For eight years, the Independent News has attempted to rank the most powerful and influential people in the Pensacola area. The first list had 50 names and 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 and Lewis Bear Jr.
The sheer audacity of ranking elected officials, community leaders and power brokers caught fire with our readers. Within hours of the paper hitting the newsstands, we received emails and phone calls. Some grateful, some upset. Another Independent News tradition was created.
Since then, the list has grown to 100 people. Our staff and a committee of friends of the paper review potential names. People are moved up and down as we get closer to publication.
Mike Papantonio tops the 2014 IN Power List. With his syndicated radio show, “Ring of Fire,” and regular appearances on the major networks, “Pap” has become one of the most recognizable trial lawyers in America.
Locally, he led the fight against ConocoPhillips over the Agrico Chemical Co. for its contamination of groundwater. The $70 million settlement went to residents who own or have owned property impacted and also set up a medical monitoring program for those still living in the area.
For the past two years, Papantonio and his firm, Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, have hosted the “Healing Hands” Gala to expand the mission of Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
The rest of the top five on this year’s Power List are familiar names. Attorney Jim Reeves is in the second spot for his chairmanship of the Community Maritime Park Associates board and his contributions to Pensacola politics with the Irish Politicians Club. Hotelier Julian MacQueen came in at number three for his successful efforts to separate tourism marketing from the Greater Pensacola Chamber and into a its own organization, Visit Pensacola, Inc.
Escambia County Chairman Lumon May is in the fourth spot, as he continues to expand his influence and build consensus for progress across the county. Fred Donovan, Jr., who made the fifth spot, has quietly become a force for economic development, following in the footsteps of his father.
The 2014 Power List will be not less controversial than its predecessors. The degrees of separation in the positions are slight and are what makes this list fun to write and debate.
Driven by Conviction: Mike Papantonio
The Complete List
Hall of Fame
The Seat of Power: McGuire’s Irish Politicians Club
Family Ties: The Beck Family
To Be Heard: Pastors in Power
Fighting City Hall: Innovative Organizers