25 most powerful people in Central Florida 2008

13. Al Weiss, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts president

14. Fred Leonhardt, GrayRobinson partner

15. Andy Gardiner, state senator

16. Jim Seneff, CNL Financial Group chairman

17. Harris Rosen, hotelier

18. Charles Gray, GrayRobinson founding partner

19. Mel Martinez, U.S. senator

20. Corrine Brown, U.S. House member

21. Dick Batchelor, consultant

22. Bob Mandell, Greater Homes, retired CEO

23.Val Demings, Orlando police chief

24. Jeff Fuqua, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority chairman

25. Ron Blocker, Orange County schools superintendent


*MOSTLY MEN. Two high-profile women leaving the Orlando Sentinel (Publisher Kathy Waltz and Editorial Page Editor Jane Healy), as well as Orange County Commissioner Teresa Jacobs leaving office, hurt the estrogen team in the battle of the sexes. Only three women made this year's list.

*STANDING OUT. Speaking of Jacobs, no rank-and-file politicians made the cut this year -- though Seminole County Commissioner Carlton Henley, a political patriarch in Seminole who proved willing to throw some elbows across county lines this year, was darn close. In Orange, Commissioner Linda Stewart received the most love from the panel. No one on Orlando's council got much attention, as Dyer is pretty adept at tending his flock.

*FROM THE PULPIT. On the religion front, Bishop Thomas Wenski and Longwood Rev. Joel Hunter continue to receive attention. Neither man is shy about wading into controversial issues. And don't forget that Hunter actually prayed with the president-elect on Election Day.

*ALL DISNEY. Walt Disney World is obviously the biggest mouse in town. Universal's presence is conspicuously absent. SeaWorld's, too.


Some of those who received attention from our panelists in the "Up-and-comers" category include downtown developers Steve Kodsi and Craig Ustler; UCF med-school dean Deb German, lawyer and GOP fundraiser Marcos Marchena, Orlando Chief of Staff Brie Turek, consultant and former Dyer campaign aide Kelly Cohen, Central Florida Sports Commission President Sam Stark, Walt Disney vice president Shannon McAleavey, public-relations exec Laura Guitar and Mears Transportation exec Roger Chapin.

How the list was prepared

To compile this list, Taking Names columnist Scott Maxwell assembled a panel of 15 plugged-in observers who are in a good position to judge influence in Central Florida. They come from the political, business, religious, nonprofit, grass-roots, judicial and educational communities -- and are diverse in age, gender and ethnicity. Panelists voted anonymously and were prohibited from voting for themselves.