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The Fifty

We rank the 50 most powerful people in Denver.

What is power? C’mon, really with that question? It’s incredibly simple and almost inconceivably complicated. It’s a game, played the same as it ever was, on different playing fields, in public and in private, with the rules written by Machiavelli and Freud. It’s about getting your way, or most of your way, and now and then, maybe just enough of your way. Sometimes it’s about doing the “right” thing (at least, that’s what the powerful will tell you). Sometimes it’s not (which is what the powerful won’t tell you). It’s about money. It’s about ego, especially for those who’ve already conquered the money part. It’s about politics, particularly in the midst of a troubled and hypercompetitive economy. When profits are slim and contracts and funding are scarce, who you know can be an influential trump card. • We’ve recently elected a new mayor and a new governor, so lately power is about all the changes to the political machinery. Of course, the new governor just happens to be the old mayor, so some of the players are now quietly, or not so quietly, moving and shaking on a bigger stage. For almost a decade, that guy, Hickenlooper, has been the guy. Today, he’s shaping the storyline of the state—and increasingly, the region—with a little help from his friends, the other politicians, attorneys, and CEO-types, every last one of them either kissing or kicking ass. Maybe your time is coming, because these guys and gals can’t live forever. But for now, they’re in charge, joined on this roster by an ambitious few who aren’t politely waiting their turn. • This is no wish list, an “if only” yearning for who we’d rather have running things. It’s nonfiction, an imperfect but informed glimpse into the core of Denver’s now. Your friend or boss or colleague isn’t on it? Too bad. Your friend or boss or colleague is on it? Good for you. You’re on it? Super. Enjoy it while it lasts, because as this list shows, Denver’s power structure will always be a work in progress.

John Hickenlooper (1)*

Governor of Colorado

Pushing a mayoral agenda through Denver’s 13 city council members is one thing, but herding the 100 wily cats of the rugged and rural state Legislature is another. Well, so much for critics who opined “Hick” wouldn’t hack it as governor. In his first year on the job at the Dome, the Legislature passed his budget with an overwhelming majority. He scored job-creating private-sector wins in a down economy, such as bringing the headquarters of Arrow Electronics Inc. and a chunk of General Electric operations to the state. And this (outwardly) moderate Democrat’s popularity continues to soar, even with influential hinterland conservatives like Bob Rawlings, publisher of the Pueblo Chieftain. Denver’s still his town, too: Consider that in the wake of the governor proposing to cut $257 million from the state education budget, the only issue the Denver Post seemed to (playfully) have with Hick was that he doesn’t wear a tie regularly. He’s been cited as one of the three most popular governors in the country and a potential vice presidential candidate, which, at this point, seems like a less powerful position for him.

2. Dean Singleton (2)

Executive Chairman, MediaNews
Singleton’s considerable influence germinates from what was and the perception of what is. His power source appears to be withering. His MediaNews empire went into bankruptcy, he’s no longer the CEO, and the Denver Post is preparing to shed staff as it loses subscribers. The last candidate he endorsed for mayor—Romer—lost. Yet while newspapers are struggling, they still have clout, and Singleton, of course, does what he can to sustain his sway. Certainly, according to many on this list, and even the president of the United States, MediaNews is still a dominant force in media. Last fall, when Obama came to town, he met with Singleton. In this one-newspaper town, local politicians regularly run their ideas by him and try to avoid unflattering Denver Post coverage. When Singleton celebrated his 60th birthday in August, the shindig was attended by everyone from Hickenlooper to Mayor Michael Hancock. And when he won his election, Mayor Hancock gave Singleton a bottle of wine.

3. Michael Hancock (New)

Mayor of Denver
Following popular Mayor Hickenlooper would have been a challenge for almost anyone, but Hancock hasn’t made it easy on himself. The former city councilman won an election that might best be described as: “Favored son with heart of gold overcomes son of moneyed, political pedigree.” Yet, concurrently, Mayor-elect Hancock was denying allegations that he used a Denver call-girl service, Denver Players. His administration didn’t handle that crisis well: His team asked the Denver Police Department that if it had exculpatory information to release it, but if it had information that might raise further suspicion, to first present it to Hancock. Despite his desire to raise his national profile, for the first few days of the Occupy Denver protest in Civic Center Park, Hancock’s team was apparently AWOL, leaving the governor to take the lead. But every new mayor makes mistakes. (Hickenlooper’s snowplowing disaster, anyone?) He’s the mayor, and in Denver that matters.

4. Roxane White (Rising Star)

Chief of Staff, Governor’s office
While some Colorado governors have installed milquetoasts as chiefs of staff, by appointing White as his COS, Hickenlooper has deputized a force in her own right. To paraphrase several insiders: Hick doesn’t make a decision without her. As one in the know says, she takes the initiative; she gets it done. And that’s how the Gov wants it. As Hick would tell you, she shapes executive office decisions that impact all areas of state business. And if you’re calling over to the Capitol with an Ask, you’d be a fool not to realize it. She’s mindful of swimming in her own lane, but because this ambitious governor actively jumps from lane to lane, White dives into the deepest ends of everything, including budget decisions (read: state-supported services and contracts), strategies regarding reapportionment and redistricting, and the looming elections. Think Sister Helen Prejean meets Rahm Emanuel.

5. Cole Finegan (3)

Managing Partner, HogAn Lovells
Former city attorney, former chief of staff to Mayor Hickenlooper, now boss of the Denver office of one of the world’s largest law firms. Not to mention that he’s also a close adviser to both U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall; finance chair for Udall’s 2014 re-election campaign; and one of four Colorado finance co-chairs of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Finegan’s in on the big plays: His firm has a piece of the business/influence related to the restructuring of Pinnacol Assurance, the state-chartered workers compensation insurance fund; he’s the lawyer for the Denver Union Station Project Authority; and he represents the Western Development Group on its proposed rezoning in Cherry Creek. He’s also out in front for Gaylord Entertainment in its bid to receive tax increment financing for its proposed hotel in Aurora.

6. Norman Brownstein & Steven Farber (4)

Co-founders, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
From their 17th Street law firm, these boyhood friends continue to quietly influence city, state, and national politics. Brownstein handles the national business and is such a D.C. heavyweight that the late Ted Kennedy once dubbed him the “101st senator.” If a Colorado U.S. senator or the governor needs something in Washington, there are times when they turn to Brownstein. Farber tends the parochial backyard. Locally, Farber, too, has a share of the proposed Gaylord hotel business and is a hired gun in the restructuring of Pinnacol Assurance. The firm’s managing partner Bruce James has become more prominent, but some political players are of the opinion that James’ first high-profile foray into local politics—advising Mayor Hancock on how to handle Denver Players—didn’t go so well. Noteworthy, too, is that one of Brownstein’s sons just pleaded guilty to insider trading.

7. Larry Mizel (15)

Chairman/CEO, MDC Holdings Inc.
This reclusive Republican oversees the Denver-based, multi-million-dollar home-building company, which enables him to be a mighty rainmaker. In the 2010 election cycle, he raised a total of at least $1 million for local and national elections for U.S. Senator Mike Lee, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and U.S. Congressman Cory Gardner. Mizel made a power move among power moves when he threw his typically Republican money and weight behind Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper. In return, he’s not afraid to ask for—make that demand—assistance, nor is he afraid to throw elbows when it comes to raising money, like for events such as 9/11 Remembers. A board member of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he was no small force behind the Pro-Israel Resolution passed in the Colorado Legislature last March, further evidence that he can make his causes state issues.

8. Phil Anschutz (12)

Media Mogul
He’d be No. 1 on this list every year if he cared enough about such things, but he’s a bit distracted with his diverse, privately held Denver-based empire of holdings in oil and gas, railroads, media, and entertainment (AEG). All of which makes him the richest person in Colorado—according to Forbes, he’s worth $7 billion. The assertively private billionaire conservative doesn’t say much (never publicly), but when he does, everyone, especially Republicans, listens. Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis got as far as he did largely because McInnis was who Republicans thought Anschutz wanted. Only a GOP moron runs for political office in this region without wondering what Phil will think, though smart Democrats respect him, too. When U.S. Senator Michael Bennet comes back to town, he stops to see his old Regal Entertainment boss. Even President Obama gives careful consideration to Anschutz’s desires, as POTUS recently fast-tracked the permitting process for an Anschutz power line that will cross five states, including Colorado, into California, with energy supplied by a $6 billion wind-energy operation Anschutz plans to build on one of his own ranches in Wyoming.

9. Michael Bennet (7)

U.S. Senator
Three years ago, Governor Ritter appointed him to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar’s move to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and everyone wondered What the hell? But in 2010, Hickenlooper’s former chief of staff and the former Denver Public Schools superintendent overcame a challenge by Andrew Romanoff (Bennet’s first-ever election). And he’s become the state’s most outspoken national representative. On national television, he said he’d vote for Obama’s Healthcare Reform Plan even if it cost him his seat, and, indeed, Bennet voted for the bill. Similarly, Bennet, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, was one of the loudest proponents of raising the nation’s debt ceiling. While Hickenlooper has aggressively pursued science-and-technology-sector economic development, Bennet has been integral to the effort, having galvanized a Coloradans for an Innovation Economy movement.

10. Maria Garcia Berry (New)

CEO, CRL Associates
“MGB” is at the forefront of Denver’s most ambitious—and controversial—development projects. Not exactly new for her: In the past she’s been all over FasTracks and the Gates Rubber complex. Lately, it’s Gaylord: She’s been instrumental in getting some of the city’s biggest names behind the proposed (and partially subsidized) deal that would allow Gaylord to build an $824 million hotel and convention complex near DIA, and, concurrently, a plan that could move the National Western Stock Show out of Denver. Staunchly opposed are some other bold-faced names—many of them on this list—who worry that the agreement might tear out the city’s cultural and economic heart, or at the very least cut into their business. MGB got those potential deals on the table as Topic(s) A, but how they ultimately turn out…well, no matter, the shrewd MGB will be just fine.

11. The Latino Bloc (New)

Consider the most pressing issues of the day— education, jobs, electoral redistricting, and immigration—and you’ll see this massive and politically diverse socioeconomic group is at the forefront of each one. Hispanics already are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in America (they comprise a full one-fifth of Colorado’s population), and they own about 44 percent more businesses than they did a decade ago. And they’re anything but homogeneous when it comes to how they vote or spend money, so candidates or businesses who want their backing can’t rely on canned speeches or empty promises. Instead, they must engage and connect with Latinos to earn their support. If aspiring politicians don’t, they’re done. End of story.

12. Tim Marquez (30)

CEO, Venoco Inc.; Co-founder, Denver Scholarship Fund
Oilman Timothy Marquez and his wife Bernadette are a Colorado version of Bill and Melinda Gates. The duo plans to give away as much as 95 percent of their wealth to causes, like the $50 million of Venoco stock they invested to start the Denver Scholarship Foundation, a fund that has already doled out more than $5 million to Denver’s college-bound. Or the $10 million (plus) they’ve donated to Colorado School of Mines—Marquez’s alma mater. But all that goodwill doesn’t mean that Marquez is retiring from his day job. This year, he made a power move to buy back the company he founded (and took public) so he could take it private again. Worth watching: Venoco runs fracking operations in California. Is Colorado next?

13. Dr. Patricia Gabow (10)

CEO, Denver Health
Although she is retiring next September, Gabow remains not only the most powerful health-care figure in the city; she’s one of the most influential voices on health care in the country. She took over Denver General, the city’s public hospital in 1992, when it was a dying, money-hemorrhaging “patient,” mired in the typical bureaucratic nonsense. Under her leadership Denver Health has become one of the most well-regarded hospitals in the country. There’s something for everyone to admire in her performance: She’s got a public hospital performing as well—in terms of cost effectiveness and medical outcomes—as some of the top-performing hospitals in the country. This summer, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius co-wrote a Denver Post editorial with Gabow and cited Denver Health as a national example of excellence.

14. Mark Udall (6)

U.S. Senator
After overcoming his opponents’ efforts to label him as a “Boulder liberal” in the 2008 election, Udall has turned out to be a potent progressive. He played watchdog on Department of Justice misuse of the Patriot Act. He worked with a GOP senator on a balanced-budget amendment that was ultimately tabled. And, in his biggest legislative accomplishment this term, he led a bipartisan effort to pass a law that allows broader nonwinter use of Colorado’s ski resorts, no small accomplishment in these divisive times. As the state’s senior senator, still three years from a re-election bid and holding coveted spots on the influential Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees, Udall shows there’s still room in government for moderate, thoughtful voices.

15. Rob Katz (New)

CEO, Vail Resorts
As far as mountain-loving Coloradans are concerned, it’s Vail Resorts’ world; we all just live here. As the snow-sport behemoth Hoovers up properties throughout the state and beyond, Katz is the one leading the charge. Despite the difficult economic environment for tourism, Vail’s properties saw an increase in traffic last season, thanks in part to ramped-up marketing efforts in places such as Texas, California, and even Brazil. Katz lobbied hard for the law Udall successfully championed that will enable Vail to offer and profit from more summertime activities, such as zip-lining. All of which means that Vail’s plans for (resort) world domination are all coming together.

16. Mario Carrera (New)

VP/GM, Entravision Communications
When—surprise, surprise—state Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on the reapportionment of Colorado’s congressional districts, the hot mess ended up in Carrera’s lap. The only unaffiliated member of the 11-person Colorado Reapportionment Commission—the group charged with redrawing the electoral map every 10 years according to population shifts—Carrera’s plan will likely be the one that gets adopted, meaning that this nonelected official has tremendous (and respected) sway over state elections for the coming decade. When you factor in that he runs the Spanish-language communications giant Entravision, which carries the second-most-watched newscast in Denver, it’s little wonder they call him “Super Mario.”

17. Blair Richardson (New)

Managing Partner, Bow River CapitaL Partners
This longtime operator in business, real-estate investment, and philanthropy has advised and allied himself with Democrats and Republicans alike. Part of Governor Hickenlooper’s informal “kitchen cabinet,” Hick recently appointed him chairman of the board of the oft-criticized Pinnacol Assurance. It was Richardson who researched the proposed restructuring of the state-chartered worker’s compensation insurance fund, which came under fire for allegedly luxurious abuses enjoyed by its executives. Under Richardson’s watchful eye, Pinnacol promises greater transparency and a more efficient execution of its core mission. Richardson’s not-so-secret weapon is his wife, Kristin, who is respected and remarkably active in several philanthropic organizations.

18. Greg Maffei (48)

President and CEO, Liberty Media Corporation
Maffei is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the country. As the right-hand man of chairman John Malone’s Liberty Media Corporation, Maffei manages Liberty’s portfolio, which includes Starz, QVC, the Atlanta Braves, and stakes in myriad companies, including Live Nation. Yet, he’s active in national and local politics, too. Three years ago, conservative Maffei laughed off rumors that he was considering running for governor. Since then, he’s ratcheted up his behind-the-scenes involvement. It was Maffei, atop a host committee that included Pete Coors and Larry Mizel, who held a fund-raiser for State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and it was Maffei who joined with Mizel to hold a fund-raiser lunch for then-gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper. Maffei is now a member of Hickenlooper’s kitchen cabinet and a close friend. Good chance Maffei will co-chair the Colorado finance committee for Mitt Romney 2012.

19. Gail Klapper (New)

Director, Colorado Forum
As the director of the Colorado Forum, when Klapper talks, people listen. The Forum is a statewide political action organization comprised of 65 of the state’s leading CEOs and power players. The group advocates for the private sector with an annual agenda of issues such as transportation, education, water, health care, fiscal policy, and the environment. Members include: Vectra Bank President and CEO Bruce Alexander and Kathryn Ann Paul, the CEO of Delta Dental Plan of Colorado. Because of the Forum’s who’s who, Klapper is an ambassador with great sway.

20. Bruce Benson (13)

President, University of Colorado
Ostensibly, Benson left politics years ago for academia, and under his guidance the state university system has navigated difficult economic times. He’s presided over CU’s move to the more lucrative Pac-12 Conference, he’s opened the doors of state schools to a broader range of qualified, low-income community college students, and he’s raised more than $900 million in private donations—well on his way to a targeted $1.5 billion. Not bad for a guy whose appointment was opposed at first by the CU Faculty Assembly and is allegedly now out of politics.

21. Shawn Hunter & Rick Schaden (New)

Co-chairmEn, USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Schaden was the bank; Hunter was the man. While the Quiznos franchise, which Schaden founded with his dad, spent much of 2011 battling bankruptcy rumors, Schaden was busy creating “America’s Race” with Hunter, former president of AEG Sports. The pair took Lance Armstrong’s idea and former Governor Bill Ritter’s pet project—a professional bicycle race in Colorado—and made it a tour de success. The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge pulled in $83.5 million at a time when this state sorely needs the money. Towns are now scrambling to be on the 2012 course (Boulder, we’re talking about you) to get a share of all that cash. Here’s the kicker: The weeklong event had about one million spectators, meaning that it drew a larger crowd than the Broncos will all season at home. Speaking of which…

22. John Elway (45)

Executive VP, Denver Broncos
Whatever Pat Bowlen may tell himself, John Elway now owns the Broncos. Because he’s (still) the proverbial quarterback who commands the respect of the team and of Bronco Country. Bowlen likely knows this himself, as he deputized Elway to resuscitate the team and rebuild the city’s most beloved public trust. The ostensibly bad news is that the Broncos have seldom been more feeble, but this is actually a positive position for Elway to be in. With nowhere to go but up, almost anything Elway does will improve the team, cement his already mythical legend, and further stoke those who wonder if St. John might someday be able to lead Denver or Colorado in the same masterful way he once ran the two-minute drill.

23. Richard Scharf (New)

President/CEO, Visit Denver
He leads the efforts to attract tourism and convention visitors to the city, and is responsible for everything from the wildly successful Restaurant Week—which last year doubled its run to two weeks—to virtually every event the Colorado Convention Center hosts. In 2010, Denver welcomed 28.9 million overnight visitors who spent $8.8 billion, both records that were achieved in a crushingly bad economy, and the Convention Center enjoyed its second-best year ever. As the Gaylord saga plays out, Scharf will play a pivotal role in advocating for Denver’s interests and ensuring that the city maintains its hard-earned visitor revenue.

24. Anne Warhover (New)

President/CEO, Colorado Health Foundation
The dynamic Warhover has a reach that extends far beyond her current health-care field. She’s got the mayor, the governor, and various chiefs of staff on speed dial, thanks largely to her former position as CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. She most recently ushered through the $1.45 billion sale of CHF’s 40 percent stake in HealthONE, Colorado’s largest hospital system. Warhover’s CHF intends to use the money to help fund its core mission of providing the underserved with better access to health care. As providers locally, statewide, and nationally try to sort out the post-Obamacare world, Warhover wields a powerful voice in whatever direction the debate takes.

25. Daniel Ritchie (8)

Chairman/CEO, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
If there’s a major policy or deal in the works, he’s consulted. This venerable and often revered philanthropist and businessman continues to shape local arts, business, and education. In addition to his DCPA post, Ritchie currently is president of the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation for early childhood development and chairman of the business advocacy group Colorado Concern, and a member of the Colorado Forum, along with numerous boards. Last June, the longtime Denverite received the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Smithsonian Institution, further cementing his reputation as one of Denver’s all-time civic sages.

26. Walter Isenberg (25)

Co-founder, president, and CEO, Sage Hospitality
After toying with the idea of a mayoral run in the last election, this savvy real estate mogul made the, um, sage decision to continue leveraging his formidable resources from (sort of) outside the political arena. In addition to bidding on the redevelopment rights at Union Station, Isenberg, in defense of his hotel holdings, has been one of the most prominent voices against the proposed move of the National Western Stock Show. Isenberg’s work with outside consultants to demonstrate the potentially dire economic impact on Denver has generated controversy, which is something the soft-spoken businessman usually avoids.

27. Theresa Marchetta , Tony Kovaleski, & John Ferrugia (New)

Channel 7 Investigators
More than a few people on this list like to bitch about this investigative team, especially the two guys who fancy suspenders and don’t have time for softball questions. Among their scoops was the CALL7 Investigation into a terribly run Commerce City nursing home that forced changes to the system; the report on the questionable performance of some taxpayer-funded online schools; and a stunning exposé on preventable deaths at a state mental health facility in Pueblo. At a time when it seems TV newscasts are filled with chuckleheads chuckling to fill the space and reading press releases, here’s a team of journalists doing actual public service journalism and affecting change. Though Kovaleski is taking his muckraking chops to Northern California, his CALL7 cohorts will keep stirring it up in Denver.

28. Brad Feld (New)

Managing Director, Foundry Group
Talk to anyone about venture money in Colorado and one name comes up: Brad Feld. We get it. He co-founded TechStars, Colorado’s startup incubator for tech companies that has become a reality TV show on the Bloomberg network. Foundry Group raised an additional $225 million last year, at a time when other Colorado VC funds had dried up. He writes books and uses cheesy videos to promote them (if you have not seen “I’m a VC” yet, put down this magazine and watch it). He’s candid and a little too self-assured, which is exactly how we like our VCs.

29. Alan Salazar (New)

Chief of Strategic Operations, Legislative Policy and Communications, Governor’s Office
Looooooong title for a busy guy. At this year’s Colorado Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, Salazar was recognized as the “Democrat of the Year.” And for good reason: A former chief of staff to U.S. Senator Mark Udall and Governor Roy Romer, Salazar is now Governor Hickenlooper’s policy brain. All legislative issues that matter are influenced by Salazar. In other words: The governor, the Dems, the R’s, Colorado Concern, Colorado Forum, the private sector, you name it—whatever the group and the agenda is, Salazar is all over it without leaving fingerprints.

30. Michael Johnston (33)

Colorado State Senator
The founder of the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts got into politics in 2009 after Peter Groff vacated his seat to work for the Department of Education. Johnston won re-election to his Northeast Denver seat in 2010, and since then he’s intensified his focus on his pet issue of education. He was the architect of SB 10-191, the bill that’s being monitored nationwide for its innovative way to evaluate teacher effectiveness, and he’s worked with colleagues of both parties to find common ground for issues surrounding immigrant students. After recently being named one of Time magazine’s 40 under 40, as well as one of Forbes magazine’s “7 Most Influential Educators,” it’s starting to look like Johnston might be Colorado’s next political star.

31. Wellington Webb (New)

Founder, Webb Group International and Former Mayor of Denver
Webb’s impressive 12-year run as Denver’s mayor ended in 2003, but his honor still looms over much city business. Mayoral candidate Michael Hancock felt the need to get the endorsement of Webb in a very public and heavily promoted event that involved a ceremonial “passing of the sneakers.” When Governor Hickenlooper was looking for a wise elder statesman to appoint to the state’s 11-member reapportionment commission, he turned to Webb. And last summer, just when it was looking like a forgone conclusion that the Stock Show was moving to Aurora, Webb wrote an editorial in the Denver Post in which he went so far as to advise Hancock and pretty much everyone else involved on how to do their jobs: “Finally, I am dismayed that this entire discussion began when Mayor-elect Michael Hancock and his family are on a much-deserved vacation after a grueling campaign. This decision likely will be made on his watch, and he deserves to have a major voice from day one.”

32. Kelly Brough (21)

President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
It’s Brough, as in tough. As in the current economy, which Brough has navigated with her usual no-nonsense style as the first woman to helm the DMCC. Brough has helped stabilize the business environment enough that it at least seems like the recession hasn’t hit as hard here as it has in similar cities. Despite her gritty reputation, she’s been one of the local business and political leaders to call for a greater sense of civility in political and business negotiations, and the “business agenda” the DMCC submitted to Mayor Hancock calls for greater openness to regionalism, streamlined approval processes for businesses that work with the city, and improved support for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

33. Ed Tauer (New)

Outgoing Mayor of Aurora
Tauer used his two terms about as well as Denver’s next-door neighbor’s residents (and businesses) could have hoped. He was the lynchpin in getting the city new water rights and more “favorable” zoning. He laid much of the groundwork for Aurora’s next phase, one that could see it finally realize its potential as a residential and corporate destination for people and companies that are priced out of increasingly expensive Denver but still want ready access to everything the Front Range has to offer. Or at least, that’s what he’s got people believing. As Tauer’s term-limited tenure ends, he should earn a big thank you from his successor

34. Steve Hogan (New)

New Mayor, Aurora
Tauer’s successor was the surprise winner in November’s election, running a strong final month of the campaign to defeat GOP darling Ryan Frazier. Now the former Aurora city councilman will leverage his reputation for resourceful budget-balancing to a city that’s trying to generate fiscal improvements in the coming years. Among the items on Hogan’s agenda: making Aurora more alluring to corporate relocations, working through the Gaylord complex and National Western Stock Show negotiations, and helping the city—whose acreage almost equals Denver’s and surpasses cities such as Tampa and Pittsburgh—work with Denver to tackle issues related to economic regionalism.

35. Hugo Matheson (New)

Executive Chef and Co-owner, The Kitchen
Colorado has been eating at farm-to-fork restaurants for so long, it’s hard to think of this as a national culinary trend. But it is, and it is thanks, in large part, to Hugo Matheson. Raised in the U.K., Matheson grew up eating seasonal ingredients grown or produced near his home. As a chef, he used that eat-local philosophy to create Boulder’s the Kitchen. And then the Kitchen [Upstairs], the Kitchen [Next Door], and the Kitchen Café. (Whew.) This spring, he will launch a Denver outpost at the corner of Wazee and 16th streets and has plans to open four more across the country. But unlike many chefs-turned-celebrities who open restaurants constantly, the Kitchen’s growth is, well, more organic, which is just the way Matheson likes it.

36. Scott Gessler (New)

Secretary of State
In just 11 months, Republican Scott Gessler has managed to turn the ho-hum secretary of state position into one that makes headlines—weekly. He’s sued Denver’s clerk and recorder to stop mailing ballots to inactive registered voters (i.e., voters that skipped voting in 2010). He complained that his new gig didn’t pay well enough and he’d need to work a second job at a firm that supports candidates (that was shot down as a conflict of interest). And, during a routine speech in front of Republicans in October, he called out President Obama. All of which might make you wonder: Does Gessler have a loftier position in mind? Or will his antics turn him into the next Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election, hanging chads and all?

37. Rhonda Fields (New)

State Representative and Victim Advocate, 42nd District
Officially recognized this year by the Colorado Democratic Party as a “Rising Star,” Rhonda Fields was a working mom until her son, Javad Fields, and his fiancée were murdered in 2005 just before Javad was set to testify in a murder trial. Fields spent months working with law enforcement to find her son’s killers. (Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens were convicted and now sit on death row.) But she didn’t stop there: She testified at the Capitol and helped pass a witness protection act. Then she ran for office—and won. While Fields is just starting her second year, she’s gained the type of respect that politicians dream about.

38. Melanie Mills (New)

CEO and President, Colorado Ski Country USA
As the unofficial chief snow ambassador for the state, Melanie Mills lobbies on behalf of 22 ski resorts at the Capitol and molds legislation about everything from I-70 traffic snarls to ski fatalities. Her three-year tenure has had its share of wipeouts: Vail Resorts left the group in 2008 and Mills had to lay off workers; the bad-news economy meant the group had to shift focus to staycation travelers; and a drought in the southern part of the state left lift lines empty. But Mills has adapted quickly, and Colorado Ski Country resorts saw a 2.6 percent growth in visitors last season.

39. Cliff Dodge (New)

GOP Operative
He’s long been an influential “grass top” among the grassroots of the state GOP. A former chief of staff for the state Legislature’s Senate Republicans and campaign manager for Tom Tancredo’s impressive failure of a gubernatorial bid, Dodge is now a wave-maker all on his own: He is either the best or worst thing to happen to the state’s constitution. While Democrats have been trying to get the Legislature to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which would require a 60 percent super majority to amend the state constitution, Dodge has been fighting it. (As it stands, the constitution can be changed with a simple majority.) Such a change would have a major effect on the region’s policy, taxes, and power players. In a take-that move, Dodge has threatened to run a ballot measure that would apply proposed SCR-1 standards to raise taxes. And he’s been successful in jamming a stick in the spokes of the Dem establishment’s SCR-1 wheels.

40. Tom Boasberg (New)

Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
Observers of public education throughout the United States are training their gaze on DPS, which is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) public districts in the country to be undertaking such massive changes in the way it evaluates students and teachers. In many ways, Boasberg is presiding over the infrastructure former superintendent Michael Bennet installed before he moved on to the U.S. Senate. But with the recent moves toward greater teacher accountability and innovative student assessments, Boasberg’s success—he’s under contract through 2015— will rise or fall on the performance of his educators, and on how much (or little) they improve local kids’ performance.

41. Jared Polis (New)

U.S. Congressman
Swimming against a wave of Tea Party–inspired hysteria, Polis has fast become one of the few liberal congressional newcomers to have an influential voice. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, Polis has championed issues affecting the environment, immigration, and fiscal responsibility. But he’s done it his own way, by always seeking middle ground. For instance, he became the lone Colorado Democratic rep to join the GOP in voting against raising the debt-ceiling limit. Ever true to his convictions, Polis made the move to promote bipartisanship, a sentiment our reviled and self-interested governing class needs to embrace more often.

42. OnSight (New)

Officially launched three years ago by founding partners Mike Melanson (respected pollster and strategist) and Ben Davis (political operative), and now with new addition George Merritt, a former Denver Post reporter and OnSight’s communications specialist, this self-described “public affairs” company is a hybrid of public relations and government relations—polling, messaging, schmoozing, closing. And they have been doing very well. OnSight has been the consultant team behind projects such as U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s successful 2008 election, John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaign, and more recently, the incredibly successful USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

43. Roy Palmer (New)

Senior Vice President, Xcel Energy
Years ago, if we’d done such a ranking, Roy Palmer might have made our power list because he spent nearly six years as Governor Bill Owens’ chief of staff. Now, he’s here because he spearheads Xcel Energy’s public policy, meaning that he manages the relationship between the company and its customers (you). As Boulder tries to create its own municipal electricity grid and send Xcel packing, it’s Palmer on point for Xcel, and with Dick Kelly retiring from his CEO role, it is Palmer who will take on even more responsibility helping the new boss plug into the scene.

44. Steve Sander (New)

Director of Strategic Marketing, City of Denver; B-Cycle Prophet
In just two years, Denver’s B-Cycle, the first citywide bike-sharing program in the country, has made red cruiser bikes a ubiquitous sight in the Mile High City—and Sander is its chief architect. He spearheaded the launch of the program. It’s grown to nine other cities, and earned the wrath of then-gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes who likened it to a secret U.N. plot.

45. Mike Coffman (New)

U.S. Congressman
Energized by the conservative revival, this pugnacious ex-Marine has been anything but quiet during his brief time in D.C. Once a relatively uncontroversial secretary of state, Coffman raised eyebrows (and hackles) last spring when he suggested cuts to some military entitlement programs as a partial remedy to the debt crisis. Among his unconventional proposals: He’s advocated that the Peace Corps pull out of China, that Congress cut its pensions, and that the U.S. withdraw its financial support to Pakistan. Taken together, these actions paint him as an unpredictable but politically savvy public servant.

46. Kent Thiry (New)

CEO, DaVita Corp.
An eccentric iconoclast, Thiry runs this global kidney dialysis company. He’s one of the highest-paid CEOs of a public company in Colorado (making nearly $14 million last year), and in 2011 was named the 13th most influential person in the U.S. health-care field by Modern Healthcare. He is also one of Hickenlooper’s close, trusted advisers and has political aspirations of his own. The main thing keeping him from an even higher spot on our list is this little matter of a federal investigation into whether DaVita overused an anemia drug and then sought reimbursement for it from Medicare and Medicaid. How that plays out may impact (at least) Thiry’s fortunes, but in the meantime, his company is expanding its head count and footprint in one of the most pivotal industries in the United States.

47. Christoph Heinrich (49)

Deputy Director, Denver Art Museum
As Denver’s transformation from frontier outpost to internationally acclaimed destination continues, the DAM has become one of our most-respected cultural institutions. Since taking over as director two years ago, the German-born Heinrich has landed the first American museum exhibition of German contemporary artist Daniel Richter, established or improved educational and community outreach programs, and helped raise the DAM’s—and Denver’s—profile as a place where artists and art-lovers convene and create.

48. Kim Jordan (New)

CEO, New Belgium Brewing Company
During the 1980s, Colorado’s beer industry was doomed to “Silver Bullet” mediocrity. That is, until several small brewers like the Gov (see No. 1) and Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing Company took on the beer-y behemoths. Two decades later, New Belgium is the big little guy (the third-largest craft brewer in the country) and is helmed by a social worker turned CEO: Kim Jordan. Under Jordan’s casual direction, the company has grown to more than 350 employees, has distribution in 28 states, and is on the hunt for a second East Coast location (watch out Samuel Adams). The real—unanswered—question is how long Jordan can keep this employee-owned company growing?

49. Janice Sinden (New)

Chief of Staff, Mayor Hancock
The mayor’s COS position is an office of influence, and former chiefs have impressively made their mark (see: No. 5 Finegan, No. 9 Bennet, and No. 32 Brough). Hancock talked with other candidates for the big job: Hogan Lovells attorney Andrew Spielman and one of the governor’s operatives, R.D. Sewald, but the COS is Sinden, former executive director of Colorado Concern. The question heard around town seems to be “Why?” There have been more missteps than not (see Hancock at No. 3), like the weekend in October when Occupy Denver protests escalated and the mayor’s office was unreachable. Sinden has the power to make this mayor—or break him.

50. Ken Salazar (5)

Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Oh what a difference an environmental disaster can make. Two years ago, Salazar was at No. 5. And for good reason: He could likely have been a U.S. senator for as long as he liked, and he gave up the sweet gig only because President Obama asked him to run the Interior. The Democrat, a Latino from the Western Slope who had conjured up an image of himself as a master of water policy and friend of the environment (with a brother for a U.S. congressman), was atop Colorado’s Democratic machine. Then the BP disaster hit, and it was disclosed that Salazar’s Interior, as the Washington Post reported, “exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis.” What does Ken do next? Good question.

2012 Rising Stars

  • Steve Fenberg
    Founder and Executive Director, New Era Colorado
    Five years ago, as a new University of Colorado-Boulder grad, he started New Era Colorado to engage young voters. Has he ever. The group has registered thousands of new voters—who actually voted on Election Day—and plans to enlist another 20,000 in 2012. New Era’s quirky approach to politics is refreshing. The group’s MTV Cribs–style video of mayoral candidates’ homes this summer was the most intimate view Denver got of the potential mayors. And their Survivor-themed debate drew big crowds. Not bad for a newbie.
  • Cory Gardner
    U.S. Representative, 4th District
    The state GOP has been touting this guy seemingly forever, and he’s still only 37. After beating incumbent Betsy Markey in 2010, and with Republicans sure to remain energized at least through the 2012 elections, Gardner might soon win national recognition as Colorado’s most prominent conservative officeholder.
  • Susana Cordova
    Chief Academic Officer, Denver Public Schools
    This Abraham Lincoln High graduate is regarded as possible DPS superintendent material.
  • R.D. Sewald
    Legislative Operative
    A longtime Democratic fixer in the trenches, Sewald now works for the governor.
  • Ajay Menon
    Dean, Colorado State University’s Business School Menon is credited with dramatically improving the business school’s reputation—such that the governor installed him to head the state’s business innovation and incubation strategy.

2012 Plummeting Stocks

  • Bill Ritter (9)
    Director, CSU’s Center for New Energy Economy
    He went from governor to academic policy wonk. Need we say more?
  • Rob Corry(26)
    Medical Marijuana Attorney
    He was the most high-profile advocate of the state’s budding medical weed industry. (Or maybe he was just the loudest.) Two years later, with the MMJ issue settled (for now) and a contentious divorce done, Corry has—temporarily, no doubt—departed the limelight.
  • Carmelo Anthony(24)
    NBA Prima Donna
    After petulantly pouting his way to NYC, everyone assumed the Denver Nuggets would lay in ruins. Instead, coach George Karl transformed his new team of non-stars into an enthusiastic bunch that actually won some games and left us locals wondering why we were so Melo-mad in the first place.
  • Stan Kroenke (23)
    Owner, Kroenke Sports Enterprises
    He’s one of the super-rich owners (his net worth = $3.2 billion) who are holding most—and quite possibly all—of the NBA’s 2011-12 season hostage to “fix” a league that isn’t nearly as broken as his cohorts would have us believe. And to do so, he’s taking away jobs from the people who need them the most during these direst of times. Talk about balls.

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The Fifty

We rank the Mile High City's most influential powerbrokers in our primer on who's running Denver. Plus: A look at whose stars are rising—and whose stock is plummeting.

It’s been five years since we last ranked Denver’s most powerful people, and, oh, how the town has changed. Back then, the governor and both U.S. senators were Republicans; an upstart Andrew Romanoff was a sure thing of a rising political star; Michael Bennet was merely the mayor’s chief of staff; Denver was a two-newspaper town; Mike Shanahan coached the Broncos, and Jake Plummer, now a handball player(!), was the QB; the idea of a Denver DNC was little more than a pipe dream; and people had jobs. Five years—what’s new? How’s that for starters?

As we reported on power in Denver today—which included speaking to dozens of sources, high and low, elected and otherwise—inevitably we were asked variations of this reasonable question: How do you define power? After all, we’re comparing politicians to scientists, doctors to attorneys, business leaders to museum curators. Indeed, this endeavor is an imperfect science. As we considered the reporting, the various agendas encountered, and the like, for our answer to the power question we relied on the sentiment expressed by President Woodrow Wilson, who knew a thing or two about influence: “Power consists in one’s capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, to lead by reason and a gift of cooperation.”

1. John Hickenlooper

Mayor of Denver

In a trailer for the recently released documentary Hick Town, which chronicles the mayor’s life in the run- up to the Democratic National Convention, His Honor jokes, “I tell you how you deal with the press. You fuck the press!” Never mind that he’s married to a journalist, Helen Thorpe—the mayor needn’t be overly concerned with confronting unflattering media. In Denver, polls show that about 80 percent of the town loves the guy, and it’s not like he’s doling out kisses and cup-cakes. During the DNC, Hickenlooper got a bounce from showing the country his beloved city, touting Denver’s downtown, the blossoming green initiatives, and FasTracks, all of which he has been instrumental in developing. After his party’s party was over, Mayor Hickenlooper then tended to unsavory municipal business like a decimated budget, wringing concessions from city employees with diplomatic aplomb. He’s shrewdly relied on a succession of quietly masterful chiefs of staff, but as one political operative puts it, “The mayor’s hands are in every- thing that’s going on in Denver.” Though his “frenemy” Governor Bill Ritter passed over Hickenlooper for Ken Salazar’s vacated U.S. Senate seat—in favor of one of the mayor’s former chiefs of staff, Michael Bennet—this remains Hick’s town.

2. Dean Singleton

Publisher, Denver Post; Vice Chairman/CEO, MediaNews Group

He won the newspaper war. It may prove to be a colossally Pyrrhic victory, what with Singleton’s company so heavily leveraged, but the last Denver newspaper tycoon standing commands the respect of every power broker above and below him on this list. His influence, for the moment at least, remains strong as his company’s credit rating weakens: In November 2007, the Post took the unusually bold step of running a front-page editorial blasting Governor Bill Ritter for what it called “backroom promises” to union bosses. Since then, and particularly since the Rocky Mountain News closure, Singleton’s paper has tweaked the governor’s office over a variety of missteps and shortcomings—like on health care and transportation—leaving Ritter politically vulnerable in 2010.

3. Cole Finegan

Managing Partner, Hogan & Hartson

If Denver’s elected officials are oranges on a tree, Finegan’s the one who can squeeze them for juice. A former partner of the law firm and political machine that is Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Finegan left to serve as Hickenlooper’s city attorney in 2003, and subsequently took on the additional duties of chief of staff. Returning to the private sector in 2006, he told BHFS he wasn’t interested in his old job. Instead, he accepted the offer to head Hogan & Hartson’s Denver office. While H&H has become one of— if not the—world’s largest law firms, locally Finegan has surpassed his old law partners as the parochial shadow lord. The mayor, his friend, still considers Finegan a must-call for advice; so does Bill Ritter, who was an H&H partner until he took leave to run for governor. Finegan is a critical fund-raiser and adviser for both U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. It’s worth noting that Tom Strickland, the chief of staff for Ken Salazar at the U.S. Department of the Interior, is an alumnus of H&H. And should the Democratic tree stop producing fruit in the next gubernatorial election, it may not hurt Finegan because Republican hopeful Scott McInnis is an H&H partner who’s been granted leave to enter the race.

4. Norman Brownstein/Steven Farber

Cofounders, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

While the sun is rising in Finegan’s sphere, that doesn’t mean the looming moon of Brownstein and Farber has fallen. Pals since childhood, Brownstein and Farber have been kingmakers in Denver for years, using their considerable charisma and contacts to elevate Denver’s profile, while advocating for their clients’ agendas and making their firm profitable. Brownstein handles the D.C. business, while Farber is the big man on Denver’s campus. Brownstein’s ability to galvanize funding for virtually anything, from DIA to Stapleton, is so legendary on Capitol Hill that Ted Kennedy once called him “the 101st senator.” Championing pro-Israel causes while making fund-raising magic, Brownstein has ingratiated the firm with, it seems, every power broker on the Hill. He needs an annex just to accommodate his freeze-and-squeeze pictures with the senior-most D.C. political establishment. As the cochair for the Host Committee of the DNC, Farber found the funding for the Obama-Fest. He’s a former chairman and ranking member of Colorado Concern, which is a collective of private-sector business leaders that arguably has more to say about business in Denver than does the city’s own chamber of commerce (think the Carlyle Group of Denver). Farber has become more selective about when and how he exercises his muscle since a kidney transplant in 2004 (the donor was his son, Gregg). Healthy (and with a George Hamilton tan), he has emerged as one of the country’s leading organ donor activists and recently cowrote a book about it that has Hollywood interest.

5. Ken Salazar

U.S. Secretary of the Interior

A moderate Hispanic Democrat with cowboy credentials, Salazar likely could have held onto his Senate seat for decades. Instead, he accepted a little job offer from the Obama administration to serve as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. While in D.C. he’ll have to spend some time mending relationships with the Front Range Democratic machine: When Governor Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to fill Salazar’s Senate seat, Salazar felt his opinions about who ought to be his successor didn’t receive the appropriate consideration, and he gave the boys back home a cold shoulder for a while. Then again, Ritter and Co. know they need to play nice with Salazar, who, in his new role, manages one-fifth of the United States’ landmass, including huge chunks of the West, and whatever mineral wealth (like oil shale) can be found therein. (His position on the Roan Plateau will reveal much about the self-described “new sheriff” of the Interior.) Salazar remains a looming influence in Colorado, as two of the folks closest to him—his brother John and his protégé Betsy Markey—control the two congressional districts that fully encircle the Front Range.

6. Mark Udall

U.S. Senator

In 2008, Udall overcame opposition efforts to tag him as a “Boulder liberal” and trounced Republican Bob Schaffer by appealing to lefties and independents alike. Just a few weeks into his term, when Ken Salazar vacated his seat for the post at Interior, Udall took on the state’s senior-senator title. At last, it seemed, he achieved a prominence of public service worthy of his family’s legacy. The Udall clan’s decades-long activism has made it one of the West’s rare political dynasties, and gives the senator pedigree and longstanding relationships to leverage for the state’s environmental and alternative energy-related concerns, both of which will be prominent public-policy issues in the coming years. As a member of the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees, it will be difficult for political challengers to depict him as merely a hippie-dippie liberal, and makes it virtually impossible for anyone to avoid dealing with him on pressing policy matters. Udall’s presence in Colorado is as undeniable as the Flatirons.

7. Michael Bennet

U.S. Senator

Talk about a swift and stealthy rise. Since 2003, Bennet has gone from Anschutz Investment Company exec to Mayor Hickenlooper’s chief of staff to superintendent of the Denver Public Schools to U.S. Senator. He’s notched his belt with achievements, like dramatic changes within DPS, which drew President Obama’s attention to Bennet as a candidate for U.S. Secretary of Education. Ritter ended up appointing him to Salazar’s vacated Senate seat (not a bad consolation prize). Bennet has won over powerful allies—Senate majority leader Harry Reid chose him to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy on the coveted Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. “The national power he pulls,” says a Democratic politician, “is unlike anything we’ve had in a long time—since the days of Gary Hart.” And he’s bold: On a recent CNN appearance, Bennet was asked if he’d vote for the health-care bill even if it might cost him his seat in the next election, and without equivocation he answered, “Yes.” He’s also already proved to be a fund-raising force, banking a cool $3.6 million.

8. Daniel Ritchie

Chairman/CEO, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Ritchie has been a pioneer in educational and artistic philanthropy for more than two decades. The former chancellor and chairman of the board at the University of Denver has given more than $50 million to the school over the years, and also led a series of fund-raising efforts that netted close to $275 million. In 2007, legendary DCPA cofounder Donald Seawell stepped aside for Ritchie, who has overseen further expansion of the theater complex, which now enjoys a sterling national reputation for its touring company shows and for its development of original works. Ritchie also leads or sits on the boards of several other organizations, including the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation, the Daniels Fund, and Colorado Concern, making him one of the unquestionable guiding lights of Front Range generosity and vision.

9. Bill Ritter


Job title alone gets him in the top ten. Being the governor during such a recession is a most thankless job: This year, Ritter’s had to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget—over the past two years, there’s been a $2 billion shortfall—and, in the process, he upset just about every single interest group out there. Depending on which other local muckety-muck is doing the talking (and this is within his own party), Ritter is either a man of his own mind or a milquetoast. He appointed the dark-horse candidate Michael Bennet to Colorado’s open Senate seat and has sided with labor unions one day and the business community the next. A 2010 reelection is no guarantee for the governor: Ritter’s approval ratings are all over the place and tepid at best, and word is that a Phil Anschutz-inspired GOP is committed to rallying the vote for Republican challenger Scott McInnis.

10. Patricia Gabow

CEO, Denver Health

Forget about Denver: Dr. Gabow has been named one of the top 25 women—and one of the 100 most powerful (No. 54)—in the health-care industry nationwide, by the trade magazine Modern Healthcare. During the Democratic overhaul of the health-care system, Gabow has emerged as one of the preeminent national speakers on the topic because of her 17 years of experience helming Denver Health. This summer, as the health-care bill was taking shape, it was Gabow who represented the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, testifying before a Senate committee hearing and thereby shaping the debate. And consider how she began it all: Back in 1997, Gabow convinced Mayor Wellington Webb to let the deficit-laden hospital out from under the city’s control. Since then, she has done what once seemed impossible: made a public hospital that serves thousands of uninsured people profitable, year after year.

11. David Kenney

President/Founder, The Kenney Group

A pugnacious lobbyist, Kenney is the man who solves problems for Democrats in Denver— nicely, if that’ll work; not so nicely, if required. “Sometimes,” says a highly placed elected official, “David has to be reined in. But that’s part of what makes him so effective.” He has the ears of every powerful liberal, including Governor Ritter, Senators Udall and Bennet, and Mayor Hickenlooper. Kenney was influential in getting Bennet appointed, and helped nudge along the process at the end of 2008 that placed Kelly Brough (former Hickenlooper chief of staff) at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and made the former chamber boss, Joe Blake (a Republican), chancellor of Colorado State University.

12. Phillip Anschutz

Media Mogul

Billionaire and arch conservative Anschutz has one of the most recognized names in Denver and yet is so publicity-shy that his legal name might be “The Reclusive Phil Anschutz.” His calculated avoidance of the spotlight, however, belies his backroom activism. When Josh Penry dropped out of the GOP primary race for governor, it seemed half the people in Denver politics believed it was because Anschutz was playing puppet master, while the other half denied he would involve himself in such matters. Regardless, the specter of Anschutz loomed large. His entertainment and media properties, and his philanthropic efforts, have long promoted his favorite conservative-themed causes (and his recent purchases of the right-leaning Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner give a more prominent voice to his crusades). Even though he never airs his views publicly, he has an extremely persuasive prominence among Colorado’s political strategists. Every September 1, Anschutz hosts a dove hunt and dinner with a guest list that includes virtually anyone who matters in business as well as politicians from both sides of the aisle. (Democrat Hickenlooper spoke at this year’s dinner.)

13. Bruce Benson

President, University of Colorado

State Democrats were upset when Bruce Benson, a former GOP state chairman and perpetual power broker, was chosen to head up Colorado’s public higher-education system in 2008. CU-Boulder’s notoriously liberal Faculty Assembly voted against his appointment 40-4. Puhleeeze. Evidently the academics didn’t fully grasp the extracurricular realities of who Benson is: He made millions in oil and has won over many of his critics for going to bat for education amid budget cuts. Days after state legislators decided to cut funding for Metropolitan State College’s new multimillion-dollar science building—with a hole for the building already dug—Benson had the construction back on track after meeting with state reps and the governor.

14. Don Elliman

Chief Operating Officer, State of Colorado

Seven billion dollars: That’s Colorado’s stimulus allotment from the Obama administration, and Elliman is the man who tracks it. After three decades as a publishing honcho at Time Inc., Elliman relocated to Denver in 2000, where he took an executive role at Kroenke Sports Enterprises. Governor Ritter hired Elliman out of semi-retirement in 2007 to head the state’s economic development office, and last summer Ritter created the position of state COO with Elliman in mind. Elliman’s hiring, in large part, was inspired by voices from the biz community who felt that the governor didn’t understand private-sector concerns.

15. Larry Mizel

Chairman/CEO, MDC Holdings Inc.

Whenever there’s been a hush-hush meeting about the future of the GOP or the business interests of the Front Range, chances are Mizel’s agenda was in the room, even if he wasn’t. He’s run the multibillion-dollar MDC for almost 30 years, developing homes all over the Front Range. He also cofounded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the world’s foremost human-rights organizations. Like Benson and Anschutz, Mizel has major sway over statewide strategy as Republicans try to get their mojo back in 2010. Yet, make no mistake, he’s a businessman and his power transcends party: At the 2009 Allied Jewish Federation Men’s Event in November, Mizel gave a warm introduction to Senator Bennet that could have been read as something of an endorsement. What’s telling about that, says a muckety-muck who was in the audience, is that while Bennet has Jewish ancestry, he was not raised in the faith; what’s more, Bennet, of course, is a Dem.

16. Terrance Carroll

Speaker of the House

Since taking the reins of the Statehouse from Romanoff at the beginning of 2009—and becoming Colorado’s first African-American speaker of the House—Carroll has presided over difficult times. Yet unlike Ritter, and despite (or perhaps because of) the tight purse strings, Mr. Speaker has rendered himself a critical and respected negotiator. He’s deftly managed committee chairmen and legislators to keep the House moving, and, when needed, delivered a smackdown—like when he filleted state Senate minority leader Josh Penry for criticizing the governor’s energy office: “The new energy economy is the single brightest light in our economy,” Carroll wrote. “Killing jobs in our fastest-growing economic sector is Penry’s answer to the serious crisis facing Colorado?”

17. Ed Perlmutter

U.S. Congressman

A finalist for Salazar’s open Senate seat, the congressman was passed over in large part because the state Democratic establishment respects and needs him as a congressman. Perlmutter represents the cities and counties that circle Denver, a hotly contested congressional district that has one of the most even Democratic/Republican splits in the country, and Perlmutter’s hold on his seat is perceived as formidable, and thus invaluable to the larger machine. Power players cite Perlmutter as efficient and effective—one told us, “He’s the guy you call when you need to get something done.” But he still may have a bit to learn about statesmanship: After receiving $9,500 in campaign funds from telecommunication companies, Perlmutter started opposing the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules, which would prevent Internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to some content.

18. Gregory Moore

Editor, Denver Post

Under Moore’s editorial guidance (and his boss Dean Singleton’s iron-fisted leadership), the Post emerged last year as Denver’s last daily newspaper, or, at the very least, the leading daily newspaper (considering the Denver Daily News). Moore’s tenure at the Post began in 2002, and in his first week on the job the Hayman fire, the largest in Colorado history, began to burn almost 140,000 acres, becoming one of the biggest local stories of the decade. It was a fitting introduction: The subsequent seven years have proved equally feverish for the Post—and the newspaper industry in general. By hiring some of the Rocky’s most accomplished journalists after it closed, Moore is as close as he’ll ever be to having the kind of talented staff that can help redefine newsgathering at a time when the craft desperately needs a makeover.

19. Pat Bowlen

President/CEO, Denver Broncos

This city lives and dies with the Broncos, a reality that puts Bowlen in charge of no small amount of civic happiness (and dollars). Not long ago, he seemed too wedded to a bygone era, yet in the past 12 months he has proved surprisingly open-minded and nimble. He recognized the Broncos’ recent doldrums and fired his presumptive coach-for-life Mike Shanahan (though one should only be so lucky as to get fired with Shanahan’s buyout), replacing him with the ludicrously young Josh McDaniels. Bowlen then showed everyone who was boss by jettisoning the petulant Jay Cutler. The Broncos’ tumultuous, unexpected revival has been one of the NFL’s feel-good stories of 2009, reminding everyone which team sits atop the local sports throne.

20. Gary Magness and Sarah Siegel-Magness

Producers, Philanthropists

He’s an heir to the TCI cable company fortune. She’s an heir to the Celestial Seasonings tea riches. Together they invested $12 million in personal funds in a film project that had no business succeeding: Precious, the adaptation of a novel about an overweight, impoverished, African-American teenage mother who had been sexually abused by her own parents. The movie had all the hallmarks of a noble, naïve failure by a Denver rich couple who should have known better. Except that this Denver rich couple knew better than anyone else, or didn’t care. And the executive-producing instincts of the Magnesses have paid off with stellar reviews and big-time Oscar buzz (and potential multiple nominations) for the film. With the endorsement of entertainment titan Oprah, the Magnesses have inked a distribution deal with Lionsgate and are already lining up their next project, based on the Judy Moody children’s books. More than Don Cheadle and Jessica Biel combined, the Magnesses have put Denver, along with the Denver Film Festival, on Hollywood’s map.

21. Kelly Brough

CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

Last year, as Mayor Hickenlooper’s chief of staff, Brough went into budget negotiations with union officials representing the city’s firefighters, set down a jar of Vaseline, and said, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” The prop was a joke meant to break the ice, but Brough (whose name rhymes with “rough”) wasn’t entirely kidding. This no-nonsense powerhouse had wowed Mayor Hickenlooper so much that he hired her to be his deputy chief of staff after she ran his opponent’s campaign. During her four-year tenure, she rose to chief of staff and orchestrated Hick’s agenda, helping him win a second term with an astounding 87 percent of the vote. Her ascension to the head of the chamber of commerce was something of an upset: Despite her wealth of political chops, she did not have the private sector business pedigrees of her predecessors. A new perspective may help see the chamber through the recession.

22. Pat Stryker and Al Yates

The Liberals’ Dynamic Duo

Stryker’s checkbook and Yates’ political acumen, together, have been instrumental in swinging Colorado from red to blue. A retired president of Colorado State University, Yates has become the point person for wealthy Colorado liberals looking to nudge political races. The reclusive Stryker is his biggest source of cash. While Stryker may have lost a third of her net worth last year—the share price the Stryker Corporation, a medical supply company, is down 30 percent—she’s still worth $1.4 billion. In 2008, she was the 16th-largest political donor in the country, giving nearly $1 million to liberal causes and politically active 527 organizations.

23. Stan Kroenke

Owner, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Rapids, and Mammoth

Melo’s boss is a multibillionaire entrepreneur (married to Wal-Mart heir Ann Walton) whose sports business and entertainment empire has made his interests the community’s interest, and vice versa. (Kroenke also has a stake in American football’s St. Louis Rams and English football powerhouse Arsenal.) As owner of the Colorado Rapids and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, he’s helped revive and sustain interest in professional soccer in the U.S.—no small task. And to top it off, in 2004 he founded Altitude Sports and Entertainment to broadcast all his teams, so he controls the medium and the message. Melo may be his franchise player, but make no mistake: Kroenke’s the franchise.

24. Carmelo Anthony

(The) Denver Nugget

Denver has had flings with past Nuggets teams, from David Thompson’s ABA refugees in the ’70s to Dikembe Mutombo’s surprise conference finalists in 1994. Thanks to Melo, local hoops fans are finally falling in love. With the help of veteran sidekick Chauncey Billups, Anthony has elevated his team to elite status—making Nuggets games the most coveted ticket this side of Invesco Field—while becoming what some now call the most complete offensive force in the NBA. Still only 25 years old, Anthony is beginning to make Denver sports fans almost as passionate about hoops as they are about football.

25. Walter Isenberg

CEO/President, Sage Hospitality

For the past 25 years, Isenberg and Sage cofounder Zack Neumeyer have presided over Sage’s expanding hotel empire, which now controls almost 50 properties in more than 20 states, including Denver’s Curtis, Oxford, and JW Marriott (which has a Second Home bar/restaurant that has become a late-night hotspot to watch cougars hunt players). Isenberg serves on the board of such prominent Front Range organizations as the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Children’s Hospital Foundation—and is one of the Colorado Concern(ed). As the economy recovers, look for Isenberg to buy and manage distressed properties, particularly in and around downtown Denver, which will broaden his already considerable influence, both in his businesses and in his philanthropy.

26. Rob Corry

Attorney, Medical Marijuana Advocate

No local story has grabbed more recent headlines than medical marijuana, and Corry—a libertarian Republican—is at the center. He’s the go-to lawyer for medical marijuana supporters, representing dozens of dispensaries around the state and regularly squaring off against Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and others. With taxation guidelines now being established, medical marijuana could become one of Colorado’s most prominent—wait for it—growth industries in an otherwise stagnant economy, and the always-quotable Corry will be leading the charge.

27. Tom Boasberg

Superintendent, Denver Public Schools

Boasberg, the man charged with carrying on the reforms of his former boss, Michael Bennet, stumbled out of the gate when his candidates for the DPS Board of Education failed at the polls in November. The winners, supported by the teachers’ union, aren’t fans of the charter schools that Boasberg and Bennet have pushed. And the fact that the new board met at the pricey Broadmoor Hotel for a team-building “therapy session” on the taxpayers’ dime was not an auspicious start. Still, many politicos have faith that he’ll be able to sway the new union-backed board with logic—and numbers—that show the reforms are working. “Boasberg is on the right side of the issues,” says one politician. “He has the power to lead the district that leads the state, and the ability to get reforms done.”

28. Ted Trimpa

Partner, Hogan & Hartson

Trimpa is the firm’s point man in and around the Legislature. Before the election last year, Trimpa negotiated with unions and the business community to make sure that four anti-business ballot measures—ones that unions had put forward after a tiff—would be torpedoed. Trimpa advises multimillionaire Tim Gill, investing Gill’s millions in advancing gay-rights causes and supportive candidates at the ballot box.

29. Joe Blake

Chancellor, Colorado State University

During his decade-long run as the head of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Blake was a voice of moderation in the business community, moving the tax-reluctant group to help support both FasTracks and Referendum C. Still, it was a bit of a surprise that Governor Ritter would appoint the Republican Blake to helm CSU, placing two Republicans in charge of Colorado’s higher-education system (along with CU president Bruce Benson). Blake’s selection speaks to his clout on both sides of the aisle.

30. Timothy Marquez

CEO/Chairman, Venoco Inc.

The Denver native and Colorado School of Mines graduate moved his California-based oil and gas company—from which he was once ousted, only to return, Steve Jobs-like—back to his hometown in 2005. Since then, he’s become a major player in philanthropy. After Venoco had a $212 million IPO in 2006, Marquez donated $50 million to set up the Denver Scholarship Fund, which matches college scholarships for graduating Denver high school students.

31. Bruce Jakosky

Principal Investigator, MAVEN Project, CU-Boulder

The lead investigator of the $485 million MAVEN project (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN), Jakosky oversees the largest research contract in CU’s history. He and his team will spend several years building a spacecraft that may finally answer the question of whether there ever was life on Mars. Scheduled to launch in late 2013, MAVEN will explore the red planet’s atmosphere. Jakosky operates in a whole other universe.

32. Federico Peña

Senior Adviser, Vestar Capital Partners

Before the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Peña endorsed Barack Obama, over Hillary Clinton. For the Clintons, the defection was traitorous: Peña had served in the Clinton Cabinet for five years, as secretary of both transportation and energy. Peña, a former Denver mayor, served as Obama’s national campaign cochair and on the transition team. During a trip that Mayor Hickenlooper made to D.C. last February, Peña brokered a 45-minute private sit-down with then-newly installed secretary of transportation Ray LaHood.

33. Michael Johnston

State Senator

One of the newest state senators, Johnston has two rare assets for a freshman: real-world experience and connections. While he was the cofounder and principal of the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts in Thornton, he started advising then-presidential candidate Obama on education issues. In May, after state Senate president (and African-American) Peter Groff ascended to the Obama administration, Johnston—a young white man without political experience—replaced Groff as the representative of the ethnically diverse district.

34. Amory Lovins

Chief Scientist/Chairman, Rocky Mountain Institute

If the U.S. ever overcomes its addiction to foreign oil, Lovins will be one of the first people to thank for it. For the past quarter century, he’s helmed RMI with the unofficial philosophy that “elegant frugality speaks for itself.” Does it ever. Lovins’ genius has helped save countless millions of dollars through improved energy efficiency for companies and organizations worldwide, from Wal-Mart to the Pentagon. His own prolific output—he’s authored 29 books on environmental topics—has made him must-have counsel to CEOs and world leaders alike. As the energy industry evolves through the 21st century, Lovins’ fingerprints figure to be all over the blueprint.

35. Jesse Morreale


In a city aggressively trying to up its rep as a foodie paradise, Morreale has turned several seemingly modest venues into the type of places where Denver’s hipsters and elite alike mingle to see and be seen. His Mezcal, Tambien, and La Rumba hosted some of the Democratic National Convention’s hottest parties—including those fronted by the Creative Coalition, one of the entertainment industry’s most influential nonprofit advocacy groups—and his revamping of a once-seedy Colfax property into the hipster-friendly Rockbar showed that Morreale is a hit with the youngsters too. All this successful hustling has raised his national profile, and the town’s too.

36. Blake Jones

President/Cofounder, Namasté Solar

This solar-powered entrepreneur became the poster boy for the new (alternative) power generation last February, when he spoke along with President Obama and VP Joe Biden at the signing of the stimulus package at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Since founding his solar-panel installation company in 2005, he’s planted panels at the homes of Senator Udall, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, and the governor’s mansion. Jones has been a vocal advocate for increased funding to Colorado renewable energy businesses, and recently opened a new Denver office. Imagine that—an expanding business.

37. Dick Kelly

Chairman/President/CEO, Xcel Energy

Although Xcel Energy is based in Minneapolis, Denver native Kelly will factor into just about every change (desired or actual) to Colorado’s energy economy in the coming months and years—like, say, adding much-needed solar, wind, or biomass power to the grid. Kelly spends the workweek in Minneapolis and weekends with his family at home in the Denver area. Warming to renewable energy and environmentally friendly technologies, in October he announced that Xcel planned to add about 1,300 megawatts of solar and wind energy to its system, including more than 250 megawatts from solar panels on customer’s homes—more than three times the amount of solar power the company is required by law to add by 2020.

38. Adam Lerner

Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Art, public and private, is the soul of any community, and Lerner is one of the foremost visionaries charged with keeping Denver’s creative class vibrant. The founder of the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar ascended to his current position when the Lab merged with MCA in February 2009. Under Lerner, MCA has continued to distinguish itself as a renowned repository for and promoter of modern art, with daring exhibits (Damien Hirst, anyone?) and creative educational programs that attract notable artists from around the world.

39. Tom Cech/Leslie Leinwand

Directors, Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biology

Behind Leinwand and Cech, the latter of whom won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1989, this interdisciplinary research center at CU-Boulder is developing a more collaborative environment for scientific and medical discovery. First opened in 2003, CIMB eventually will house more than 20 laboratories for departments including mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, and others. By promoting “productive collisions” between disciplines, CIMB has already enabled breakthroughs in cancer screening and tissue engineering to reduce the need for hip and knee replacements, and in 2010 the center will work with CU’s Leeds School of Business to develop biotechnology-focused entrepreneurial programs.

40. Alex Bogusky

Partner, Crispin Porter + Bogusky

If you put Mad Men’s Don Draper through the modern-day Boulder ringer, you’d get Alex Bogusky—a savvy ad man who knows how to create buzz for products like Burger King (he brought the creepy, plastic-masked king to life), Mini Cooper (he placed the wee cars in the stands of sports stadiums), and Guitar Hero (the spoofs of Risky Business). Bogusky’s so hip, in fact, that Microsoft hired his firm to fight back against the damaging “Mac vs. PC” campaign from Apple, which proves that Front Rangers— or, at the very least, Bogusky and his team—are every bit as creative and effective at selling things as those modern-day Manhattan Mad Men.

41. Paul Sandoval

Owner, Tamales by La Casita

Don’t underestimate the self-deprecating hombre in the white apron. Sandoval, a North Denver restaurant owner, was a state senator back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and remains a political puppet master: After City Councilman Rick Garcia emerged as the likely front runner for director of the regional Housing and Urban Development office, Sandoval set the political stage for his wife, Paula (a state senator), to take Garcia’s seat. Sandoval is a member of Ken Salazar’s kitchen cabinet and doles out advice to the likes of DPS’ Tom Boasberg. On top of all that, he finds time to sell 12,000 tamales daily.

42. Scott McInnis

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate

The three-term congressman looked like he was in trouble early in the Republican gubernatorial primary; state Senate minority leader Josh Penry was widely viewed as the GOP’s rising—and possibly present—gubernatorial star. The old-hand politico didn’t fret, though, raising loads of cash and lining up support from his GOP friends—who helped push Penry out of the race in November. McInnis was even able to quell rabble-rouser Tom Tancredo, assuring all concerned that he’ll be able to coast to an easy Republican primary victory and focus his attention—and money—on the weakened Governor Ritter.

43. Diana DeGette

U.S. Congresswoman

As the Democrats’ chief deputy whip and the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, DeGette wields a big stick in Washington. Example: She was instrumental in pushing through the stem-cell reform bill. Back home in Denver, though, DeGette stays out of local politics and isn’t the type to focus on bringing home the bacon for her district, which is liberal enough that she doesn’t have to worry about losing her seat to a Republican. Yet a Democratic opponent could be a problem for DeGette; one Denver politico told us, “If Andrew Romanoff had the balls, he could have given DeGette a good challenge.”

44. Michele Ostrander

Executive Director, Susan G. Komen for the Cure—Denver Metropolitan Affiliate

If you’ve ever stood on Speer Boulevard among the tens of thousands of pink ribbons and inspired—and inspiring—women, men, and children as they embark on the annual 5K Komen Race for the Cure, you could feel the power of Michele Ostrander. Last year, Ostrander’s second as the executive director of Komen’s Denver chapter, 53,849 people participated in the Mile High City’s Race for the Cure, netting about $2 million for the organization. Last year, funds raised by the Denver chapter made possible more than 5,000 mammograms and almost 26,000 meals for patients in need, among many other services. Lance Armstrong may have coined the word “Livestrong,” but in Denver it’s Ostrander—and the thousands of volunteers she and her team turn out each year to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer—who truly embodies that ethos.

45. John Elway

Former Bronco, Entrepreneur

Life after football has proved to be considerably more challenging than opposing defenses were to Elway, the Bronco legend and one of Denver’s chief brands. Though Elway’s eponymous restaurants and car dealerships have made him millions in the decade since his retirement, the sometimes GOP celebrity has also endured a messy divorce; he was chairman of the Arena Football League’s executive committee when the league folded last August; and recently news reports identified Elway as a pitchman for an alleged $30 million Ponzi scheme. To date, there’s no evidence he’s done anything wrong, and the issue seems to have had little effect on how warmly locals still view number 7, flaws and all.

46. Josh Penry

Minority Leader, State Senate

Sure, Penry took a hit by leaving the Republican gubernatorial primary, but in the face of troublesome polls, a fund-raising effort that was falling short of McInnis’, and the big GOP money that was lining up against him, avoiding a damaging primary was the smartest thing he could have done. If anything, that he’s taken as a threat within his own party speaks volumes. The 33-year-old Penry has kept his powder dry for future races and increased his statewide profile, both of which will help him as the state Senate minority leader, where he’ll be able to actively undermine Ritter and the Democrats. And unlike Andrew Romanoff—who jumped into a race where he wasn’t wanted—Penry can remain the GOP’s next great contender.

47. Phillip Washington

RTD General Manager and CEO

When Cal Marsella, the general manager of the Regional Transportation District for 14 years, stepped down last July, he left a gaping hole: RTD is facing a $2.2 billion shortfall in funding for the FasTracks system. The recently hired Washington, RTD’s former assistant GM for administration, will likely have one of the toughest jobs in Colorado: convincing money-strapped voters to support a tax hike to finish the light-rail system.

48. Greg Maffei

President/CEO, Liberty Media

A former high-level adviser to Bill Gates, Maffei leads Liberty Media under chairman John Malone. Instrumental in Liberty’s takeover of Sirius XM radio, he manages properties like QVC, DirecTV, and Starz Entertainment, as well as Fox Sports networks in several regions, including Denver. On the side, Maffei is active in Republican politics, and his name often surfaces as a potential statewide candidate.

49. Christoph Heinrich

Director, Denver Art Museum

The DAM is one of a handful of local institutions that will help determine how quickly Denver can attain its feverishly desired international reputation, so perhaps it’s fitting that a European is now running it. Heinrich came to the DAM from his native Germany, and his knowledge of and connections to the international art community won him the director position after two years as a curator. For Heinrich, Frederic Hamilton and the museum’s board agreed to retire Lewis Sharp after two decades of service. The museum’s latest splashy installation, Embrace!, which was curated by Heinrich and debuted in November, showcases the grand vision for DAM and stamps it as a destination for artists and art lovers from all over the world.

50. Pete Coors

Chairman, MolsonCoors

Lame “cold activated” cans and bottles notwith-standing, Coors and Co. brew a lot of Silver Bullets and a branding power that transcends the tailgate.

Rising Stars

Christian Anschutz


With fatherly mentoring from business partner David Steel, the son of Phillip Anschutz is emerging from his father’s considerable shadow by taking increasing leadership roles in local real estate and business development.

Peter Karpinski

Chief Operating Officer, Sage Restaurant Group

Having served as the operations director for Philadelphia’s wildly successful Starr Restaurant Organization, Karpinski knows a thing or two about running restaurants. Since taking over at Sage, he’s opened up the Corner Office downtown and Second Home in Cherry Creek North—only the first two of his many future conquests, we suspect.

Josh McDaniels

Head Coach, Denver Broncos

Had we compiled this list three months ago, McD would’ve been in the top 30. The brash boy wonder figures to be a local fixture for years to come.

Jonathan Vaughters

CEO, Slipstream Sports

In a sport where doping has been unchecked for decades, Denver native Vaughters made worldwide headlines in 2007 when he announced that his Boulder-based pro squad, Team Garmin-Transitions, would have the most rigorously tested cyclists in the world. The tough policy hasn’t hurt the team’s success—Garmin riders placed in the top five in the 2008 and 2009 Tour de France.

Roxane White

Chief of Staff, Mayor’s Office

The former manager of Denver’s Department of Human Services took over as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff last September. Insiders say she’s a quick study and already has the mayor’s office running better than any of her high-powered predecessors.

Plummeting Stocks

James Dobson

Evangelical Leader

At one time, Dobson was one of the most powerful evangelical Christian leaders in the country; today, after stepping down as the chairman of Focus on the Family and leaving his radio show, the 73-year-old has talked himself into irrelevancy.

Dan Hawkins

Football Coach, University of Colorado

At the beginning of last season, Hawkins proclaimed that he’d lead the Buffaloes to “10 wins, no excuses.” After a rash of injuries—and several top players leaving the program—the team barely squeaked out three measly wins, bringing Hawkins’ record on the gridiron to 16-33 over the past four years. One likely factor in why he still holds a clipboard is that CU didn’t want to drop $3.1 million to buy out his contract.

Tom Martino


The consumer advocate—whose referral can be bought for a mere $3,000—was shown as the bombastic blowhard he is last year, after local stand-up Adam Cayton-Holland filmed a withering, hilarious YouTube take-down.

Andrew Romanoff

Aspiring Public Official

The former speaker of the House wunderkind has looked lost since being term-limited out of his seat a year ago; Romanoff was passed over for both the secretary of state and Senate positions. Challenging Michael Bennet in a party-damaging primary reads as a petulant ego trip.

John Temple

Former Editor, Publisher, and President, Rocky Mountain News

He used his Rocky to wield his agenda and satiate his ravenous ego. With the paper no more, Temple is revealed to all (but himself) as a mere mortal with an out-of-town consulting gig and semi-consequential media blog.