2005 Most Powerful People in Central Florida

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15. Jeff Fuqua, Amick Construction president

16. Andy Gardiner, Florida House majority leader

17. David Brown, Broad & Cassel chairman

18. Fred Leonhardt, GrayRobinson partner

19. Dan Webster, state senator

20. Allan Keen, Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority chairman

21. Bill Nelson, U.S. senator

22. Dick Batchelor, former legislator

23. Joe Lewis, The Tavistock Group founder

24. Rich DeVos, Orlando Magic owner

25. Jim Pugh, Epoch Properties chairman

BREAKING IT ALL DOWN

Now you know who ranks where. But there were also some interesting trends and amusing asides discovered when studying the people who made the list -- and when looking at what was said about those who didn't.

This list continues to lack diversity. The average power player is essentially an over-the-hill white guy -- 57.4 years old, to be exact. Out of 25 powerful people, only three were women. One was black. One was Hispanic. Oh, and their names are pretty boring: Dick and Jane, John and Joe.

Panelists offered interesting votes and comments for several locals who didn't make the list. They include: Tiger Woods ("If he leaves," wrote one panelist, "Orlando will lose its highest-profile -- and classiest -- ambassador."), Sentinel restaurant critic Scott Joseph ("He can make or break a restaurant.") and Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie ("She continues to be a politician with no baggage except truth.")

Embattled schoolteacher Jan P. Hall snagged one vote. The panelist who cast it noted that her letter, which painted an unflattering picture of Puerto Rican teachers and students, had the power to generate a controversy that turned the Orange County school district on its head and prompted community debates over everything from ethnic relations to freedom of speech.

The broadcast media was mostly ignored this year -- though getting a bit of attention were the likes of WTKS 104.1's tough-talking afternoon talk-show host Jim Philips and WKMG-Channel 6 general manager Henry Maldonado, who merits attention with both his on-air editorials and his station's charitable focus. One reader also suggested that an overlooked power player in Central Florida's broadcasting industry actually resides in Texas: Clear Channel chairman Lowry Mays, who can decide what we hear -- and don't hear -- on seven different radio stations in town.

This list is heavy with Republicans -- a reflection of the GOP's strength in Florida. If the Democrats ever figure out how to win some statewide races, big-time liberal fundraisers such as developer Jim Pugh (who actually snuck in at No. 25) and lawyer John Morgan (a near miss) will wield more clout.

Law-enforcement types are considered major power players in many communities. Not here. Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary and State Attorney Lawson Lamar were essentially ignored by the panelists . . . for the second year in a row.

There may be a leadership opening that a respected faith leader could fill. With the departure of Howard Edington of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and the announced retirement of First Baptist Church of Orlando's Jim Henry (who received a couple of votes), Central Florida will have lost two of its best-known pastors. Among those whom are panelists are watching: Randolph Bracy of New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando and Orlando Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Wenski.

OFF THE LIST

There are inevitable ebbs and flows in any dynamic community. These are the six folks who made last year's list, but missed the cut this time -- some barely missing out. Some received the same number of votes as last year but were eclipsed by newcomers who received even more. Others simply slipped off the radar. They are: Orlando Regional Healthcare President John Hillenmeyer, Orange County Commissioner Teresa Jacobs, lawyer John Morgan, Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, Darden Vice President Rick Walsh and retired SunTrust exec Tom Yochum.

Scott Maxwell, who can decidedly declare that he's the most powerful columnist on Page 2 of the Local and State section . . . well, at least three days a week, can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.
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