprofits to which he devotes his time. 2011 Rank: 37


39 Val Demings
Candidate, U.S. House
Age: 55


Retirement has not made the only woman to lead Orlando’s police department any less visible in Orlando. Demings, who retired from OPD in June 2011, is campaigning to unseat Republican Daniel Webster in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, and from the looks of her fundraising prowess she has the means to mount a serious challenge. 2011 Rank: 18


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

This has been a busy year for Atchison, who is responsible for SeaWorld’s 10 theme parks across the country. Most significantly, he began expanding the SeaWorld brand into various entertainment forms, including movies, television and digital media. He and his team also launched 10 new attractions at eight of the theme parks. The result: a 5.3 percent increase in attendance companywide, and a record-setting year for SeaWorld Orlando. 2011 Rank: 46


41 Daniel Webster
U.S. Representative
Age: 63


Supporters of the GOP congressman describe him as low-key and solid—more of a follower in the conservative movement than a leader. Webster, who has a tendency to stay in the background, describes himself as a plodder who moves along and then reaches a goal. So it should come as no surprise that he made virtually no noise during his first term representing the 8th Congressional District. Webster is running for re-election, with former OPD Chief Val Demings posing a serious Democratic challenge. 2011 Rank: 38


42 Bill Donegan
Orange County Property Appraiser
Age: 73

Virtually every homeowner in Orange County and real estate agents everywhere know Bill Donegan, or at least the property appraiser’s website. It’s in a user-friendly class all by itself. Donegan is dialed into the politics of property, giving him a unique perspective of how things get done in Orange County. He has a long history of community and political service in Central Florida, and with that comes strong connections, especially among Republicans. 2011 Rank: 36


43 Roger Oxendale*
CEO, Nemours Children’s Hospital
Age: 58

Oxendale joins our list as the third hospital CEO, which goes to show the growing influence the medical industry has in Orlando. Scheduled to open in October, the $380 million Nemours Children’s Hospital will be a major employer in Lake Nona’s burgeoning Medical City complex. Oxendale has put together an impressive staff of pediatric specialists and researchers, luring them here from some of the best children’s hospitals in the country.


44 Gary Cain*
President/Chief Professional Officer,
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida
Age: 57

Cain’s a low-key type who gets things done with gentle persuasion and a board that’s stocked with business leaders. Just about everyone on this list knows him—he’s been head of the organization for 18 years. His group reaches more than 10,000 children annually at 29 club sites in Brevard, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, so his impact on Central Florida is measurable.6


45 Belvin Perry Jr.*
Chief Judge,
9th Judicial Circuit
Age: 62

Perry gained a lot of fans last year with his down-to-earth style during the Casey Anthony trial, and he still holds a lot of sway at the courthouse. But he has to give up his chief judge title in 2013 because the state Supreme Court has capped the terms of head jurists at eight years. Perry will still run for re-election this year to retain his circuit judge post. 
2011 Rank: 39


46 Rick Walsh
Businessman, Civic Leader
Age: 60

If it’s broke and needs fixing, Central Florida often turns to Rick Walsh. In the last two years, the former Darden executive has taken two agencies tainted by scandal—Florida’s Blood Centers (excessive CEO salary) and Workforce Central Florida (wasteful spending)—and restored them to the straight and narrow, cementing his reputation as a civic leader dedicated to the common good. Last ranking: 34 in 2008


47 Harriet Lake
Age: 90


Her power is in her generosity, which changes people’s lives. Lake wrote 200 checks last year to help local arts groups, children’s charities and hospitals. Organizations such as Orlando Ballet, Mad Cow Theatre and Orlando Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit each received a check from Lake for at least $100,000. And she just fulfilled a $1 million pledge to the new downtown performing arts center. For her contributions to the community, Lake received the Orlando Business Journal’s  2011 Legacy Award. 2011 Rank: 42


48 Sara Brady
President, Sara Brady
Public Relations
Age: 55

Brady’s specialty is crisis management, handling high-profile clients who would prefer to keep a low profile when they’re caught in a controversy. As such, she is doing her job when clients stay out of the news. Her skill and connections probably had a hand in her being named PR Professional of the Year (2012) by the Central Florida chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. 2011 Rank: 49


49 Matthew Falconer
Taxpayer Advocate,
State House Candidate
Age: 51

The onetime Orange County mayoral candidate and all-the-time Tea Partier and anti-tax advocate is running for a state House seat. House Speaker Dean Cannon (No. 8) named Falconer to his “Government Efficiency Task Force” and Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the board of Workforce Florida, a statewide employment agency. 2011 Rank: 45


50 Scott Randolph*
State Representative
Age: 38

One-half of a progressive power couple (page 41), the Orlando Democrat was first elected to the House in 2006. He became chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party last November and recently announced he won’t run for another legislative term so that he can devote his efforts to becoming state party chair in December. If he’s able to pull that off—plus help deliver the state for President Obama the month before—look for Randolph’s stock to rise.



Power Couples

1. Ted Maines and Jeffrey Miller (26-27):

It was only last year that we proclaimed the top couples title would be Helen and Bill Donegan’s until they retired to Southwest Florida. Oops. Maines, an interior designer, and Miller, a lawyer, are heavily involved in Democratic circles. They’re designated “bundlers” for the Obama campaign (meaning they raise a lot of money for the president) and they’re backing U.S House candidate Val Demings (No. 39) and incumbent State Attorney Lawson Lamar, among other candidates. The couple are just as committed to social causes, too, putting in face time on equality issues such as human rights and working on anti-bullying efforts. 2011 Rank: 2


2. Helen (16) ​and Bill (42) Donegan:

They’re the prototypical power couple, knowing all the right people in all the right places. Their connections come with their jobs (she’s vice president of UCF’s division of community relations; he’s Orange County’s property appraiser, and both are involved in Republican matters) and their network of movers and shakers in Orlando and beyond. It speaks to Helen’s standing that professional women seek her out to help them make inroads into Orlando’s power structure. 2011 Rank: 1   


3. Dick (38) and Andrea Batchelor:

They’re practically ubiquitous, seen at charitable and cultural functions all over town. But they do more than attend them; they’re involved in making them happen. Dick, a high-powered business consultant, focuses his outside energies on charities that support health and children’s causes, including his own Dick Batchelor Run for the Children. Besides her role as the public relations manager for Neiman Marcus, Andrea serves on 11 boards and committees, with the Mennello Museum of American Art and Give Kids the World among her volunteer interests.  2011 Rank: 3


4. Jerry (24) and Val (39) Demings:

Their power was in fighting crime and in community involvement, but since Val retired as Orlando’s chief of police, the couple have been even more prominent in politics. Val’s star has soared as the favored Democratic nominee to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster in the 8th Congressional District race this fall. Jerry, meanwhile, is running for a second term as Orange County sheriff. They’re an “A” List couple at civic and charitable events. Last ranked in 2010: No. 2  


5. Scott (50) and Susannah Randolph*:

He’s a state representative with high ambitions in the state Democratic Party; she is a new mom who heads Florida Watch Action, a movement that advocates a progressive agenda in Florida. Together they make a lot of noise as liberal Democrats, with Susannah’s “Pink Slip Rick” campaign their loudest statement. 


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