The 10 Most Powerful People in Central Florida

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Scott Maxwell details the top 10 in the Orlando Sentinel's 2013 Power List.

On Sunday, we unveiled the first part of "The 25 Most Powerful People in Central Florida."

It featured a mix of corporate leaders, three members of Congress, two rabble-rousers and one well-known judge.

Today, we unveil the top 10 as we finish up the 10th annual edition of this list designed to help you see who pulls the strings in this region.

As a reminder: The picks aren't mine. Rather, they are the compilation of votes cast by a panel of plugged-in observers from the business, nonprofit and political communities.


Developer/philanthropist (Last year: 21st) 

This fall, Central Florida's long-awaited arts center is set to open its doors — and actors will begin performing in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. Pugh, 75, has been a driving force behind the center, vowing to make the complex among the best in the country. Pugh and his wife have also served as benefactors to other local charities, the University of Florida and a number of Democratic politicians.


Orange County Public Schools superintendent (Last year: Not ranked)

Talk about a meteoric rise. Last year, Jenkins wasn't on this list. This year, she made the top 10. One panelist described Jenkins, 52, as "tough as nails and calm under pressure." She's done well at the schools and earned enough cache to be on Rick Scott's radar as a potential lieutenant governor … yet also demonstrated enough savvy not to be interested in the powerless post of political sidekick.


Florida Hospital CEO (Last year: 10th) 

Four years ago, Houmann, 56, wasn't even on this list. In fact, no health-care exec was. But as Florida Hospital has grown — and as medicine has become an increasingly important part of Central Florida's economy — so too has Houmann's clout. That's partly due to Houmann's willingness to get involved in community issues beyond his board room, including transportation and poverty.


Incoming Senate president (Last year: 9th)

Meet the most powerful legislator from these parts. Gardiner, 44, has risen from backseat House member to incoming Senate president. While some legislators take orders from outside interests and pander on wedge issues irrelevant to the lives of most Floridians, Gardiner has focused on subjects like transportation and the economy. Said one panelist: "He's well-liked and not off the deep end." Gardiner's challenge will be avoiding the ethical pitfalls and brazen power plays that have bedeviled so many legislative leaders before him.


Hotelier (Last year: 6th) 

In a land dominated by nationally run theme parks, it's fascinating to see a homegrown, independent hotelier out-clout his peers. Rosen, 74, isn't afraid to speak his mind and often stays ahead of industry trends. He's been a big player on the philanthropy scene, and his Shingle Creek resort is one of the largest privately run convention centers in the region.


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Editorial Poll


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Jailed police officer [Poll]

Did a Baltimore judge make the right call in sentencing a city police officer to 45 days in jail for beating up a drug suspect who had broken into the home of the officer's girlfriend? Another officer set the stage for the attack.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure