Our list of the movers and shakers who are shaping the Mile High City—now.
Influence. Clout. Juice. These synonyms for “power” are all things one can find inside the Capitol and City Hall, in the law firms on 17th Street, and in the boardrooms of international corporations. But that is perhaps a too-narrow definition of power—of what it takes to incite change, to move our city forward in tangible (and intangible) ways, to make our lives as residents of the Mile High City richer. Here, we present the people doing just that, from—yes—the mayor and the governor, to artistic masterminds and restaurateurs, to a guy you may have heard of named Elway.
5280.com Exclusive: Want to create your own Denver power list? Head to 5280.com/yourpowerlist to fiddle with our 1-10 rankings, based on who you think should be at the top.
1. JOHN ELWAY
Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, Denver Broncos (22)*
Talk about skyrocketing fortunes. The last time we published a power list, John Elway was comfortably situated in the middle; two and a half years later, Denver’s one and only true celebrity has taken over the city in ways that were once unimaginable. Then: The Broncos were headed for an 8-8 season, had a quarterback named Tim Tebow, and were a national punch line. Now: The team cruised to a 13-3 record and the Peyton Manning–led offense will be remembered as one of the best—if not the best—of all time. Yes, there is the small issue of being routed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, but if the man who gave Denver “the Drive” and two championship parades hadn’t come back to the Broncos, there’s a good chance the words “Broncos” and “Super Bowl” wouldn’t even have been uttered in the same sentence this year. (And as awful as that game was, it wasn’t a total loss: An astonishing 83 percent of households in metro Denver with a TV on were watching that game, a testament to Elway’s ability to rally the city—really, the entire Rocky Mountain region—around the blue and orange.) But a winning football team delivers more than team spirit and TV ratings: Hosting the AFC Championship game had an estimated $20 million to $40 million economic impact on Colorado. Add to that Elway’s restaurant mini-empire, the likelihood he’ll invest in the Broncos when Pat Bowlen steps away, and constant chatter about him getting into Republican politics in a (more) serious way, and it all adds up to a man who’s standing tall in the power pocket.
*Denotes ranking on 2011 power list
2. JOHN HICKENLOOPER
Governor of Colorado (1)
The man who had an improbable rise from bar baron to governor appeared ready to coast through his first gubernatorial term as recently as the spring of 2012—and then all hell broke loose. The Aurora shooting. The fires. The floods. The gun legislation that led to two of his Dem colleagues being tossed out of office (a third resigned). Not least, John Hickenlooper granted convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve from execution this past spring; in doing so, the Gov all but ensured that the next few state elections will include spirited debates on the death penalty. Still, the disarming Hick is a (mostly) well-liked incumbent, and he’s presided over legislative sessions that have produced notable new laws such as the passage of civil unions. With a sizable war chest, friends in high places (he’s often mentioned as an attractive 2016 vice presidential option), and a Republican field that, even with Bob Beauprez’s entry into the race, hasn’t thrilled even the most ardent conservatives, a gambler could do worse than
betting on Hickenlooper to win a second term this fall.
3. MICHAEL HANCOCK
Mayor of Denver (3)
It took three years, but it seems as if Michael Hancock has finally hit his stride. His
affable personality is the main event at public shindigs. And his policy work is starting to build momentum, especially with the Brighton Boulevard revitalization project, which will remake that corridor as a residential and commercial entrance to downtown and will certainly be one of his best chances to leave a visible mark on his hometown. Most notably, he’s starting to emerge from his predecessor’s long shadow (see number two) by doing business differently—relying less on massive group projects and on delegating to his staffers. If you want something done, Hancock is the person you call, not his team, and it’s his name you remember.
4. MORGAN CARROLL
State Senator (new)
As president of the Democrat-controlled state Senate, Morgan Carroll is in charge of what will—and won’t—pass during this session. And there’s no doubt this Aurora politician has big plans, from addressing the costs of higher education and childcare to improving roads and creating more jobs. Conservatives were worried the ultra-liberal would ram a lefty social agenda through the Capitol once she was in control. Instead, Carroll has been assertive (she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to revisit last year’s gun legislation) but measured (after all, some of her colleagues are up for re-election). Her liberal background would make a statewide race difficult if she wants to go in that
direction, but one thing is certain: Carroll’s political story won’t end after this term.
5. MICHAEL BENNET
U.S. Senator (9)
He’s a member of the Senate Finance Committee and leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee through the 2014 elections—meaning Michael Bennet’s national profile has never been higher at a time when Colorado’s swing state status has never been more crucial.
6. UNION STATION TEAM
When the Union Station redevelopment project is finished this summer, the two-plus-decade transformation of LoDo will be nearly complete. Not only will we have a vastly improved train station and transit hub, but the city will also welcome an entirely new neighborhood that is poised to become one of the hottest in Denver.
The people and companies behind this massive makeover are among our city’s best-known names: Sage Hospitality (led by Walter Isenberg, Peter Karpinski, and Zachary Neumeyer) is developing the Crawford Hotel, so named to honor the de facto First Lady of LoDo, Dana Crawford. Union Station’s retail operations will be helmed by Larimer Associates. Brothers Chad and Troy McWhinney are the master developers for the project, and the firm Milender White Construction Co. and others are overseeing the renovation of the station itself and related buildings.
The impact this project will have is difficult to overstate. Our rejuvenated downtown is a primary reason the Mile High City has graduated from Western outpost to an internationally recognized community of arts, culture, sports, food, and drink. The new Union Station takes an existing, beloved historic landmark and upgrades it with 21st-century amenities while also creating—from what once was little more than unsightly rail yards—an unprecedented collection of residential, commercial, and recreational properties.
By bridging the gap between Highland and the rest of downtown, these developers will have helped turn our city’s center into one of the most visually appealing and efficiently functional urban landscapes in the nation. Isenberg has called this the “most prominent renovation project in Colorado history,” and we’re inclined to agree.
7. CHRISTOPH HEINRICH
Frederick and Jan Mayer Director, Denver Art Museum (47)
Denver has become an international art destination in large part because of Christoph Heinrich’s visionary leadership and DAM exhibits like Becoming Van Gogh and Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective. The former was so popular that the museum remained open for 40 straight hours to alleviate the crowds. (Watch for the Cartier exhibition in November, which promises to be yet another blockbuster.) Now that East Coasters are visiting Denver because of its vibrant and unique museums and galleries—not just for its proximity to the Rockies—it’s fair to say the city’s cultural scene has truly arrived, and Heinrich’s DAM is one of the primary reasons why.
8. KIM DAY
Manager of Aviation, DIA (new)
At a time when commercial and residential development is exploding throughout the Front Range, there may be no area more primed for expansion than the land around DIA, and Kim Day has been at the center of it all as she’s overseen the airport’s ascension to fifth-busiest in the nation. She’s helped launch direct routes to Mexico City and Tokyo, and the success of those lines for tourists and business travelers alike will smooth the path toward more nonstop international flights, which will have a long-term impact on the local economy. In addition, by working with Denver and Aurora on the planned Gaylord hotel and convention center, she’s helping our city fulfill its goal of becoming a global aerotropolis. If she can do anything to speed construction of the long-awaited light rail line out to DIA, our citizenry might one day make her Queen of the Front Range by acclamation.
9. VICENTE SEDERBERG LLC
In past years, this might have been seen as just another niche law firm—but that was before marijuana changed the local and national landscape. Now founding partners Brian Vicente and Christian Sederberg are becoming the go-to experts on legalized marijuana not just here, but everywhere.
These two attorneys, along with their longtime ally and tireless cannabis activist Mason Tvert, have spent roughly the past decade trying to change minds about pot. And it’s fair to say they’ve succeeded. Colorado’s experiment with medical marijuana went so smoothly that legalized recreational use of the drug passed in Colorado by a surprisingly large margin.
As much as marijuana naysayers would’ve liked to paint these advocates as tie-dyed hedonists, the image simply never fit. All of them look like they’d be more comfortable in a library than at a Phish concert, and for many years they’ve stuck firmly to their message: Marijuana use by responsible adults is far less harmful than alcohol; sensible regulation of the product is preferable to the disastrous economic and human costs of the War on Drugs; and Colorado can set an example the rest of the country can emulate.
A few months into our grand experiment, legalization seems to be working rather well, and more people are turning to these advocates for input and advice about their own implementation plans. (Longtime progressive activist Ted Trimpa, a frequent adjunct to our list, joined Vicente Sederberg LLC last fall, and several other veteran attorneys have recently been added as the firm expands its advisory and lobbying efforts beyond Colorado’s borders.) Thanks to Vicente Sederberg’s devotion to the cause, our state—and Denver in particular—may one day be seen as the birthplace of the well-executed modern drug policy.
10. ROXANE WHITE
Governor’s Chief of Staff (4)
She’s been Hickenlooper’s most trusted adviser for so long, she’s sometimes referred to as the governor’s very conscience. This versatile and perpetual influencer—Roxane White had a major role in the governor’s Nathan Dunlap decision, and she is helping oversee the state Department of Corrections’ ongoing reform efforts—still wields considerable power in Denver several years after her boss moved across Civic Center Park. Business leaders and politicians know it always helps to have White on your side.
11. COLE FINEGAN
Managing Partner, Hogan Lovells (5)
As a formal and informal adviser to both Colorado senators (including serving as finance chair for Senator Mark Udall’s robustly funded re-election campaign) and co-chair of Hickenlooper’s 2014 campaign, Cole Finegan is one of the people those in office, or those aspiring to it, listen to first and most. And as one of the leaders of his multinational, multibillion-dollar law firm, Finegan is instrumental in promoting Denver’s image both here and elsewhere as a global, innovative, and business-friendly city.
12. NORMAN BROWNSTEIN & STEVEN FARBER
Co-Founders, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (6)
Now nearing the twilight of their careers, Norman Brownstein and Steven Farber, two longtime Denver (and national) power players, still wield considerable influence. The firm’s attorneys sit on dozens of local corporate and nonprofit boards, and senior counsel Jim Nicholson is co-chair of Denver efforts to secure the 2016 Republican National Convention. Even the negative headlines Brownstein’s son Bo has garnered over the past few years after an insider trading conviction have so far done little to compromise his father’s standing.
13. ANNE WARHOVER
President and CEO, Colorado Health Foundation (24)
In recent years, few sectors have commanded more attention—good and bad—than health care. In Denver, no health-care executive is more universally lauded, or politically juiced, than Anne Warhover. Under her leadership, the Colorado Health Foundation, a nonprofit that invests in and promotes programs that encourage healthy lifestyles in the state, has become one of the largest and most influential such organizations in the country. Among many recent initiatives, the CHF has invested in a fund to provide more fresh food access in Colorado and supported the expansion of Medicaid, thus fulfilling the foundation’s aim to help us maintain our treasured status as one of the fittest states in the nation.
14. MARY BETH SUSMAN
Denver City Council President (new)
In any metropolis, the city council does much of its work out of the spotlight. Its members tend to be a collection of characters, everyone from wonky political lifers to neighborhood activists to ambitious ladder-climbers. (Mayor Hancock—number three—is one of our most notable recent city council alumni.)
Over the past few years, a number of high-profile issues have given these members—led by Mary Beth Susman—more ink than they’re probably used to receiving. Chief among these is marijuana (see number nine). Since voters legalized its recreational use in 2012, the council has been the body (in Denver) charged with determining its ancillary rules and making decisions on key issues such as sales taxes and regulating the number of new pot shops. Council members Charlie Brown, Jeanne Robb, and Susan Shepherd are among those whose decisions and debates have garnered the most headlines, and despite a few silly deliberations—such as whether you could smoke a joint in your backyard but not on your front porch—the panel was able to reach some sensible compromises.
More recently, the council voted to expand the city’s program for minority- and women-owned contracting businesses, an important step for economic equality at a time when local construction is booming. These are the sorts of everyday things we rely upon the council to resolve—even if we’re not necessarily noticing it—and the current group has achieved impressive results during a challenging and unique time.
15. LARRY MIZEL
Chairman and CEO, MDC Holdings Inc. (7)
When you make big bucks like Larry Mizel—his 2012 compensation topped $8 million—you have a lot to spend on elections, and this Republican does. Refreshingly, though, his support is often bipartisan: He’s thrown cash at Jared Polis (number 20), Mike Coffman (see number 32), and, of course, the governor (who uses him as a go-to adviser, especially on business issues).
16. MARIA GARCIA BERRY
CEO, CRL Associates (10)
As Denver’s busy building up—and out—Maria Garcia Berry is often behind the scenes negotiating or steering projects as an “independent consultant” (translation: power player, fat Rolodex, gets things done). Her latest focus is on the future of the National Western Stock Show, which means she’s also talking about the Brighton Boulevard revitalization, the I-70 burial project—which would submerge the thoroughfare from I-25 to Colorado Boulevard—and light rail expansions. And she’s one of the hired guns helping negotiate the Gaylord resort project at DIA. When there’s a major revitalization project happening in or around Denver, Garcia Berry often plays a key role.
17. ROBERT WHITE
Chief of Police, Denver Police Department (new)
When Robert White took over the police department in 2011, it was a mess, primarily because police brutality cases had sapped the public’s trust. Since then, White’s graduated a new class of officers and begun restructuring the department by replacing crime-lab techs with inexpensive civilians (enabling him to hire more cops). The latter drew the ire of District Attorney Mitch Morrissey—the two publicly traded verbal barbs over the issue—as did a dispute over whether crime rates were up or down. (Morrissey says his team is prosecuting more felonies, so rates must be up; White says they are down and that his FBI-reported data is sound.) The squabbles may be minor, but they show that unlike some past police chiefs, White is always ready for a fight.
Colorado’s political landscape is changing—and it’s about time.
We didn’t like it any more than you. We were on the team that put together 5280’s last power list, and there were just 12 women in those pages. We wanted more, looked for more, but we were stuck between reporting reality and what we hoped to be the reality in our enlightened city. Put another way: In 2011, we wished that power structures in Denver had shifted to include more women, more minorities, and more diversity of thought.
They hadn’t, but that’s finally changing. We knew two years ago there was momentum (thanks, in part, to the BlueFlower Project and White House Project) driving more female candidates to run for office and—this is perhaps most important—making sure they had the funds to do so. We also started hearing about women such as Faith Winter, mayor pro tem of Westminster (she’s running for the state House this year) and former state treasurer Cary Kennedy (who’s now working for Michael Hancock as the deputy mayor and Denver’s chief financial officer, and seemingly waiting for her next campaign move).
There were (and are) so many others to watch, such as state Representatives Crisanta Duran and Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff. And don’t forget people like attorney Melissa Kuipers, Downtown Denver Partnership’s Tami Door, and GOP legacy Monica Owens, who would all be strong candidates, if convinced to run. All of which means reality is at long last starting to catch up with our hopes.
18. TIM MARQUEZ
Executive Chairman, Venoco Inc. (12)
This self-made oilman continues to run one of the state’s top energy producers, which in recent years has expanded into fracking, further extending his influence. Tim Marquez and his wife, Bernadette, also run the TBM Foundation, which provides need-based college scholarships to DPS teens and increases access to health care and human services for low-income, high-risk Denverites.
19. TOURISM LEADERS
Richard Scharf (CEO, Visit Denver) and Al White (director, Colorado Come to Life) aren’t co-workers, but this duo is a one-two punch in Colorado tourism efforts, from skiing to weed (although neither of them is a huge fan of the latter). If Denver lures the 2016 Republican National Convention, their sway will only increase. In the mountains, Rob Katz (CEO, Vail Resorts) and Melanie Mills (CEO and president, Colorado Ski Country USA) are the major forces behind our $3 billion ski tourism industry.
20. JARED POLIS
U.S. Representative (41)
Over the past several years, while many of his colleagues in Congress have resorted to either grabbing empty headlines or acting as bottlenecks, Jared Polis has simply been productive in Washington. The Democrat has helped pass multiple laws aimed at improving opportunities and standards for students and teachers and ending gender- and sexual orientation–based discrimination. He’s also been a vocal proponent of modifying and updating marijuana prohibition laws, and he’s been a tireless advocate for policies—such as ensuring that environmental safeguards are established in communities where fracking is underway—that benefit his constituents at home in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.
21. MARK UDALL
U.S. Senator (14)
Colorado’s senior senator has had some recent ups and downs—including family-related setbacks and scrutiny of his office over whether it pressured state insurance officials to alter their Obamacare cancellation numbers. Then in February, the Democrat’s still relatively smooth path to re-election ran into a roadblock when GOP darling Cory Gardner entered the race. (See number 25.) Mark Udall still has a formidable campaign war chest, incumbent status, and an admirable record of environmental activism and vocal criticism of the Obama administration’s NSA domestic surveillance practices. But to maintain his influence, he’ll have to navigate a race that’s suddenly changed into one of the tightest and most scrutinized campaigns in the nation.
22. MICKEY ZEPPELIN
Developer, Zeppelin Development Inc. (new)
River North, aka RiNo, has long been the brainchild of Mickey Zeppelin—his son, Kyle, runs the company’s day-to-day operations—and this master developer’s vision for downtown Denver’s last untapped area is finally coming to fruition. Over the past few years, the long-promised residential and commercial activity has been percolating from I-70 to Coors Field. Although it remains a gritty work in progress, RiNo is one of the hottest areas in town for new restaurants, galleries, clubs, condos, and apartment complexes, and the Zeppelins have had a hand in almost all of it.
23. MARIO CARRERA
Chief Revenue Officer, Entravision (16)
Still the most visible media magnate in the Latino community, the nonpartisan Mario Carrera also presided over the post-2010 legislative redistricting that shaped Colorado’s political races for the ensuing decade—without turning our congressional borders into transparent voter-grabs.
24. DUDLEY BROWN
Founder and Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners; Executive Vice President, National Association for Gun Rights (new)
His methods are often vile—Dudley Brown is notorious for twisting facts about candidates’ positions and bullying them into supporting his Second Amendment absolutism—but they’re usually ruthlessly effective. The activist, virtually unknown in mainstream Colorado until recently, has landed on this list almost solely because he and his allies have all but hijacked the GOP primary process over the past several election cycles. The question is: How many more of his self-selected candidates have to kill the party’s statewide chances before the powers that be (or would be) finally decide to try and neuter this gun-toting intimidator?
25. GOP WOULD-BES
The state Republican Party has been in disarray for some time, but election years always bring a new round of hope for change—and increased clout. The Colorado GOP’s 2014 prospects received a surprise boost in February when Cory Gardner, who was running virtually unopposed to retain his 4th District House seat, suddenly decided to challenge U.S. Senator Mark Udall (number 21).
The move had instant ramifications. Amy Stephens immediately dropped out of the race, as did Ken Buck, who now will run for Gardner’s vacated seat. (He’s favored to win.) And Gardner isn’t likely to face the same funding disadvantage the other candidates had relative to Udall; outside money is sure to pour into what has become a fantastic opportunity for Republicans to flip a Democratic Senate seat.
In the gubernatorial race, Secretary of State Scott Gessler is the only challenger who might make this list on his own—he was number 36 in 2011—but win or lose in November, his SOS tenure is up in 2015. Mike Kopp and Greg Brophy are staunch conservatives whose values, so far, haven’t resonated with mainstream Colorado voters. And Tom Tancredo is…Tom Tancredo. In fact, the Republican choices for governor have been so universally uninspiring that former Congressman Bob Beauprez—who lost to Bill Ritter by 17 points in 2006—entered the race in March.
But after Gardner’s recalculation, all bets are off. The GOP was instantly revitalized by the move, and if Gardner can find a way to appeal to a broad range of voters despite his highly conservative voting record, our next power list may look decidedly different.
26. GAIL KLAPPER
Member and Director, Colorado Forum (19)
Gail Klapper leads the Colorado Forum, which is an innocuous name for one of the most powerful political lobbies in this state. The Forum has 77 members (including at least nine entries from this year’s list, primarily businesspeople and political operatives) and interests in fiscal policy and education—and, of course, water.
27. PHIL ANSCHUTZ
Phil Anschutz is as wealthy and influential as ever in and around Denver—the Anschutz Medical Campus remains one of the most expansive and groundbreaking health-care facilities in the region, and he’s recently begun exploring the possibilities of wind energy in the West. But lately the billionaire’s focus has been more on his entertainment and business holdings in Los Angeles.
28. JIM DETERS
Co-Founder, Managing Director, and CEO, Galvanize (new)
The Front Range, and Boulder in particular, has been getting a lot of startup buzz of late, and Jim Deters—who’s based right here in Denver—is one of the primary visionaries behind many budding entrepreneurs via his Galvanize startup incubator. (Among current Galvanize portfolio members are Pandora, Uber, and the MyHub social platform, and the organization recently received a $1 million grant from Google designed to discover and nurture female entrepreneurs.) By helping create companies and drafting their talent, Deters is one of the primary reasons all those “next Silicon Valley” predictions might actually come true.
We Coloradans have a (good) drinking problem.
Restaurant folks like number 35 and number 48 aren’t the only ones in the empire-building occupation; so are those in the spirits biz. From veterans such as New Belgium Brewing Company’s Kim Jordan and Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Brian Dunn to newcomers like Crooked Stave’s Chad Yakobson, Colorado is an epicenter for beer companies. Prefer wine? Boulder-based master sommelier Richard Betts wrote The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, which reverently brings a hoity-toity subject to the everyday drinker. And let’s not forget distillers: Lance Hanson’s Peak Spirits CapRock gin is set to become a bar staple everywhere, to which we say, cheers!
29. THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Greg Maffei, President and CEO, Liberty Media (48); Mike Fries, President and CEO, Liberty Global (new); Kent Thiry, Co-Chairman and CEO, DaVita (46)
This trio is part of Hickenlooper’s informal, chummy “kitchen cabinet,” and each bend the Gov’s ear on any number of corporate and civic issues. Greg Maffei (top) and Mike Fries (right) are both longtime influencers of international media who are nominally Republican but nonetheless have formed business and fund-raising alliances with Denver’s Democratic power elite. Kent Thiry (left) is a more recent entry into Denver, but he’s consistently recognized as one of the most influential executives in health care nationwide. The youthful, charismatic, and occasionally controversial CEO—his company just spent $389 million to settle a series of federal, criminal anti-kickback investigations—may have future political ambitions in Colorado and beyond.
30. STEVE HOGAN
Mayor of Aurora (34)
Denver’s eastern neighbor is tired of being either ignored or sadly associated with the 2012 theater massacre, and Steve Hogan has done numerous things in his short tenure to attract more corporate dollars to Colorado’s third-largest city. If the Gaylord Rockies resort unfolds as Hogan hopes—the deal for the 1,500-room, $850 million complex is in place; now they just have to build it—Aurora’s profile would be immeasurably raised as a destination for future investment and job creation.
31. SHAWN HUNTER
Co-Chairman and CEO, USA Pro Challenge (21)
In just three years, the USA Pro Challenge surpassed the Amgen Tour of California as the most important cycling race in the nation, and Shawn Hunter is the primary reason why. The USAPC draws spectators (more than one million people attended the seven stages in 2013) and tourism dollars (estimated economic impact was just under $100 million). Not to be forgotten: TV coverage of the race serves as one giant and ongoing advertisement for Colorado’s natural beauty and active, healthy lifestyle.
32. THE NEXT U.S. REPRESENTITIVE FROM THE 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The battle this year for the 6th Congressional District seat will be a race to watch (and will be monitored very closely throughout the country). Conservatives prefer the incumbent, Republican Mike Coffman, who has a knack for bringing attention to veteran’s issues but also has a niggling tendency to commit verbal gaffes. These, along with a growing Latino population in his district, have made him more vulnerable than ever. His competition this time is Andrew Romanoff, the Democrat wunderkind turned politician in need of a job (he has a failed primary bid for Michael Bennet’s Senate seat on his CV). The district went for Obama in the 2012 election but was red in the three previous presidential races. It’ll be a litmus test for how Colorado’s independents are feeling about both parties for this election and beyond. Don’t be surprised to see veteran campaign financers such as Al Yates and Pat Stryker pitch in for the fight; outside spending on the 6th District campaign went from just under $7,000 in 2010 to almost $6 million in 2012. Those figures could be even higher this year as it’s one of the few toss-up House races in the country.
33. DANIEL RITCHIE
Chairman and CEO, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (25)
The venerable arts and education patron is still one of the most respected names in town. As chancellor emeritus at the University of Denver, Daniel Ritchie’s enjoyed the emergence of its Josef Korbel School of International Studies, whose masters program was ranked 11th in the world in 2012, ahead of such household-name schools as Yale, Stanford, Oxford, MIT, and others. And as chairman and CEO of the DCPA, he’s long led the organization’s transformation into a nationally recognized performing arts center.
34. KELLY BROUGH
President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce (32)
Kelly Brough’s—and the chamber’s—stamp of approval is central to big projects in the region, including everything from worker’s compensation reform to the U.S. 36 revitalization project. She’s been an outspoken proponent of the oil and gas industry and has raised concerns about the impact of the Lobato education funding case. Not everyone may agree with her, but one thing is clear: Brough’s blessing goes a long way in this town.
35. KIMBAL MUSK
Owner and Co-Founder, the Kitchen Community (new)
Kimbal Musk made his fortune by starting or investing in tech companies with his brother, Elon, the billionaire founder of Tesla and PayPal. Around here, Musk is just as well known—and perhaps better known—for his restaurant empire, the Kitchen Community, which recently debuted a new location in Glendale and will soon open outposts in downtown’s Union Station (see number six), Fort Collins, and Chicago. He’s obsessed with sustainable sourcing and won’t open a new restaurant until deals have been worked out with local purveyors. And he’s not all about high-end dining: Musk also founded Learning Gardens, a national nonprofit that creates gardens at schools.
36. MARK FERRANDINO
Speaker of the State House (new)
The speaker of the House is a noted policy geek who steered his chamber through the last turbulent session—addressing controversial issues such as civil unions, gun control, and tuition and tax increases—so smoothly that it’s easy to forget what a pioneer he is as Colorado’s first openly gay speaker. Although it’s still unknown what he’ll do once his term expires at the end of this year, 36-year-old Mark Ferrandino’s expertise and reputation for bipartisan deal-making will likely make him a major player in state and local politics for many years to come.
37. RHONDA FIELDS
Colorado State Representative (37)
This Aurora mom was motivated to run for office in 2010 after her son, Javad Fields, was murdered and she began advocating at the Capitol for victims and their families. Once elected, Rhonda Fields quickly became a politician to watch. She weathered vile personal attacks after voting for gun-reform bills last year and remains the most vocal pro–capital punishment voice in the state (a perpetual political topic, thanks to number two).
38. DIANA DEGETTE & ED PERLMUTTER
U.S. Representatives (new)
“Easy Ed” Perlmutter and Diana DeGette aren’t flashy—the progressive Democrats are pro-business and pro-environment and have advocated for the rights of veterans, women, and minorities—but the two are as steady as they come and appear to be safe in their respective seats for as long as they care to be there.
39. GEORGE BRAUCHLER
District Attorney, 18th Judicial District (new)
In another year, George Brauchler might be a formidable challenger for Hickenlooper’s throne. But he bailed on that race to focus on the James Holmes trial, and if he prosecutes it well, his statewide stock could rise to unprecedented heights.
40. ADAM LERNER
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (new)
He’s not on the list just because he’s cool, but also because the projects he’s spearheaded have upped Denver’s cool-kid rep. (Notable: an exhibition by Senga Nengundi this month and events such as Black Sheep Fridays and Mixed Taste.) Adam Lerner is reinventing what a
museum can be, and we’ve got a front-row seat for the revolution.
Cow town? Forget it, Denver’s a cultured town.
Denver’s cultural rebirth happened so quickly—and quietly—it’s hard to say what started it all. Was it when the Denver Art Museum expanded? When the Clyfford Still Museum opened? When novelist Kent Haruf wrote his first ode to the Colorado prairies? What’s easier to nail down is that there are cultural pioneers—see numbers seven and 40—driving change and creativity. And while we’re talking about those names, we’ve got to mention the quirky and hip Chuck Morris of AEG Live, who has maintained his edge by bringing a steady stream of major musical acts to the Front Range. And Randy Weeks, who, by securing national touring companies, original productions, and shows both grand and intimate, has helped transform the DCPA into a first-rate performing arts empire. And Laura Merage, founder of RedLine gallery, who’s helping kids embrace art at a time when they are usually obsessed with video games. All of which means that the most sought-after tickets in Denver (after Broncos games—see number one) are to the area’s cultural events.
41. RON WILLIAMS
Chairman, the National Western Association (new)
Since 2012, Ron Williams has run the stock show with all the professionalism and aplomb of his esteemed predecessor, Jerry McMorris. But now that the event and its grounds are becoming more of a centerpiece amid the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods (Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea), how well Williams adapts the formerly limited event and its facilities to more of a year-round, multifaceted operation will be crucial in determining North Denver’s future direction.
42. PHILLIP WASHINGTON
General Manager and CEO, RTD (new)
RTD’s continued expansion must go hand in hand with Denver’s development to ensure it doesn’t become another car-clogged Los Angeles. Phillip Washington (left)—who in 2013 was named outstanding transportation manager by the American Public Transportation Association—is the gatekeeper responsible for expanding the system throughout the Denver metro area while still keeping costs in check, hitting construction deadlines, and securing compromises on route planning from a wide variety of competing interest groups.
43. JACK FINLAW
Governor's Chief Legal Counsel (new)
As the governor’s chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw tells the administration what it can and can’t do, and he’s one of the primary overseers and administrators (and occasional rewriters) of laws relating to all aspects of life in Colorado.
44. STEPHEN JORDAN
President, Metro State University (new)
Stephen Jordan’s quest to make his school the top urban institution of its type in the country is right on schedule. It wasn’t long ago that Metro State was just another middling city college. But under Jordan’s guidance, the campus has expanded its physical footprint and academic offerings—recent additions include teacher education, accounting, and social work programs, and a $40 million aerospace facility might be next—while reshaping the Auraria Campus. Jordan also was one of the few Colorado higher ed officials who openly supported granting in-state tuition to students brought to the United States illegally by their families. Honorary mention: University of Colorado president Bruce
Benson is still a master fund-raiser and has helped keep CU Boulder’s reputation intact during a tough time for higher ed.
45. DOUG PRICE
CEO and President, Rocky Mountain PBS (new)
When Dean Singleton—previously number two on our list—stepped down in December as executive chairman of MediaNews Group, which owns the Denver Post, he left a void in the Mile High City’s media landscape. There’s no doubt Singleton continues to be a serious player, especially as a sounding board for politicos, but Denver’s next great media personality is still TBD. That said, Doug Price dramatically overhauled the formerly sleepy Rocky Mountain PBS when he brokered a deal to merge with public radio station KUVO and I-News (an investigative news team) to create a new kind of multimedia company. Outside of the executive suite, reporters and pundits—including the Post’s Vincent Carroll and Lynn Bartels, the New York Times’ Jack Healy (who covers regional issues from Colorado), Fox31’s Eli Stokols (who’s also a 5280 contributor), and Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner—hold an increasing amount of power, especially in this election year.
46. RYAN CALL
State Party Chairman, Colorado Republican Committee (new)
Ryan Call is blessed with a narrower Senate margin than last year—but cursed with the ongoing presence and outsize influence of the GOP’s more extreme factions (see number 24). How well he navigates this election season will determine whether Colorado Republicans can turn the state red again—or remain stuck on the margins.
47. LILLY MARKS
Vice President for Health Affairs, University of Colorado; Executive Vice Chancellor, Anschutz Medical Campus (new)
Lilly Marks oversees a medical campus that sustains more than 17,000 jobs and has an economic impact of more than $2 billion.
And the Anschutz Center’s facilities are feverishly setting the course—via patient care, advocacy, and research—for our entire nation’s future well-being.
48. STEVE ELLS
Founder, Co-CEO, and Chairman, Chipotle Mexican Grill (new)
More than two decades ago, Steve Ells created a fast-casual concept, Chipotle, that would change the way we thought of fast food
(naturally raised meat, fewer genetically modified organisms...and it tastes good!) and launch an empire (Chipotle has more than 900 locations). Now, he’s paired up with Frasca Food and Wine’s Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson to take another fast-casual model, Pizzeria Locale, big. We’re ready.
49. SHARON LINHART
Founder and Managing Partner, Linhart PR (new)
As the founder of Denver’s go-to PR firm for crisis management, Sharon Linhart has built an impressive client roster (Southwest Airlines, UnitedHealthCare, Crocs) that relies on the firm for PR counsel of all kinds.
50. TOM BOASBERG
DPS Superintendent (40)
It’s nothing short of scandalous that a major American city’s public education leader is ranked this low. But Tom Boasberg is one of many in the education world who saw their fortunes fall in 2013. After last year’s humiliating defeat of Amendment 66, these folks just need a do-over, and they’re looking to Boasberg for inspiration. The national political hostility toward public education means they must rethink their traditional approaches. Fortunately, this is exactly what Colorado has been doing for the past several years; now Boasberg et al. must come up with creative ways to find the money that will enable them to realize their vision. But funding shortfalls and competition from private and charter schools alike won’t make it easy.