The first Power List was created in 2007 at the Atlas Oyster House when a friend asked me to list the most powerful and influential people in Pensacola. For the next hour, we bounced around names of people who really get things done in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. It was a fun exercise and we recorded our thoughts on a napkin.
The next morning I dug out the napkin and tossed around the concept with the staff. What if the Independent News published the list of the most powerful people in the area? No one had ever dared rank people based on their influence.
The first list was published on June 7, 2007 under the title, “Who’s the Man?”
Fred Levin topped the list, followed by Judge Lacey Collier, Ted Ciano, Jim Reeves, Lewis Bear Jr. and 45 other men and women. The list was published without fanfare.
Within hours of the paper hitting the newsstands, we were getting emails and phone calls. Some grateful, some upset. We knew that we had a hit and had created a new Independent News tradition.
Since then, the list has grown to 100 people. We get more input from the community, asking past honorees and others to submit their top 40. Our staff and a committee of friends of the paper review the nominations. For the next week or so, names are added and subtracted from the list. People are moved up and down as we get closer to publication.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan tops the 2013 IN Power List. He won both the Republican primary and General Election by landslides, making him the most popular elected official in our two counties.
Changing the direction of a large, entrenched bureaucracy like the sheriff’s office is a daunting challenge, especially when you didn’t grow up in that system. Sheriff Morgan has done it and doesn’t appear to be ready to coast through his second term.
The rest of the list reflects the diversity in leadership that has developed over the past few years as women and minorities assume positions of power. Commissioner Lumon May and Gulf Power VP Bentina Terry are two African-American leaders that have a huge impact on the community. Both are in the top five.
This is the second year that Terry made the top 10. She is joined by Debbie Calder who also made the Top 10 for the second time. Calder is the senior vice-president for Navy Federal Credit Union, whose Pensacola facility recently announced a $200-million expansion that will create a minimum of 1,500 new jobs by 2015.
Others in the top 10 are familiar names—Jim Reeves, Sandy Sansing, Mike Papantonio, Jeff Miller, Dr. Ed Meadows and Fred Donovan Jr. After them, the list got harder to rank. The degrees of separation are slight and are what make this list fun to write and debate.