Central Florida's Most Powerful People: Rankings 15-6
The parade of power continues...

By Scott Maxwell
Posted December 29, 2005

Taking Names' 2005 edition of the "25 Most Powerful People in Central Florida" kicked off Tuesday by unveiling the bottom 10.

Today, we look at the people our plugged-in panel of 17 community leaders ranked sixth through 15th.

Here we find two politicians who wield their clout from the nation's capital. We finally get some gender diversity with the listing of two media mavens. And we come upon some of the region's most established businessmen -- as well as one developer who has come gangbusters onto the power scene in very recent years.

Check out Sunday's Taking Names for the five most powerful people in Central Florida.

15. Jeff Fuqua. As chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Fuqua runs one of the most influential (and often overlooked) public agencies in Central Florida. The 61-year-old president of Amick Construction serves as a gatekeeper for everything at the airport from lucrative contracts to construction and development deals. Throw in the fact that he's a big-time Republican donor responsible for running an airport that's generally well-regarded (and crucial to the local tourism-driven economy), and you can see why he jumped four places in this year's ranking.

14. Jane Healy. As the woman in charge of the Orlando Sentinel's editorial pages, Healy, 56, has one of Central Florida's highest-profile bully pulpits from which she can sound off. Most of the region's top politicians regularly visit Healy and her staff of writers, pitching ideas and trying to win support. Healy's cheerleading can help. Perhaps more important, though, her darts can doom.

13. Jacob Stuart. In a town full of new businesses and entrepreneurs, the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce serves as both a mentor and gatekeeper for incoming execs. And Stuart, as the chamber's president, has long been its frontman. In recent years, his efforts to help Hispanic businesses have been particularly noted. As an establishment mainstay, Stuart, 57, also serves as a portal between the old guard and the next generation of business leaders.

12. Clarence Otis. While most everyone else in places 10-15 finished about the same in this year's ranking as they did last year, Otis, the president of Darden Restaurants, posted an 11-spot jump. That's primarily because he has begun to come into his own with the retirement of Joe Lee, founder of the Orlando area's largest locally based company. In Darden, Otis, 49, runs one of Central Florida's most charitable and community-involved companies as well.

11. Harris Rosen. Rosen has a determination and drive that are responsible for both his own rags-to-riches story and his position as the unofficial mayor of International Drive. The hotelier's vision for Central Florida centers almost exclusively on tourism. And he has fought politicians who dared suggest that Central Florida improve schools or public safety with money currently spent promoting tourism. But Rosen, 66, also has personally given plenty of money to charity, smoothing out some of the edges of his image as a hard-nosed businessman.

10. Kathy Waltz. As publisher of the Orlando Sentinel, Waltz, 51, runs the business that probably shapes more opinions than any other in the region. Politicians and execs seek her counsel, as well as her membership on local nonprofit boards, partly because they respect her no-nonsense way and partly because they put stock in the adage that you don't want to pick fights with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

9. John Mica. For the second year in a row, the Republican congressman from Winter Park is the only House member to make this list. But this year, he jumped nine places -- thanks largely to his ability to deliver (or kill) major transportation projects. While some members of Congress are focused on their national party's agenda and marching orders, panelists view Mica, 62, as focused on Central Florida -- where roads and rail are center stage.

8. Cameron Kuhn. No one has come onto Central Florida's power scene with more sudden impact than Kuhn. His buddy-buddy relationship with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer -- and his willingness to spread campaign cash around to politicians with the power to affect his projects -- quickly made this Central Florida newcomer a major player, up 12 places in this year's ranking. And his massive retail and residential project, the Premiere Trade Plaza, has the potential to help transform downtown. Onlookers will now be watching to see whether Kuhn, 46, tries to make a community-wide difference in things other than his portfolio.

7. Mel Martinez. Florida's freshman U.S. senator had a rocky start in office with missteps on everything from Terri Schiavo to an expensive staff retreat at a posh local resort. But the Republican former Orange County chairman seems to be settling into more of a rhythm. Martinez is at his best when he's charting his own agenda rather than following orders. And with five years before he has to seek re-election, the 59-year-old Cuban immigrant with a winning life story has big potential.

6. Jim Seneff. Coming in at the same spot as last year is the chairman of CNL Financial Group. Seneff and his company have been involved with developing downtown long before it became the hip (and profitable) thing to do. And he's personally involved with the push for a new performing-arts center. Between his company's clout and his personal involvement, Seneff, 59, is a respected go-to exec for local politicians.

NEAR MISSES

In this exercise, more than 400 votes were cast for more than 140 people. So with only 25 coveted spots to fill, many people with serious clout just missed the cut. Here are a few of them:

Orange County Schools Superintendent Ron Blocker, State House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, former Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick, lawyer Charlie Gray, lawyer John Morgan, lawyer Tico Perez and Darden Restaurants VP Rick Walsh

SHOWS OF SUPPORT

Here's a quick-hit sampling of some of the others who received multiple votes:

Frank Billingsley, the Rev. Randolph Bracy, Linda Chapin, Elizabeth Gianini, Ray Gilley, Charlotte Hall, David Hughes, Beat Kahli, Ajit Lalchandani, Joe Lee, John Lowndes, Harvey Massey, Randy Morris, Mark NeJame, George O'Leary, Ann McGee, Tim Shea, Sandy Shugart, Bob Vander Weide, Marc Watson, and the trio of downtown developers Phil Rampy, Picton Warlow and Craig Ustler (interestingly, those last three actually got votes as a group).

Source: Orlando Sentinel