Who out of the following 100 people make up your top 10? CAST YOUR VOTE
A 2008 assessment of those wielding power and influence in the region shows the game has changed.
When it comes to power, many think of it as a weapon to be brandished. Position, wealth, charisma, status, ego, brains, drive—the conventional trappings of power have been wielded like clubs since time began, and those with this kind of power in the Sacramento region are not hard to spot.
However, since we last looked at the region’s power players two years ago (“50 Most Powerful People,” July 2006), much has changed. Many people championing new endeavors and initiatives have come to the forefront, while an evolving world and slowing economy have pushed some formerly powerful folks and their industries to the sidelines.
Our in-depth analysis of who is shaping the region also revealed a new dimension, a less obvious but potent layer of power: those who, by virtue of their efforts, timing and collaborations, wield influence. They don’t readily get noticed at the “A” table at Ella or Spataro, but without them, key initiatives and businesses within the region would not be the power centers that they are—or soon will become.
The following list reflects this new game. We dug deeper this time, both in terms of the people included and the variety of fields represented. On our roster of 100 are those wielding power and influence in the obvious fields of business, development, law and philanthropy. But we’ve also included high tech, media, green, public relations and dining—fields that previously stayed below the collective radar but that have become ever more important in shaping our lives.
In several cases, these men and women are imposing alternative visions. Some are empire builders, some tastemakers, some stewards, some contrarians and some hired guns. Most, but not all, have dared to stick their necks out for the common good. Many have won the admiration and sometimes grudging respect of their peers, adversaries and the community at large. Some have built a reputation on collaboration and good will, others by causing a ruckus.
HARDY ACREE, airport director—This Arkansas-born Houston airport transplant has a $1.3 billion plan to transform outmoded Sacramento International Airport into a transportation hub befitting a burgeoning city. The county’s largest project in history is breaking ground this year, and by 2011 we’ll have an A-list terminal to replace Terminal B. Airlines are chafing under the new fees, and many locals are critical of the plan, but you’ve got to admire Acree for tackling this sorely needed upgrade.
ABE ALIZADEH, developer—From taco maker to titan in 28 years, this Roseville-based Iranian immigrant is one of the region’s most prolific and fearless developers, with a staggering empire of restaurants (including dozens of Jack in the Boxes, where he got his start), office buildings, shopping malls, and condos up and down the West Coast. The head of Kobra Properties (with his sister, Kobra, and brother, Mike) is in the early stages of building an Embassy Suites in Roseville. Niche must not be in his vocabulary.
MIKE ALIZADEH, restaurateur—The younger Alizadeh brother heads up the family’s restaurant holdings, Kobra Culinary Concepts, including Crush 29 and the long-anticipated Cena Di Mare, both in Roseville. Also under his direction are the family’s four Sonic franchises and 11 T.G.I. Friday’s. For a city teeming with chowhounds, Alizadeh is looking to expand Crush 29 into downtown Sacramento and elsewhere, as well as develop new restaurant concepts. Among them: Niko, a pan-Asian restaurant/ultralounge, and Hot Rocks (think Panera Bread meets Jack’s Urban Eats).
TARO ARAI, chef—The creative half of the fast-growing Mikuni restaurant empire—and son of its founder—Arai is to sushi what Emeril is to jambalaya. Pimp My Roll (a popular menu item), the Mikuni Sushi Bus, logos on servers’ shirts and their own Mikuni in-store TV are examples of his marketing acumen.
JACK ARMSTRONG and JOE GETTY, radio talk-show hosts—The KSTE-AM duo shine on Sacramento airwaves during the morning commute, and their call-in show is big here and among the top five podcasts in the country. Fans (Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives 4th District Tom McClintock is one; Mayor Heather Fargo is not) love their brand of “info-tainment”: news and social commentary that leans neither right nor left, but says aloud, often in a wickedly funny way, what many of us are really thinking. A&G’s show also is broadcast on stations in San Francisco and L.A., and a televised version airs in Santa Rosa. Can national syndication be far behind?
MICHAEL AULT, executive director, Downtown Sacramento Partnership—The consummate “people person,” Ault succeeds at the practically impossible task of balancing the interests of hundreds of players in his role as chief of the DSP, a private nonprofit dedicated to improving Sacramento’s core district. The 40-year-old Joe Serna acolyte, who’s been with the DSP since 1997, has had much to do with the way downtown looks today and will look in the future, with more housing, retail, office space, culture, entertainment and tourism. This year, he worked with the city in taking over administrative management and marketing for the historic Old Sacramento district, adding considerably to his cacophonous cadre of stakeholders.
BILL BLAKE, theater managing director—The yang to B Street Theatre artistic director Buck Busfield’s yin knows how to implement grand visions and stands ready to take the theater to an even higher level as it prepares to relocate to Sutter Medical Center’s urban village.
ERNIE BODAI, M.D., breast cancer research advocate—The Kaiser breast-cancer surgeon best known for launching the Breast Cancer Research Stamp is on a global mission to replicate the deed. Some 900 million stamps have been sold in the United States since 1998, raising more than $62 million for research. Bodai’s native Hungary was the first country outside the U.S. to adopt the stamp, and 15 others have either followed suit or plan to. All of which has added two other titles to Bodai’s already stellar résumé: U.S. ambassador of goodwill and king in the fight to find a cure for breast cancer.
MARCOS BRETÓN, columnist, The Sacramento Bee—The 18-year Sacramento Bee veteran’s commentary on everything from gun control to local politics stirs the intellectual debate. Even the most diehard news junkies say they learn something from his columns every time, for one simple reason: Where most reporters look for the who, what, when, where and how of a story, Bretón unearths the why.
KELLY BROTHERS, media/money expert—Just when Tom Sullivan’s departure for New York left us crying into our quarterly statements, along comes Kelly Brothers: just as familiar, just as charismatic and just the guy you’d trust to advise you on money now that he’s a partner in Genovese, Burford & Brothers. As of last fall, Brothers is back on KCRA Channel 3 (where he previously anchored the news) to replace Sullivan as the financial analyst after leaving his morning news anchor position at KFBK. (He still does business updates for the radio station.) A popular master of ceremonies, Brothers lends a hand in dozens of charitable events and played a key role in the opening of Cristo Rey High School, a Catholic co-ed college prep school serving disadvantaged families.
AMADOR BUSTOS, media mogul—The quintessential American Dream success story, the Bustos family turned a one-horse Spanish-language radio station in Cameron Park into a media empire, selling its initial round of holdings to Entravision in 2000 for a cool $475 million. In 2003, Bustos launched Bustos Media LLC, which quickly grew to operate dozens of Spanish-language radio and television stations throughout the West. Bustos and his wife, Rosalie Lopez-Bustos, fund scholarships and other philanthropic activities through their family foundation.
BIBA CAGGIANO, chef/restaurateur—She introduced regional Italian cooking to Sacramento 20-plus years ago and became a national sensation with best-selling cookbooks, TV appearances (including Martha Stewart’s show) and celebrity customers. Biba remains the queen of capital restaurateurs and a major influence in the dining world far beyond her restaurant’s pristine interior.
BILL CAMP, labor leader—Many decry the sometimes down-and-dirty tactics of the Sacramento Central Labor Council executive secretary/CEO, but if you’re running for office, it’s way better to have him on your side than not.
BOB CHASE, chief building official—After 35 years as a private-sector architect, Chase took a pay cut to become a chief building official for the city of Sacramento, where he resolves complex development issues, enforces the city’s building and housing codes, and oversees numerous boards and commissions. His architect’s vision is nudging Sacramento toward a dynamic, sustainable future with emphasis on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, a nationally recognized benchmark for “green” buildings.
SENA CHRISTIAN, journalist—The Sacramento News & Review’s “Eco Warrior Princess” goads and guilts us into environmental stewardship with lively prose about all things “green,” from fashion to toilets. Hired this past year to cover sustainability full time for the SN&R, the 27-year-old Sacramento native is producing a manual on how to create an eco-friendly building in the capital region by taking readers step by step through the paper’s own revamping of an old grocery store on Del Paso Boulevard into a “green” newsroom and office building, where staff will move later this year.
DARRELL CORTI, grocer, wine expert—This Vintners Hall of Famer’s unerring palate introduces us to delicacies heretofore unknown around these parts: tuna from Spain, spice blends from Yemen—you get the drift. Most significantly, his promotion of dark-horse varietals is credited with influencing wine production in the Central Valley and foothills. Even though the future of his eponymous market has been up in the air since Corti Brothers lost its lease earlier this summer, Corti’s reputation as an encyclopedic repository of food and wine knowledge will forever transcend Sacramento; his name is on the tongues and in the literature of foodies across the land and the pond.
KIM CURRY-EVANS, gallery director—One of the Phoenix area’s preeminent African American art professionals, Curry-Evans was handpicked by former NBA star and Oak Park developer Kevin Johnson to move to Sacramento and direct Oak Park’s 40 Acres Art Gallery. Her exacting standards, vast knowledge base and educator’s passion help expose an underserved group to world-class artwork. Curry-Evans was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to the board of the California African American Museum and was last year’s Arts & Business Council’s Arts Executive of the Year. Her gallery was Party Central for KJ on election night in June.
JOHN DANGBERG, assistant city manager—An expert in the art of the deal, the architect of the city’s economic development strategy was the key negotiator in getting the downtown Greyhound bus station relocated, K Street jump-started, The Railyards moved forward and the Sheraton Grand deal wrapped up. Expect more to come from Dangberg.
ROGER DREYER, attorney—The former California Trial Lawyer of the Year has a preternatural knack for picking and swaying juries and has won many multimillion-dollar verdicts. He was on “Larry King Live” last year talking about the Sacramento woman who died after drinking two gallons of water in a local radio-station contest—just one of his many high-profile cases.
MIKE DUNNE, food editor/restaurant critic/wine writer—The incognito maker or breaker of restaurants’ reputations writes not as an industry huckster, but always with the consumer in mind. His career at The Sacramento Bee, supplemented by judging stints at wine competitions and cooking contests, spans more than a quarter century—long enough to chronicle and guide the local dining revolution from meatloaf stagnation to cosmopolitan innovation.
DOUG ELMETS, public relations exec—Probably the most oft-quoted source in the Bee, the point man for Indian tribes, political candidates and developers flies under the radar but knows everyone and has his fingers in a lot of pies. The former Reagan staffer understands better than anyone the concept of information as power and withholds or doles it out accordingly.
RICK EYTCHESON, radio exec—The former KFBK general manager and Chancellor Broadcasting founder says he came out of retirement to become president/CEO of Capital Public Radio partly because of opportunity and partly to atone for having contributed to the “demise” of commercial radio. (He was active in radio’s consolidation in the 1990s.) After fewer than two years at the helm, many consider him forgiven: Membership and underwriting are up significantly, the market is expanding (160,000 listeners for KXJZ alone puts it in the top five locally, a major feat for a public station), and local news and talk programming are filling an ever-increasing void.
BRIAN FISCHER, Internet activist—The 36-year-old co-creator of Midtowngrid.com (along with the husband-and-wife team of Scott Smithline and Julia Seebach) and the Oak Park advocacy group 100 Minds is a force in ethical capitalism and an eloquent champion of the anti-suburb. For this tenacious grassroots activist, it’s all about connectivity: fostering social networks to advance a unique geographical identity. (What else would you expect from a guy who constructed interdependent economies out of Legos at age 4?) While no one person can claim credit for Second Saturday’s popularity, Fischer is often cited as a catalyst. Some would love to see him run for office.
DERRICK FONG, restaurateur—The former accountant for Mikuni is the business half of the ambitious sushi-rustling pair that operate seven restaurants in all: five in the Sacramento region, one at the Village at Northstar in Truckee and a brand-new one in Vegas. Stay tuned: Mikuni’s plans to locate in Denver may mean that the Mile High City won’t be known for omelets alone.
MORT and MARCY FRIEDMAN, philanthropists—The Arden Fair mall owners are chairing the largest fundraising effort in the Crocker Art Museum’s history: $100 million to expand the building and add to the museum’s endowment. Not ones to ask others to do what they themselves wouldn’t, the Friedmans donated $10 million toward the goal. Recipients of the couple’s largesse also include Shalom School ($6 million) and the Capital Unity Council ($1 million), plus others too numerous to list.
MARK FRIEDMAN, developer—The son of Mort and Marcy Friedman is betting on Sacramento’s sophistication and culture with award-winning projects like 16th and J’s Elliott Building (home of Mikuni and P.F. Chang’s) and the O1 lofts (in partnership with other developers). He’s currently at work on headquarters facilities for EdFund and this year found time to host U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama and co-chair Kevin Johnson’s mayoral fundraising campaign while completing the Brooklynesque Sutter Brownstones at 26th and N. But the Stanford Law School grad’s chef-d’oeuvre may well be ahead of him: playing a key role in developing the West Sacramento waterfront.
MICHAEL FULLER, CEO, BloodSource—Fuller’s often described by admirers as an incredible visionary and top-notch boss. Under his leadership, BloodSource has grown from a provincial bloodbank into a well-oiled, not-for-profit 600-employee powerhouse collecting 200,000-plus donations of blood a year for distribution to more than 40 Northern California hospitals. The 60-year-old organization’s move this summer to new digs at Mather Commerce Center will enable staff to provide state-of-the-art technologies and meet the region’s needs far into the future, plus give Fuller’s gang more space to celebrate Aloha Fridays.
TERRY HALLECK, bank president and CEO—In a year in which other financial institutions took it in the shorts with the home-mortgage meltdown, The Golden 1 Credit Union, led by president/CEO Terry Halleck, grew in its asset base. Halleck runs the nation’s sixth largest credit union, which serves close to 680,000 members, has 74 offices and $6.7 billion in assets. From that standpoint, she can afford to be generous: Halleck’s service-oriented team backs a number of humanitarian causes and this year rolled out a $20 million Mortgage Repair Loan program to help families that have lost homes, even though Golden 1 played no part in the subprime fiasco.
RHYENA HALPERN, executive director, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission—The public agency she runs gives us food for the eyes—and for thought—with the largest public art program in the capital’s history: $8 million for the new Airport Art Program. SMAC also funds about 200 artists and arts groups a year and is a big promoter of arts education and cultural tourism. You might not think creativity and bureaucracy could mesh, but in Halpern’s case, they do.
STEVE HAMMOND, tourism exec—The region’s $2.4 billion convention and tourism industry is no small potatoes when it comes to filling local coffers, and the president and CEO of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau does a bang-up job attracting out-of-towners to our turf—15.4 million tourists every year. A big part of the draw are events supported by the SCVB, including Gold Rush Days, the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival, Juneteenth, the Grape Escape, Wine & Dine Week and the New Year’s Eve Sky Spectacular. Hammond, who’s been running the bureau since 1999, also sits on the boards of the Jazz Jubilee, the Rotary Club of Sacramento and the California Capital Airshow. He belongs to the local organizing committee for the Amgen Tour of California as well, which recently announced that Sacramento will host the first stage—the start and the finish—of the prestigious cycling race in February 2009.
SCOTT HANSON, financial planner/investment adviser—The partner (with Pat McClain) in one of the region’s most successful financial advice firms co-hosts a radio show about money and has written a book on how to be a wealth factory like himself. One of the tenets he lives by: You can’t take it with you. That’s why he gives generously to Make-A-Wish, World Vision, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Child Abuse Prevention Council, the River Oak Center for Children, Oak Ridge High School and dozens more—and why he traveled with his wife, Valerie, to Mozambique this year to start an egg-farming enterprise in one of the world’s poorest regions. “I don’t have a desire to build a huge net worth for myself,” he says. “I feel I have a responsibility to others while I’m here.”
BRICE HARRIS, chancellor, Los Rios Community College District—Since he took over as chancellor in 1996, Harris has shown a remarkable ability to anticipate needs and trends as his district’s four colleges and major centers prepare more than 84,000 students a year to enter the region’s work force. To meet a critical nursing shortage, Harris forged a partnership with Sutter Health to triple the number of nursing graduates in Sacramento City College’s nursing program. And in 2007, Harris created the GreenForce initiative to prepare students in the growing fields of solar technology, sustainable building design and construction, energy efficiency mechanics, and hybrid and electrical automotive technology. Harris, the first public-sector leader to chair the board of the Sac Metro Chamber in 2004, also served as chairman of the successful Sacramento County Measure A transportation campaign and currently chairs the Northern California World Trade Center. He’s now overseeing the construction of permanent education centers near light rail and mass transit lines in West Sacramento, Elk Grove, Davis and Rancho Cordova.
JOSE HERMOCILLO, public affairs exec—The senior VP/managing director of APCO Worldwide’s Sacramento office has operated as the power behind state and local power for more than three decades, advising and representing corporations, industry groups, coalitions, nonprofits and governments on legislative, regulatory, ballot measure and litigation issues. Known as a keen but understated strategist, the trumpet-playing 2007 PR News Public Affairs Executive of the Year has played key roles in more than a dozen statewide and local ballot measures. His office was enlisted by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency to conduct public-outreach campaigns to raise local funds for flood-control projects, resulting in victories at the ballot box in 2000 and 2007. APCO Worldwide also helped The California Endowment, the state’s largest health care foundation, to achieve its goal of obtaining better health and living conditions for the state’s agricultural workers, earning accolades from the International Association of Business Communicators and the Sacramento Public Relations Association.
WINSTON HICKOX, environmental policy adviser—Nobody’s had more to do with shaping environmental policy in California than this man, who for five years led CalEPA before joining California Strategies, LLC as a consultant in 2006. Hickox was a force in enacting landmark legislation to set greenhouse gas emissions standards, advancing the state’s Clean Beaches Initiative, establishing the Fuel Cell Partnership and eliminating MTBE in California gasoline. He was portfolio manager for Environmental Initiatives at CalPERS and, in 2007, chaired the Market Advisory Committee, which counseled the California Air Resources Board about the use of market mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It should come as no surprise that Hickox is in demand the world over for his expertise.
LIAL JONES, director, Crocker Art Museum—She’s the articulate leader of the $87 million Crocker expansion that will add 100,000 square feet, tripling the 120-year-old museum’s existing size by 2010 and enhancing Sacramento’s reputation as a destination city for art.
J. CLARK KELSO, state prison health care receiver—His McGeorge law school bio refers to him as “a scholar with a reputation for outspoken independence.” The former chief information officer for the state of California, who previously served as temporary insurance commissioner after Chuck Quackenbush resigned, was appointed by a judge in January of this year to be the state prison medical czar. Kelso wasted no time pulling rank: He threw down the gauntlet to spend $7 billion in state funds to add more correctional health care beds to comply with constitutional standards—with or without legislative approval, which he claims not to need. Other budget-starved departments can only wish for that kind of clout.
WILL KEMPTON, Caltrans director—Very few people have more power over our day-to-day lives than Kempton, who is responsible for 50,000 miles of highway and freeway lanes, directs the state’s inter-city rail services, and permits more than 400 airports and heliports. Kempton, who works with a budget of almost $14 billion, has earned praise for pulling Caltrans out of its bureaucracy-plagued inertia and for establishing relationships with other transportation organizations. If you think your job is tough, just be glad the San Francisco Bay Bridge or Interstate 5 isn’t being restructured on your watch.
RAY KERRIDGE, Sacramento city manager—Hired away from a 25-year career with the city of Portland, Ore., in 2005, the London native made up of equal parts Zen and ADD has been hailed as a big thinker who moves at lightning speed, operates from a customer-service paradigm, and doesn’t shrink from change or risk. He plays a huge part in guiding the city toward a livable future with an identity all its own—one improved self-image at a time.
SOTIRIS KOLOKOTRONIS, developer—The socially responsible developer of the swank new L Street Lofts has been called “the darling of the smart-growthers” and “king of infill.” The Tsakopoulos relative, whose projects include the Fremont Building, the Cathedral Building and Capitol Park Homes, is an advocate for affordable housing and has an impressive string of civic, cultural, philanthropic and political endeavors to his name.
SARAH KREVANS, regional executive officer, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region—Admired for her inclusive but decisive leadership, Krevans is guiding Sutter’s Sacramento Sierra region through a growth spurt, with expansions in midtown, Roseville, Davis, Auburn and Elk Grove planned or recently completed. Under her responsibility are 11 acute-care hospitals and two mental health facilities with 1,805 beds, more than 14,000 employees and nearly 3,400 physicians. The award-winning not-for-profit affiliates directed by Krevans brought in $1.6 billion in revenue this past year and provided more than $97 million in services for the poor and underserved.
PAT FONG KUSHIDA, president/CEO, Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce—The head of the second-largest chamber in the region is developing forward-thinking new programs, launching a statewide Asian-Pacific chamber, advocating on behalf of her membership’s interests, and is constantly working to bridge the gap between Asian-owned businesses and the larger community.
JUDITH LAMARE, environmental activist—Local governments and the area’s most powerful developers have met their match in the president of Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk and her allies, whose outspoken advocacy on behalf of the threatened species has resulted in change in local land-use planning. Lamare, former 19-year manager for the Cleaner Air Partnership, writes in an e-mail, “Swainson’s hawks in California reproduce primarily in the Sacramento/Yolo/San Joaquin county area where urban development threatens to severely restrict their habitat. Now, thousands of acres of mitigation land have been acquired and managed to benefit the species of our region—before development grading happens—only because a watchdog exists.”
RICHARD LEWIS, theater exec—The executive producer of Sacramento’s oldest performing arts organization got his start selling programs (he’s the son of the late founder) and today brings us Broadway-caliber entertainment year-round with Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento, enriching thousands of lives with such productions as The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera. Under Lewis’ direction, California Musical Theatre established the Wells Fargo Pavilion as a permanent home for Music Circus, partnered with the city to build a new performing arts studio at 14th and H streets and this month is launching a key piece of K Street revitalization: The Cosmopolitan Cabaret, a 208-seat theater reminiscent of the golden days of New York City nightlife.
DAVID LOWE, TV exec—After a nationwide search to fill David Hosley’s shoes in the top post at KVIE, it turns out the right person was under our noses. Lowe, former VP of marketing and development at Sacramento’s locally owned and operated public television station, assumed his new position in May. He is poised to bring his technical chops to bear in the new era of digital media, and continue KVIE’s innovative programming and audience growth.
DONNA LUCAS, PR spokeswoman—The consigliere who made a name for herself whispering into Maria Shriver’s ear is now at work restoring the Maloof brothers to Sacramento’s good graces following the soured arena deal at The Railyards. So far, so good: The Kings owners, she says, are “very supportive” of the NBA’s and Cal Expo’s plans to work toward building an arena at the fairgrounds.
DAVID LUCCHETTI, philanthropist—This former Lodi high school teacher and coach didn’t know he’d be changing so many lives when he said “I do” to Chris Anderson, whose father, the late Fred Anderson, founded Pacific Coast Building Products. In 1979, nine years after he quit teaching to take a job at his father-in-law’s company, Lucchetti became president and CEO—and nothing’s been the same since. Under his watch, PCBP has grown to become one of the nation’s largest privately held firms, with $750 million in sales this past year, 3,500 employees in 10 states and Canada, and a jet charter business to boot. A legendary philanthropist, Lucchetti and his family recently gave $18 million to midtown’s Sutter Medical Center expansion, the single largest gift ever from an individual family to a capital campaign in the Sacramento area. In 1999, Lucchetti created the PCBP Foundation, a permanent endowment for charity, and made a $1 million gift to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, one of the largest gifts in history to that organization. Since then, the PCBP Foundation has helped numerous youth-oriented nonprofits, including Make-A-Wish, the WIND Youth Center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Sierra Adoption Services, Sacramento’s Ronald McDonald House and the Sacramento Children’s Receiving Home, to name a few. This year, Lucchetti was named Sacramentan of the Year by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce.
RICK MAHAN, chef/restaurateur—He was a locavore long before it was hip, and now that it is, Mahan is still the chef/restaurateur everybody else wants to be. His French-inspired midtown restaurant, The Waterboy, is where others in the food and wine biz go to eat on their day off (including Robert Mondavi the week before he passed away). One Speed, Mahan’s new slow-food venture, should invite even more idolatry.
MATT MAHOOD, president/CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce—The 6-foot-7 former dot-commer has made the chamber a major force in setting the six-county Sacramento region’s civic agenda. Mahood is generating new ideas, is working to drive economic growth and improve quality of life and has been bold in flexing the chamber’s political muscle. The Metro Political Action Committee, which endorses and gives financial support to pro-business candidates, was key in getting Susan Peters elected as a Sacramento County supervisor and has thrown its support behind mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson in the November election. Mahood also has been effective in beginning the work of the Metro Chamber Foundation, which was created in 2005 to support Leadership Sacramento’s efforts to give financial and in-kind aid to numerous area nonprofits. Within the next year, he reports, we can expect to see a stepped-up campaign by the chamber to engage businesses of all sizes in a “giving back” mentality.
MICHAEL MALINOWSKI, architect—It takes an outsized imagination to turn an abandoned turn-of-the-century flour mill into 146 stylish rental units (most of which are affordable senior apartments), but that’s exactly what Malinowski, president of the Central Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and former chair of the city of Sacramento’s Development Oversight Commission, is doing with the Globe Mills project in Alkali Flat. In Stockton, the historic-preservation guru made a previous splash with the six-story National Register-listed circa-1910 Hotel Stockton, for which he won statewide honors from the California Preservation Foundation.
JOE and GAVIN MALOOF, pro sports team and casino owners—The owners of Maloof Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Sacramento Kings and Monarchs pro basketball teams, are part of a family empire encompassing a multitude of business interests, including the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, a beer distributorship in New Mexico, a music label, a movie and television production company, and the Maloof Money Cup, an Orange County event billed as the world’s greatest skateboarding competition. (The Maloof Companies also is one of the largest single shareholders in Wells Fargo Bank.) Locally, these brothers’ influence makes a huge imprint: With more than 1,200 full- and part-time workers, Maloof Sports and Entertainment is one of the 25 largest employers in the area and has donated more than $13 million toward community causes. Just as significant, the Maloofs’ Kings, rising to unparalleled heights and reaching the NBA playoffs from 1999 to 2006, have spread Sacramento’s name all around the globe.
DENNIS MANGERS, retired lobbyist, adviser—Dubbed the “Gay Godfather” by the Sacramento News & Review, the now openly homosexual former assemblyman quit his gig as a powerful cable lobbyist to become the right-hand man of soon-to-be state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. An ardent supporter of the local arts, he really is like a father in that he gives wise advice to a coterie of power players, and he’s always very discreet.
DORIS MATSUI, U.S. Representative, 5th District—Picking up where her late husband, Robert, left off (Doris won a special election to serve out his term after his death in 2005 and was re-elected in 2006), this Democratic lawmaker may have saved the Sacramento region from a fate as ghastly as New Orleans’ in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Matsui, a former Clinton adviser, played a key role in passing legislation containing $700 million in authorized funds for long-term local flood protection. The $1.3 billion Folsom Dam Joint Federal Project, which broke ground this past January and will double the level of flood protection for the Sacramento Valley when completed in 2015, is the culmination of Matsui’s diligent efforts to keep us on terra firma. This past June, Matsui, who also has been instrumental in establishing an intermodal transportation center in downtown Sac, was appointed to the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most coveted positions on Capitol Hill.
PAT McCLAIN, financial planner/investment adviser—With foresight and investment years ago to become the title sponsor of the now-wildly successful Run To Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day, McClain (and his business partner Scott Hanson) knows a thing or two about organizing blockbuster events to help the needy. Now he and buddy Gary Lardy of IntelliQuote Insurance Services in El Dorado Hills have started a foundation called Hope Productions to guide charitable organizations across the country in staging concerts to benefit children and youth. They’ll kick off the first concert next year or in 2010 at “a major venue” in Sacramento.
MIKE McKEEVER, regional planner—They’re coming: 1.7 million more people and 1 million more jobs to the region in the next 45 years. How do we plan for that kind of growth? McKeever, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments who managed SACOG’s award-winning Blueprint Project, is just the man to ask. Nobody’s better at bringing diverse groups together on controversial issues involving transportation, air quality, housing and land use. Don’t look for him under the spotlight, though. Despite being the subject of a Wall Street Journal cover story in July, he prefers to let others do the preening.
KAIS MENOUFY, high-tech CEO—The urbane, ultracool, utterly selfless founder/president/CEO of Delegata Corp. specializes in improving the technological capabilities of state and local government agencies, and in moving us toward an affirmative resolution to “Can’t we all just get along?” The Egyptian-American’s fast-growing company, which he founded in 2000, has received more than 25 national and local business awards for its innovation and creativity. But he’s just as well known for his promotion of unity, tolerance, peace and community outreach through such initiatives as Building Bridges, Closing the Gap, Youth for Better Understanding and the World Music & Dance Festival.
RON MITTELSTAEDT, entrepreneur—He started Waste Connections Inc. in 1997, and now 1.5 million Western and Southern U.S. customers’ trash is his treasure—over $1 billion in revenue projected for this year, making the public Folsom company the nation’s sixth-largest waste hauler. Mittelstaedt and his wife, Darin, are quiet but major contributors to children’s charities and in 2006 donated $1.5 million to the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute to create a Tourette’s syndrome research and treatment program.
MOE MOHANNA, downtown property owner—Is he a hero for not selling out to city officials and developers, or a fly in the ointment of downtown redevelopment plans? Whatever, the dapper K Street landlord some call “the poster boy for why eminent domain should remain legal” has proven that power sometimes comes in the form of doing very little.
TIM MORAN, president, Methodist Hospital—He made the news frequently this past year as Catholic Healthcare West’s Methodist Hospital battled Kaiser for a Level II trauma designation in southern Sacramento County. Alas, Methodist lost, but not really: It still has Moran, who in September 2007 was appointed president of CHW’s Greater Sacramento Service Area covering four local hospitals. The charismatic Moran spent 30 years in health care management and development in the United States and Saudi Arabia, and is credited with turning around many a financial fortune, including Methodist’s, which he’s run since 2003. He’s looking ahead to building a new $38 million ER facility and acquiring land in Elk Grove to build a new medical complex, which should tie in nicely with his other position: chairman of the Elk Grove Economic Development Corp.
C.C. MYERS, developer—The larger-than-life 70-year-old with a penchant for fine wine and ostrich cowboy boots didn’t coin the slogan “Git-R-Done,” but should’ve. Myers’ 31-year-old Rancho Cordova highway and bridge construction company routinely completes massive projects ahead of time and under budget and is cited by Gov. Schwarzenegger as the model for public-private enterprise. But not everything the I-5 fixer-upper touches is golden. This year, what was to be Myers’ crowning achievement, the Winchester Golf Course and Country Club in the Sierra foothills, went into foreclosure.
JOSH NELSON, restaurateur—Nelson is the heir apparent (along with sister Tamera Baker) of the Selland family’s collection of restaurants: Selland’s Market Cafe, The Kitchen and the year-old Ella Dining Room and Bar on downtown’s K Street Mall, arguably the coolest spot in Sacramento these days. While dad Randall is still the face of the operation, the 36-year-old Nelson functions as the CFO and has stepped up to handle all three of the restaurants’ wine programs. Unlike his showboating pop, who admits to talking “without a filtering system,” Nelson is a more serious type who tries to avoid the limelight. His hallmark? Perfectionism—and it shows in the service.
ROGER NIELLO, state assemblyman—In Sacramento, the name Niello means car dealerships, and it also means political power. The former Sac County supervisor and Metro Chamber president (yes, he’s one of those Niellos), who represents the 5th District as a Republican, is regarded as a genuine, no-nonsense leader with a host of legislative accomplishments under his belt. Because of him, local governments have help in cracking down on illegal dumping, and racially charged language in homeowners’ CC&Rs is a thing of the past. This past year, Niello’s bill to end the practice of “triple dipping” by county retirees was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger into law. Niello was elected by 61 percent of voters to a second Assembly term in November 2006, after which he became vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee and lead negotiator on budget issues for the Assembly Republican Caucus.
MARVIN L. “BUZZ” OATES, developer—With a net worth of $1 billion, Oates ranks No. 1,062 on Forbes’ 2008 list of the world’s billionaires, automatically qualifying him as one powerful gent—on par with the Maloofs and second only to Joyce Raley Teel in the capital region. The World War II hero’s career as a homegrown commercial real estate superstar spans 50-plus years, with “Buzz boxes” lined up along Power Inn Road and beyond—60 million square feet in all. Oates, a director of Five Star Bancorp, gives to family and children’s causes through his personal foundation and, at 85, is still, according to one insider, “a human computer when it comes to money.”
RANDY PARAGARY, restaurateur—For nearly a quarter-century, Paragary’s eateries—including Esquire Grill, Centro Cocina Mexicana and Paragary’s Bar and Oven—have been where deals are made, milestones are marked and designer-clad seers are seen. After a quiet 2007, he’s rattling and rolling once again with the opening of Paragary’s Bar and Grill in the restored 1910 Hotel Stockton and Cosmo’s, a deli-themed cafe meant to complement California Musical Theatre’s Cosmopolitan Cabaret at 10th and K streets. But it’s not all bricks, mortar and pizza for Paragary: This past February, he partnered with Sonny Mayugba and Mark Braden to launch a social networking website for people in the restaurant and bar industry called BiteClub.com, which already boasts 3,700 registered members from the United States and around the world and gets about 140,000 hits a month.
CLAIRE POMEROY, M.D., vice chancellor for Human Health Services, UC Davis, and dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine—This sharp-as-scalpels team builder oversees the UC Davis Health System’s academic, research and clinical programs (including the 800-physician medical group and 577-bed acute-care hospital) and a $1 billion operating budget, but more importantly has raised UC Davis’ national and international profile. She’s been instrumental in growing the Sacramento UCDMC campus and establishing a nursing school, and has seen research funding increase from $55 million in 2000 to $148.4 million. She’s also on the oversight commission that governs the stem-cell research institute approved by state voters in 2004.
JEANNE REAVES, president/CEO, River City Bank—She’s stepping down, but not out. That was the announcement in June by the woman who rose from Wells Fargo secretary in 1961 to become top exec for the locally owned River City Bank—the first female in the region to hold such a position—a decade ago. In her new role on the board of directors for RCB Corp., the bank’s holding company, Reaves reportedly plans to concentrate on special projects, strategic planning and community outreach, which will not diminish her power. After all, connecting with the community is what she does best, as evidenced by her numerous board positions, including one with WIND Youth Services, and the many projects she enthusiastically spearheads. For her involvement with the community, Reaves has received recognition from the YWCA, United Cerebral Palsy, Sacramento Girl Scouts, the Juvenile Diabetes Regional Foundation, the American Heart Association and more.
SCOTT ROSE, public affairs consultant—In the whack-a-mole world of crisis management, the 43-year-old VP of Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn is the go-to guy. Rose, who used to work for former Assemblyman Rusty Areias, was the spokesman for the Dixon Downs racetrack and for Sac International Airport in the wake of 9/11, and is heavily involved in public-outreach and public-affairs efforts on behalf of land development projects.
RUTH ROSENBERG, arts consultant—At regional arts events, people who meet her for the first time often react thusly: “Are you the Ruth Rosenberg?” Immediately they know they’re in the presence of a giant, though dancers, even retired ones, are hardly known for their heft. Rosenberg, whose award-winning eponymous dance ensemble made waves in Sac throughout the ’90s, today is a sought-after mentor and connector for the region’s performing artists. A former dance critic for Capital Public Radio and consultant for SMAC, she serves as professional development program director at the Mondavi Center and holds an administrative position with California Presenters, a statewide organization that promotes touring and presentation of the performing arts.
RICHIE ROSS, political consultant—Characterized as a ruthless political king (and queen) maker, Ross has a 30-plus-year history of racking up wins for Democratic candidates and causes. The “puppeteer of City Hall” is running incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo’s fireworks-laden campaign against former NBA star and Oak Park developer/educator Kevin Johnson. The two face a runoff in the November general election.
ART SAVAGE, River Cats owner—The owner of the 2003, 2004 and 2007 Pacific Coast League champs and his wife, Susan, give new meaning to the phrase field of dreams with their support of River Cats Independence Field, a city-run specially designed baseball facility for disabled people that in 2006 was honored by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Savage, the recipient of this year’s Humanitarian of the Year award from United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento, joins his wife in contributing to the Crocker Art Museum and Sierra Adoption Services, along with a host of other philanthropic causes. But you don’t have to be a charity to benefit from Savage’s generosity. Just take your family to a ballgame at Raley Field, then savor the incomparable memories.
TYLER SCHILLING, co-founder, Schilling Robotics—One of the brightest—but least well known—high-tech companies in the region was founded in a garage in Davis in 1985 by this introspective, largely self-taught engineer who’s shown a remarkable ability to keep ahead of the market. Today, Schilling Robotics, which designs and manufactures remotely operated vehicles and manipulator arms for deep-ocean oil exploration and production, is in explosive growth mode, with a dominant market share (greater than 90 percent for manipulators) and a brand-new management team. The company employs close to 300 people with headquarters in Davis and locations in Shingle Springs, Houston and Aberdeen, Scotland. With the current demand for offshore oil exploration, Schilling’s future influence, for all its technological innovation, should be significant.
STEVE SCHROEDER and KRAIG CLARK, high-tech execs—These former Sac State roomies founded CoreLogic Systems Inc., a company specializing in computerized home-mortgage risk analysis, and 10 years later in February 2007 sold it to First American Real Estate Solutions LLC for $400 million. The partners retain executive positions in the company and serve as a model for how homegrown firms can bring great products to market, improve the way people do business and create wealth in the region.
JAN SCULLY, district attorney—She’s run unopposed since first being elected district attorney in 1994 and, now in her fourth term, she has built a sterling reputation as a champion of crime victims’ rights and a community bridge builder. In 2005, Scully became the first woman to preside over the California District Attorneys Association.
ARNOLDSCHWARZENEGGER, governor—Need we elaborate? Never mind the chronic state budget mess or his sinking approval ratings, our movie-star guv has made Sacramento cool or at least notable in the eyes of everyone.
BRIAN SEHNERT, green consultant—As former SMUD senior architect, he was the guiding force behind the consumer-owned utility’s cutting-edge sustainability programs and incentives. Now in private consulting, Sehnert continues to be recognized as an expert in sustainable design and construction. Google any regional green conference and chances are, he’s on the panel.
MELANIE SILL, editor and senior VP, The Sacramento Bee—Hailed as a risk taker, Sill sailed into Sacramento this year from a 25-year career at the Raleigh, N.C., McClatchy paper to replace Bee executive editor Rick Rodriguez after his abrupt resignation. Her mission: to pump up the Bee amid tanking stock prices, declining circulation and revenues, and morale-busting layoffs. To be sure, she’s shaking things up and has a turbulent road ahead. She’s beefed up the paper’s online presence, redesigned the printed version and authorized the controversial publication of state workers’ salaries, sparking a slew of letters and e-comments. Many retain optimism that she’ll keep the Bee relevant into the next decade and beyond. Says one industry observer, “Eleanor [McClatchy] would be proud.”
GARY SIMON, clean tech exec—The chairman of CleanStart, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to fostering new high-tech clean energy companies in the region, is pushing for Sacramento to become a world hub for green power. Thanks largely to Simon’s efforts, we’re well on our way. With venture capitalists tripping over each other’s seed money to fund the next big idea, our clean-tech revolution—epitomized by such companies as Marquiss Wind Power and Jadoo Power Systems Inc., both in Folsom—gained global attention this past fall as one of the “New Champions” in sustainability at the World Economic Forum in China. In 2005, when CleanStart began, the capital region had only about 30 identified clean-tech companies that hardly anyone had ever heard of. It now boasts nearly 100. CleanStart aims in the next few years to grow that number to 300, employing another 10,000 people and bringing more than $5 billion in new economic activity to the region.
MICHAEL SOLOMON, art gallery owner—The son of Tower Records founder Russ Solomon made a gutsy decision to move the Solomon Dubnick gallery from Northrop Avenue to the funky, experimental MARRS (Midtown Art Retail Restaurant Scene) building last year. In the spirit of what his dad did with music, the junior Solomon is defining what it means to be edgy in Sacramento.
KURT SPATARO, chef/restaurateur—This 25-plus-year veteran of the Sacramento restaurant scene is the executive chef of Paragary Restaurant Group. He oversees a dozen establishments, including Paragary’s Bar and Oven, Esquire Grill, Monkey Bar, Blue Cue, Spataro, the brand-new Cosmo Cafe at 10th and K, and Paragary’s Bar and Grill in Stockton. Spataro is married to KFBK radio personality Kitty O’Neal.
DARRELL STEINBERG, state senator—The incoming Senate president pro tem will be the first Sacramentan to hold the top-dog post in 125 years. Steinberg, a Democrat, may be known as a Mr. Nice Guy, but don’t confuse that with wet noodle. He fights with resolve for the things he believes in: education, social justice, public safety, the environment, consumer protection and cultural diversity—even (and especially) when there’s nothing in it for him. The consensus from both sides of the aisle is that Steinberg’s positive influence may be just the cure for what ails the state and couldn’t come at a better time.
JOHN STONE, high-tech CEO—The co-founder of PowerSchool, one of the region’s first successful high-tech startups, sold the company to Apple for $62 million and right now could be spending the rest of his days on some tropical beach. But he’s not. He chose to stay in the region and mentor other high-tech entrepreneurs, and today is the CEO of Folsom-based Freepath Inc., which provides technologies to enable the sharing of digital content—which, if you’ve ever sat through a bad PowerPoint presentation, should be welcome news indeed.
SCOTT SYPHAX, developer—Since taking over as president/CEO of Nehemiah Corporation seven years ago, Syphax has transformed a program started with $5,000 in 1994 by an African American preacher in Sacramento into one of the largest community nonprofits in the country, providing more than $1 billion in mortgage assistance to almost 300,000 homebuyers of modest means. But when President Bush this summer signed a housing bill banning such programs, Syphax was prepared. His firm, long a source of controversy, has been charting a new course as an urban developer, joining Envision Holdings LLC partners Steve Goodwin and Ron Mellon in the construction of nearly 3,000 homes, condos, town homes and apartments (some with riverfront views) in an industrial area north of the downtown railyard. This past July, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill to expedite $19.1 million in bond money for the 65-acre transit-oriented Township 9 development.
JESSICA TAVARES, chairwoman, United Auburn Indian Community, Thunder Valley CEO—From the what-do-you-know files: A girl raised in extreme poverty with only a high school education grows up to establish a casino and just five years later controls one of the most lucrative gaming operations in the country. It happened to Tavares, whose Thunder Valley casino employs about 2,000 people, pumps nearly $60 million a year into the local economy and has supplied the 250-member United Auburn Indian tribe with a new school, new homes, a senior center, a health and wellness center, and medical plans for all. In addition, the philanthropic branch of the tribal government has given $6 million to area nonprofits and tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief. Currently, Tavares is overseeing a whopping casino expansion that calls for a 650-room resort and a performing arts center designed by the same firm that did Celine Dion’s theater at Caesars Palace.
DAVID TAYLOR, developer—From the ultimate insider who quietly, expediently delivers results comes Sacramento’s newest skyscraper: the U.S. Bank Building at 621 Capitol Mall, which amps up Sacramento’s nighttime vista with artsy LED technology. He’s the brain behind One Capital Center, Esquire Plaza, the Sheraton Grand Hotel (which his company recently purchased from the city) and the new City Hall—not to mention The Cosmopolitan Cabaret opening this month.
JOYCE RALEY TEEL, philanthropist—Her $1.2 billion supermarket fortune put her in 962nd place on this year’s Forbes world’s billionaires list and tops in Sacramento. Lucky for us, we get to share the wealth. Last year, Raley Teel, who grew up helping her father, Tom Raley, in his grocery stores (the first opened in Placerville in 1935), set the bar for cultural philanthropy by donating $13 million toward the Crocker Art Museum expansion and $5 million to the new performing arts studios at 14th and H streets, which will be named after her late mother, E. Claire Raley. The Teel foundation also recently gave $1 million to Sacramento’s Society for the Blind.
GREGORY THATCH, attorney—This influential land-use attorney, whose client list reads like a who’s who among Sacramento developers, lately has been entangled in two of Sacramento’s claims to fame: politics and a flood catastrophe waiting to happen. Thatch, who represents developers in the disaster-prone Natomas basin (and even has a street named after him in the vicinity), has been a thorn in the side of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency in his efforts to lift a moratorium on new building as quickly as possible. SAFCA, despite Thatch’s push for an emergency declaration, is moving ahead on its two-year plan to complete a $576 million project reinforcing 25 miles of levee ringing the area, bringing it up to federal standards. Meanwhile, the Bee has come out against an emergency declaration, saying it won’t speed levee work and could actually hurt flood-control efforts. The issue has quieted since rearing its head early this year, but rest assured we’ll be hearing more from Thatch and his powerful developer pals—if Mother Nature doesn’t speak first.
TINA THOMAS, land-use attorney—Thomas is a well-connected community advocate and fundraiser who, along with Gregory Thatch, has pretty much cornered the market on development law. Her passion for causes she believes in, coupled with formidable legal and political sagacity, drive her to work tirelessly on behalf of the little guy. Thomas represented Loaves & Fishes in a lawsuit filed by the city alleging failure to comply with land-use permits (which was resolved through mediation in 1997) and got the ball rolling on building a shelter for mentally ill homeless women, earning her Distinguished Lawyer honors from the Sacramento County Bar Association in 2005. Currently, she’s involved with pro bono work on behalf of the Avondale-Glen Elder neighborhood, which is raising safety concerns about a proposal to store natural gas beneath approximately 800 homes and 40 businesses in the area between Elder Creek and Florin roads.
SUHEIL TOTAH, development exec—He’s proven that perseverance pays off when backing underdogs. The VP of development for Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises has racked up impressive victories within the past year starting with the long-awaited approval this past December of The Railyards on the 240-acre Union Pacific site in downtown Sac. Just six months later, the project was awarded $47 million in state bond funding—the largest in the state—for infrastructure and transit-oriented development, despite the city’s support for another project, enabling construction to begin next year. Totah, who also served as finance chair in Mariko Yamada’s political campaign, pulled off an unlikely victory here, too: Yamada beat the heavily favored West Sac Mayor Christopher Cabaldon in the Democratic primary for the 8th Assembly District.
GLENNAH TROCHET, M.D., health officer—Sacramento County’s public health officer has revealed herself to be a humble, compassionate public servant who provides leadership based on the best science and lets the chips fall where they may. The 56-year-old Trochet has argued for spraying to combat West Nile virus, needle exchanges for drug users, programs to address health inequities, the creation of an immunization registry, and increased screening, testing and treatment to reduce the county’s embarrassingly high STD rate. In the face of resistance, it’s a delicate dance, but Trochet is light on her feet.
ANGELO K. TSAKOPOULOS, developer/philanthropist/activist—Rivaling Miss Manners as one of the most gracious people around, the Greek-born patriarch of Sacramento’s most powerful clan out-owns, out-earns and out-gives all but a couple of people in the region, operating with the enthusiasm, energy and ambition of someone half his age. The chairman of AKT Development Corp. and his family have contributed millions to Democratic campaigns, education, religion, the arts and . . . the list goes on. He’s a major player in a plan to bring Drexel University to Placer County. Next in the works for AKT: the 24-story Meridian II office tower at 15th and K streets, which aims to be the first privately funded, privately occupied “green” building in Sacramento.
RON VRILAKAS, architect—Lots of visionaries talk about creating an “alive” city; Sacramento’s “It” architect seems to think ours ought to be kicking, too. His projects, including the mixed-use building at 1801 L, Oak Park’s Fourth Avenue Lofts, Zócalo, Ernesto’s and soon, the Firestone building near Capitol Park, do just that—in a very eco-friendly way.
JOANNA WESSMAN, publishing—The former Sacramento Business Journal advertising director joined the paper in 1995 as a temporary gig between training positions at Target and Staples. Little did she know she’d one day be filling a Dan Kennedy-size crater. Wessman assumed the publisher’s position after Kennedy retired in December, after more than two decades spent building the Journal into one of the most in-the-know voices in the local business community. Already, she’s emerging as a leader in advancing a philanthropic agenda involving businesses in the region.
BOB WHITE, strategic consultant/public affairs—The former chief of staff for Gov. Pete Wilson worked as one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closest advisers during the recall campaign. Potent? You bet. Reputable publications across the state have paid homage to the affable strategist as one of the most powerful people never elected. Scrutinized? It comes with the territory. As the founder of California Strategies, LLC, he’s been dinged for currying favor on his clients’ behalf without having to play by lobbyists’ rules. The host with the most? Of course. This past year, a private fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain took place at none other than the “White” house. But White, who refuses to divulge his clients’ names, doesn’t play party favorites. He’s also hosted private receptions for former state Assemblyman and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a Democrat, and Joe and Gavin Maloof. “We run the gamut,” White says. “It’s all about personal relationships and California first.”
ANZIO WILLIAMS, news director—In the battle for supremacy among local TV news stations, KCRA Channel 3 consistently comes out on top. It was the first to invest in an HD studio and HD helicopter, and it’s the first place locals turn for breaking news. Ah, but it’s harder to stay No. 1—which is where a 36-year-old energetic transplant from New Orleans comes in. Williams, whose prior station won a Regional Emmy for its Hurricane Katrina coverage, took over as news director at KCRA in February 2007. Since then, he’s shuffled the talent and picked up the pace, drawing both cheers and boos in the blogosphere.
MASON WONG, restaurateur/nightclub owner—Thanks to this Sac native and his brothers, we don’t have to travel to San Francisco or L.A. to get cutting-edge victuals and drinks or bask in the coolest vibes. The owner of Mason’s Restaurant, The Park Ultra Lounge and Ma Jong’s Asian Diner with brother Alan and family is gearing up to open another downtown nightclub in the revamped circa-1929 Firestone Building at 1530 L.
MICHELE WONG, high tech CEO—Synergex’s fastest rising star started there in 1982 and helped it morph from a one-product firm into an international success in 80 countries, serving as a model for entrepreneurial spirit. The former Sac Metro Chamber Businesswoman of the Year gets double the kudos for civic-mindedness. She currently chairs the boards of the Discovery Museum and KVIE and serves on several other boards, including the American Leadership Forum, Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, the UC Davis External Research Advisory Board, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
DOUG YOUNGDAHL, almond co-op exec—It’s scary trying to figure out how you’re going to unload in excess of a billion pounds of almonds a year—even if they are in every health nut’s cupboard—but Blue Diamond’s president/CEO had a plan. Part of it was to sponsor NFL programs and advertise on Oprah’s and Dr. Phil’s TV shows. How’s that working for him? Very well: In the seven years Youngdahl’s been in charge, the co-op has become a global market leader, tripling gross sales to nearly $2 billion in 90 countries.