Seattle’s Most Influential People of 2014
51 people (plus a machine, an ordinance and screaming fans) are making Seattle what it is in 2014
By Ameilia Apfel, Drew Atkins, Knute Berger, Celina Karieva, Alison Krupnic, Niki Stojnic, Karen West
October 21, 2014
It’s been a year of superlatives–highest minimum wage! First Super Bowl championship! Biggest transportation boondoggle!–and behind each high point (and low ebb) are people turning the wheels of power or agitating at the grassroots. Ten years into Seattle magazine’s Most Influential list, we present our picks for the movers and shakers of the year. Love ’em or hate ’em, these 51 people (plus a machine, an ordinance and hundreds of thousands of screaming fans) are making the city what it is in 2014.
Billionaire Nick Hanauer is throwing his mighty resources at two of the gnarliest issues of the day.
Venture capitalist cum political activist Nick Hanauer
PHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
Our person of the year isn’t a household name, and he’s often confused with his brother, Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer, but the 54-year-old straight-talking, risk-tolerant Burning Man regular is changing our city whether you recognize his name or not.
“Right now we are in the era of Nick Hanauer,” Chris Vance, former chairman of the state Republican Party, told The Seattle Times last summer.
Hanauer’s curriculum vitae is his platform. A Seattle-raised entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he was the first nonfamily investor in Amazon.com and founded aQuantive Inc., an Internet advertising company that he sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. Even as he lists all his accomplishments and material rewards, Hanauer is quick to point out that he owes much of his success to chance. He likes to say, born in another country or another time, he might be “some dude by the side of a dirt road selling fruit.”
A self-described “plutocrat,” Hanauer breaks from type to reject the rich-protecting policies of trickle-down economics.
He argues that concentrating wealth and power in fewer hands leads to police states or revolutions—a position he took in his 2012 TED talk, which initially was deemed too political for release. Two years later, his Politico “pitchforks” article on the same topic went viral and made him a legitimate if unlikely national voice on income inequality.
Hanauer calls for a “middle-out movement,” which invests in the middle class, with money, in part, from a tax on high-income earners (a statewide initiative to that effect was defeated in 2010), and through policies that include increasing the minimum wage. An early—he might say the first—evangelist for the $15-an-hour minimum wage, Hanauer served on the mayor’s committee that settled on that historic figure.
He’s been a force in politics for more than a decade. Hanauer cofounded the League of Education Voters in 2001 and the progressive True Patriot Network in 2007; and he supports environmental groups and the arts, and donated big money to the successful 2012 charter schools initiative. But this fall finds him out on a very expensive limb.
In a state with minimal gun regulation, where gun control measures consistently fail in the Legislature, including last year’s defeat of universal background checks, Hanauer has bankrolled the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. The state’s first-ever well-funded gun control group, which aims to be a bulwark against the hugely powerful National Rifle Association. The alliance is behind this fall’s Initiative 594, which would require background checks for guns sold at gun shows or online. Only six states currently have this provision.
Millions of dollars are pouring into the pro side, from Hanauer and his fellow one-percenters, including Bill and Melinda Gates and Steve Ballmer. At press time, polls found a majority of state voters support I-594. If there was ever a chance that a gun control measure might succeed in this state, this is it—which would put Hanauer at the center of two historic measures in a single year.
And that is no accident.
Seattle City Council member
PHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
Few expected Kshama Sawant, a 41-year-old economics instructor at Seattle Central Community College, to get elected—the last bona fide Socialist on the City Council was more than 100 years ago. But she seemed to take full advantage of the energy and organization around the 15 Now campaign and incumbent fatigue when she defeated longtime council member Richard Conlin, who, to many voters, had come to embody Seattle progressivism at its most timid. For a rookie, Sawant quickly seized the moment and flaunted her influence. She helped set the agenda for the $15-an-hour minimum-wage movement and held Mayor Ed Murray’s and the City Council’s feet to the fire to act on the proposal or face a Sawant-backed voter initiative—one that surely would have won and been far less finessed than the final agreement. Her socialism also gave some definition to a growing divide on the council between establishment liberals and their more lefty colleagues, such as Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, who seem to cater less to the business community. While all members of the City Council will be up for election in 2015 as the new hybrid district system is implemented, Sawant has provided a template that could help attract activist candidates and move the council further to the left. Whether Sawant herself lasts for the long term is an open question—some predict her confrontational style will burn through her political capital—but her influence this year has been immediate.
PHOTO CREDIT: KRISTOFFER TRIPPLAAR/SIPA/AP IMAGES
These days you can’t compile a Seattle’s Most Influential People list without including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. He was our Person of the Year in 2013, and a contender for that spot again this year, and will probably make the list for many years to come. The company’s extended growth spurt continues to fuel a local economic boom and transform the culture and landscape of our neighborhoods. 2014 Bezos high points include the announcement that his company, Kent-based Blue Origin, will partner with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to develop a new engine for rockets used to launch satellites and a $20 million donation to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the largest in Hutch history. But the year in Bezos was not without hiccups: Amazon was called out by the Seattle City Council for retaliating against security guards trying to form a union, mocked for the lame Fire phone launch and criticized for squeezing book-loving customers in a price war with Hachette Book Group.
Rookie Of The Year
Mayor of Seattle
PHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
When he was elected as mayor last November, Ed Murray, 59, came to City Hall with experience and baggage, both of which could be summed up in one word: Olympia. Would Murray’s insider experience as a state senator be an asset in Seattle? Would his devotion to incrementalism actually accomplish anything? The first six months of Murray’s administration gave a resounding answer to those questions: yes. Some observers credit Murray with the best start in memory for a rookie mayor: He nailed down a controversial ride-sharing agreement, used his muscle to pass a Park District levy that cleared the way for other potential levy funding, appointed a new police chief to clean up the Seattle Police Department, and brokered a deal with business and labor to implement a $15-an-hour minimum wage. He’s also been quick to respond to those minor crises (not salting the streets, banning beach fires) that can so quickly damage a mayor’s favorability. When Seattle Public Utilities ordered the shutdown of showers at Alki this summer under the claim that bathers were polluting Puget Sound with their suntan oil, Murray quickly intervened to to reopen the showers, mitigate the problem and make sure city department heads were, well, using their heads. The bottom line is that Murray’s political and negotiating skills have gotten him off to a fast start in a city often known for process gridlock.
Seattle Pacific University Community
PHOTO CREDIT: TED S. WARREN/AP IMAGES
Owner/author, Washington Beer Blog
PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN VANDERWEIT
Chef/Owner, Tom Douglas Restaurants
David Harris, Cultural Entrepreneur
Candace Faber, Strategy and Communications Consultant
PHOTO CREDIT: ANDREW VANASSE
Faber, a former diplomat and current CEO of a social-impact-driven communications firm, led a four-day “Hack to End Homelessness” at Pioneer Square’s Impact Hub in early May. With the additional aim of easing tensions around the tech-driven affordability crisis, the event netted apps and websites such as We Count, a phone application that can document the needs of specific homeless individuals so that every service provider and volunteer involved knows how to help.
Deputy Mayor of Operations, City of Seattle
PHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
Executive Director, Seattle Housing Authority
PHOTO CREDIT: SCOTT STEDMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN VANDERWEIT
Washington State Liquor Control Board
Things were a bit simpler for the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) back in the days of state-run liquor stores and illegal pot. Now that liquor has been privatized (2012) and pot has been legalized, the three-member board (Sharon Foster,
Ruthann Kurose and former state Senator Chris Marr), takes the brunt of scrutiny and criticism as it navigates the Wild West of the home-growable, edible, smokable and vapeable substance. While pot advocates lament our slow rollout of stores and grows, compared to sister state in legalization, Colorado (which built on its already established rules for medical marijuana), the board has worked steadily to set out a regulatory framework where there was previously none. The LCB has also taken cues from the things that have gone right and wrong in Colorado. After doctors there reported an uptick in emergency room visits due to overdoses from edibles, the LCB handed down emergency regulations. In July, the board issued the first 24 marijuana retailer licenses, with one in Seattle, and more followed. In August, it cautiously allowed edible pot products to come to market as well, via three companies (as of press time), with nine more waiting for the green light. Shops have run out of stock early and often, however, thanks to the LCB’s slow early approval of growers—90 are licensed now—leading to a late start in plant production. So you’re right if you think following the process has been a bit like watching grass grow. N.S.
The Swift Kick
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Satya Nadella, at the center of all things Microsoft; courtesy of Microsoft
When news broke that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was stepping down, a variety of names were bandied about as his successor, including that of then Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who would bring an outsider’s perspective to the tech behemoth, and Bill Gates himself, retaking the reins of the company he built. But in the end, the choice was a relative unknown outside of Microsoft circles—Satya Nadella, 47, the company’s longtime cloud and enterprise guru. Despite a 22-year history with Microsoft, Nadella has shown himself quite capable of shaking up the status quo. His boldest move so far has been to make severe staff cutbacks, the deepest in company history. This understandably raised the ire of some contractors and employees, but earned praise from many investors and longtime observers of Microsoft. “The company is signaling that it is serious about executing on its strategy and…to bring about a culture shift to improve accountability and agility,” Sid Parakh, a stock analyst, told Seattle tech publication GeekWire. Under the battle cry of “reinventing productivity,” Nadella is steering one of the world’s largest companies into a new era. Drew Atkins
Richard OnizukA, CEO, Washington Health Benefit Exchange
Washington Health Benefit Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka’s work was only just beginning at the end of 2013 as the state’s online marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder, launched. But where the federal website imploded and Oregon’s Cover Oregon turned disastrous, the Washington exchange has been a true success, with 147,000 state residents signed up for private plans—add Medicare sign-ups and that’s a total of more than a half-million people enrolled—and a website that received praise for one of the smoothest operations in the country. As one of only 14 states and the District of Columbia to run its own exchange, what was Washington’s magic formula? According to Politico, success hinged on keeping things simple, testing the system well and devising it to be expanded later. With the 2015 open enrollment beginning November 15, there are already more insurance plans available to choose from (46 at last count), and work has been in progress to streamline the website to eliminate pesky glitches. N.S.
Barbara Tolbert, mayor of Arlington
Mayor power (from left): Renton’s Denis Law, Bellevue’s Claudia Balducci and Arlington’s Barbara Tolbert, at the Bellevue Public Library; Hayley Young
When an unstable slope near Oso, Washington, unexpectedly morphed into 25-foot waves of mud on the morning of March 22—engulfing 49 homes, killing 43 people and covering nearly 1 square mile of land in its path—the mayor of Oso’s closest neighbor, Arlington, sprang into action. Within an hour, Barb Tolbert had organized an emergency response center next to City Hall. In a matter of days, she had spearheaded efforts to raise money for victims of the landslide and for area residents in need—in total, about $9.1 million was donated to United Way, the American Red Cross and the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, 73 percent of this coming from individual donors—and had diverted the city’s water supply to protect Arlington residents from pollution upstream. She was on hand to welcome and oversee state and federal authorities as they arrived to help with the disaster recovery. All while remaining calm, focused and hopeful in a crisis. But the first-term mayor isn’t one to take credit for her efforts: She insists again and again that the true heroes were the citizens of Oso, Arlington and Darrington. “We should all be fortunate to live in communities like these.” Mandolin Brassaw
Claudia Balducci, mayor of Bellevue
When City Council member Claudia Balducci was named mayor of Bellevue in January, she tackled her new position with pragmatism and poise. Her years on the Sound Transit Board and as director of the King County Jail system, a position she left to take the helm in Bellevue, helped her find resolution on contentious decisions, such as the placement of a 25-acre rail yard across the street from a high-density real estate development called the Spring District. Though the rail-yard decision was a setback for the city’s urban planning efforts, Balducci made the best of circumstances by helping to pass an amendment to maximize transit-oriented development at the site. It’s a notable departure from the screaming matches that used to characterize council meetings. And as mayor of a city no longer perceived as Seattle’s shadow, Balducci has made a name for herself as a regional leader on transportation issues and her exemplary oversight during the final two years of a federal investigation of the King County Jail system. Celina Kareiva
One to Watch: Ahead of the Curve
Denis Law, mayor of Renton
Home to the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks and Boeing facilities, Renton never quite received the 2014 limelight it may have deserved, but Mayor Denis Law has nimbly led the city through some complex, if still unresolved, issues. He helped find middle ground on Boeing contract negotiations last winter and fought fiercely for a transportation package in the Legislature as a member of the Sound Cities Association. In the next few years, the city of Renton could open its doors to the Central Sound Aerospace Training Center, a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot facility expected to help clinch the future of the aerospace industry in Washington and to train the next generation of workers. Capping it all off, Mayor Law in March accepted a national award for the city’s efforts to embrace and celebrate diversity, a critical skill set in one of the most diverse cities in the Puget Sound region. C.K.
Ian Joughin, Glaciologist, UW Polar Science Center
Ian Joughin measuring the ice sheet on the west coast of Greenland; Chris Linder
In the face of global warming, it’s people like Ian Joughin—a glaciologist and affiliate professor of earth and space sciences at University of Washington, researching the surface motion and topography of ice fields—who arm us with the information we need if humanity plans to stay put on this planet. In May, Joughin published findings in the journal Science revealing that Antarctica’s western ice sheet already has begun an irreparable meltdown, which could cause the sea level to rise double the amount of previous estimates, and sooner than scientists expected: 4–12 feet over the next few hundred years. Climate scientists hailed the research as game-changing as it underlines the urgency of taking action to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. In this case, it’s too late to turn the tides, but we might be able to slow the rise—at least long enough to put our houses on stilts. Brandon Taylor
Tonya Mosley, freelance broadcast reporter
Courtesy of tonya mosley
Last fall, Tonya Mosley’s “Black in Seattle” series for KUOW-FM presented an unvarnished and edifying view of the African-American experience in Seattle. The series won multiple national awards and landed the 37-year-old Mosley on NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show, while the related hashtag #blackinseattle became a vibrant platform for engagement on the topic of living in a city with a shrinking black population. This summer, she stepped further into her role as a witness for her community with a scathing first-person story in The Stranger that took the Seattle Police Department to task for its lackadaisical investigation into the still-unsolved murder of DeSzaun Smallwood in her Central District neighborhood. Lisa Wogan
The 12th Man
Seattle Seahawks fans hold a giant banner of a 12th-man jersey at CenturyLink Field before a December 2013 game against the St. Louis Rams; john froschauer;
Last fall, when Hall of Fame golfer and Seattle native Fred Couples raised the 12th Man flag before a Seahawks game, he captured the essence of the Seattle zeitgeist. “This is more fun than golf ever is,” exulted Couples, a season-ticket holder who was selected for the game day tradition. “I’m going to act like a nut here for 30 seconds.” And so he did.
And more than 68,000 12th Man fans who were crammed into CenturyLink Field loved it. Because the 12th Man knows that, as the collective embodiment of the Seahawks’ “extra player,” it has the ability to give its beloved football team a booster shot of confidence, deliver visiting teams a serious kick in their ball-control plans and even set a new direction for the course of a game—simply by acting like nuts.
Quantifying the influence of this behavior on a team’s win-loss record is the stuff of doctoral dissertations yet to be written, but the 12th Man in 2013 and 2014 has been a bona fide national phenomenon. From two Guinness World Records for crowd noise to a Super Bowl victory parade that no one in Seattle will ever forget, the 12th Man became a resolute force that energized a team, galvanized a community and supersized our expectations. John Levesque
Moira Scott Payne, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Cornish College of the Arts
Moira Scott in the under- construction Innovations Lab at Cornish College; andrew vanasse
Cornish College celebrates 100 years this month, but rather than settling in for a quiet, comfortable second century, the school is in the throes of major changes—several of which have been prompted by the arrival of new provost Moira Scott Payne. Most recently program director of art and media at the University of Dundee, Scotland, Payne has been at her new post since July 2013, and has already ruffled feathers by instituting curriculum reform. Under her direction, this year the school established a BFA in Film and Media, helmed by filmmaker Sandy Cioffi, plus a Foundations program required for first year visual arts students, which emphasizes skills that will help them move from art school into the real world, such as business and communications. Payne has also committed to maximizing the benefits of being located in South Lake Union, bridging the alleged gap between arts and tech via collaborations with neighboring technology and global health businesses. And perhaps most radical in this land of coffee addicts, Payne has introduced tea as the beverage of choice in provost meetings, serving it up in one of the many tea sets she brought with her from across the pond. Brangien Davis
One To Watch: High Note
Aidan Lang, general director, Seattle Opera
Aidan Lang in Seattle Opera’s costume department; jonathan vanderweit
Filling the shoes of a guy who has held a prominent post for 30 years—a likable guy who everybody thinks did an excellent job—might intimidate some. But not the new general director of the Seattle Opera, Aidan Lang. Previously head of the New Zealand Opera, Lang spent March through August learning the ropes from outgoing director Speight Jenkins, and now he has the helm to himself. While programming for the 2014–2015 season was already set when he arrived on scene, we’re eager to see how Lang adds his sensibilities and humor into the mix (back home, he reportedly hoped to collaborate with Flight of the Conchords on a rugby-infused opera called “Rugaletto”), how he takes Seattle Opera into the future, and most importantly, how he plans to bring new audiences to this ages-old art form. B.D.
Father of Reinvention
Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks
Six years ago, Starbucks’ per-store sales were falling, and it was starting to seem like just another fast-food joint, but with overpriced coffee. Howard Schultz, 61, took back the reins at the company he launched and engineered a dramatic turnaround. He closed nearly 900 stores, retrained baristas, empowered local managers and revamped the design of thousands of stores. He took the company into the potentially more lucrative market of tea with the purchase of Teavana (2012, followed by the launch of Oprah chai tea this spring), into fresh juices with Evolution Fresh (2011) and baked goods with La Boulange (2013). The company—now valued at $54 billion, 10 times its value during the depth of the recession—also continues to build on its socially responsible reputation, making headlines with last fall’s social media campaign to end the government shutdown and this summer’s announcement of a college tuition reimbursement plan for employees. Leslie Helm
Bertha, the tunnel boring machine
Not that there is much to watch, as the stalled tunnel boring machine sits idle for its million-dollar repair. But inaction—and its associated costs—is shifting things above ground, including renewed momentum for another monorail, more sober ambitions for the waterfront, and party games centered around inventing new uses for a 1,000-foot tunnel with a giant borer at the end. And although its underground, the machine will cast a long shadow into the future: New transportation megaprojects and the candidates who support them will doubtlessly face tougher battles as opponents wield a single word: Bertha. Lisa Wogan
Carl Spence, artistic director, Seattle International Film Festival
Carl Spence, primed for a show at the SIFF Film Center; Andrew Vanasse
With so many Capitol Hill haunts being torn down for new apartment buildings, the news that the shuttered Egyptian Theatre would reopen as a year-round independent film venue was cause for celebration. In May, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) announced that it had secured a long-term lease from Seattle Central College (which owns the building), and in October, the beloved movie house reopened as SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Longtime artistic director Carl Spence helped push the plan through and once the deal was secured, encouraged the public to pitch in for renovations via a “Text2Give” program. The resulting influx of cash—nearly $365,000—made for the most successful crowdsourced fundraiser in SIFF history. Brangien Davis
Lowrise Multifamily Zoning Code
The idea of urban villages dotting neighborhoods outside the downtown core has long been a smart-sounding plank of Seattle’s comprehensive plan. And in 2010, the City Council enacted the lowrise multifamily zoning code to encourage development of these dense, transit-centered hubs. But the leap from the smart-growth urban planning ideal to concrete-and-aluminum reality in boom-boom Ballard, West Seattle, Wallingford, Queen Anne and beyond has not been smooth. Neighborhood groups, such as Livable Ballard, are up in arms over the first-generation results—characterless three- to five-story apartment buildings that don’t take into consideration neighborhood aesthetics and scale. In response to criticism, the Department of Planning and Development is making adjustments to the code to allow for greater community input and design oversight, which should go to the City Council for consideration this winter. L.W.
Real estate attorney and owner, Central Agency Building and Stateside
Jerry Everard, in front of the Central Agency Building; Andrew Vanasse
If South Lake Union is Paul Allen’s playground, Capitol Hill is Jerry Everard’s. The lawyer/developer, known for his genial, laid-back style, has forged many a cool place for us to play in—Neumos and its sidekicks, Moe Bar and Barboza; Pike Street Fish Fry; and the Sole Repair Shop building—and he’s done it without erasing the neighborhood’s character as he goes. His preference is to give old buildings a brand-new purpose. His latest Capitol Hill reclamation projects include the 2,400-square-foot restaurant Stateside; replacing an office space and parking garage in an earlier auto-row conversion of his, the Six Arms building; and, in partnership with Alex Rosenast, the Central Agency Building, a one-time Ford dealership and FBI file
storehouse. Post-conversion, the Central Agency Building, a two-story 1917 warehouse at 10th Avenue and E Seneca Street, is set to host a vibrant restaurant/retail mix, including Vancouver, B.C, import Meat & Bread and the Capitol Hill staple Lark restaurant, which relocates from its 12th Avenue location, featuring an oyster bar and a to-go sandwich shop—all of which are set to open this fall.
Developer/owner, Melrose Market, Chophouse Row, 1101 E Pike and others
Liz Dunn, in front of Chophouse Row and 1101 E Pike; Andrew Vanasse
Liz Dunn, the doyenne of the adaptive reuse of historic auto-row buildings on Capitol Hill, continues her ambitious, single-minded revival of the Hill’s East Pike/Pine Street corridor. In the wake of such mixed reuse successes as Melrose Market and the Piston & Ring building comes Chophouse Row, set to open this winter, perhaps her most dynamic, diversified development yet. Dunn reimagined the historic 1919 building on 11th Avenue, an auto parts store turned local band rehearsal hall, as a striking five-story, loft-like structure combining 25,000 square feet of office space (including a fourth-floor coworking space), three penthouse residences, and a restaurant-retail mash-up that includes Chop Shop Cafe & Bar and Chop Shop Juice & Provisions from Volunteer Park Cafe owner Ericka Burke, a bake shop from Sara Naftaly (of Le Gourmand fame) and a garden boutique called Niche Outside. And her beat goes on. This summer, Dunn added the 100-year-old corner charmer on 1101 E Pike, home to furnishings store Retrofit Home and Cafe Pettirosso (handily, the latter shares alley access with Chophouse Row) to her preservation portfolio. It’s almost like she has a savior complex. Shannon O’Leary
Mark Zmuda, associate principal, Mercer Island High School
Geoffrey McGrath, Boy Scout Troop 98 scoutmaster
Mark Zmuda and Geoffrey McGrath at Bauhaus Books and Coffee in Ballard; Andrew Vanasse
Although Washington state celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage back in 2012, the important legislative step has not ensured “happily ever afters” for everyone. Mark Zmuda was fired from his position as vice principal of an Eastside Catholic school in December 2013, when his marriage to another man was determined to violate the Catholic tenets of his employee contract. And, in March 2014, software engineer Geoffrey McGrath was ousted as a Rainier Beach Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troop scoutmaster for being gay. Both men’s experiences sparked personal and public actions that garnered national and even international attention, and perhaps more importantly, lit the fire of action and compassion in the young people with whom Zmuda and McGrath work closely. Zmuda’s dismissal prompted student sit-ins, displays of loyalty from those he coached on the swim team and community calls for his reinstatement. (In March, he filed a lawsuit against the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle. He has since been hired at Mercer Island High School as an associate principal.) McGrath’s treatment and a subsequent vote by BSA to maintain a ban on gay scout leaders inspired companies that had long partnered with the BSA, including Major League Soccer, to withdraw their support and generated 125,000 signatures for a petition asking Amazon.com to follow suit. McGrath has made appearances at pride events across the nation and continued unofficial activities with Seattle Pack 98 and Troop 98, hoping that the BSA will someday change its policy. Lexi Bolton
Kindling the Fire
Russell Grandinetti, senior vice president, Amazon
Andrew Kent/Getty Images
The battle over books between giant publisher Hachette and even more giant online retailer Amazon has taken the local leviathan into new territory: explaining its actions to the media. Russell Grandinetti, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ number two and the exec in charge of Kindle, spent time this summer explaining why the company’s hardball strategies—delaying delivery of Hachette books until the publisher agrees to lower prices, under the banner of democratizing publishing elites—are good for customers, even as articulate and beloved authors, including Seattle’s own Maria Semple, cried foul. Hanging in the balance? Publishing as we’ve known it. Lisa Wogan
Pramila Jayapal, founder, Embrace Project, and candidate for Washington state Senate
Pramila Jayapal at a OneAmerica dinner in 2012, before she stepped down after almost 12 years as executive director; credit: Jackstorms
Even before her strong showing in the primary, most expected to see civil rights activist Pramila Jayapal, 49, as state senator for South Seattle’s diverse 37th District. She knows her way around a campaign: As an organizer for OneAmerica, Jayapal oversaw the effort to register an astonishing 23,000-plus immigrant voters in 2012 (which likely translated into the Legislature’s approval of financial aid for students brought to the state illegally as children). Honored as a White House Champion of Change last year, she cochaired the committee to select a new police chief and served on the mayor’s committee for income inequality—big issues for her community. We’re keeping a close watch to see where her commitment to issues of equality and immigration reform will take her next. Kari Lutcavich
The Great ($15) Compromise
Income Inequality Committee
Arguably the biggest story of the year was Seattle’s historic and precedent-setting minimum-wage agreement. While fellow influencers Mayor Ed Murray and socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant played key roles in the final compromise, there were plenty of other boots (and loafers, pumps and other footwear) on the ground. In particular, the Income Inequality Committee, led by cochairs David Rolf, president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW, the fastest-growing union the Northwest, and Howard S. Wright III, CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group. They had to shepherd an agreement with which neither business nor labor, nor nonprofits, nor community groups were completely happy—a sign of true compromise. For weeks, threatened by Murray and pressured by Sawant, business and labor struggled over a central sticking point—how to account for health benefits and tips—which was addressed through a complicated system whereby business could initially count these as credits toward the minimum wage but eventually phase these credits out. L.W.
Christopher Persons, CEO, Capitol Hill Housing
Christopher Persons at 12th Avenue Arts; Andrew Vanasse
It took a village to open the 12th Avenue Arts space on Capitol Hill, but without Christopher Persons leading the charge, those villagers might have given up and moved to the suburbs. More than fifteen years in the making, the newly opened mixed-use space combines 88 units of affordable housing (an ever-dwindling dream in Seattle) with two live-performance theaters, nonprofit office space, street-level restaurants and retail, and 115 secure parking spaces designated for East Precinct police officers. The idea to turn a police parking lot into affordable housing had been alternately bandied about and abandoned for several years, but when Persons moved to Seattle from Chicago to head Capitol Hill Housing—CHH, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable apartments in Seattle—he quite literally dusted off the plan and pursued it aggressively. Under Persons’ leadership, CHH worked with the City of Seattle, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, the Seattle Police Department, businesses and arts organizations to bring the grand vision to life. In doing so, he has helped foster the elements that make the neighborhood vibrant: a rich mix of people with diverse backgrounds and income levels, and a lively arts scene. Brangien Davis
Share the Road
Lyft, Sidecar, UberX
For the past two years, we’ve watched as app-based car services disrupted the old world of taxis. Seattleites who would never have called a cab now happily tap their phone to hail a ride via Sidecar, Lyft or UberX. And while carless millennials blithely hop into strangers’ cars with no questions asked, the city has had plenty of concerns. More than a year of wrangling, including threats of an initiative and lawsuits, ended with a Mayor Ed Murray–forged compromise between ride-sharing companies and members of the traditional taxi and for-hire vehicle industry, resulting in regulations passed by the City Council in August. In the meantime, taxis raised their game, many taking a page from the competition and adopting the local Flywheel app. And while fine-tuning the rules and parsing the insurance fine print are sure to continue, it seems in traffic-clogged Seattle, you can’t stuff the app-based car service back in the bottle. Lisa Wogan
Brad Tilden, chair and CEO, Alaska Air Group
Brad Tilden, with a member of the Alaska Air fleet; Hayley Young
Alaska Airlines may be a small fry compared to the nation’s major commercial carriers, but its aviation industry influence is monumental, largely due to the guidance of its chief, Seattle native Brad Tilden. Under Tilden’s leadership, the airline has become one of the most respected in the nation (ranked number one among North American carriers in customer satisfaction for seven years running), and is a leader in navigational technology that is central to the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to modernize the nation’s air traffic system. Replacing Bill Ayer as chair and CEO of Alaska Air Group in 2013, Tilden is an innovative juggernaut at Sea-Tac, guiding his airline to a $508 million profit in 2013 and keeping costs down in a fierce marketplace. He’s not afraid of taking on challenges, such as Delta Airlines’ aggressive battle for the Northwest market. And to his credit, the sense of the hometown favorite will be running strong this fall as 500 Pronto Cycle Share bikes with Alaska Airlines’ sponsorship logo on them roll into town. Karen West
Seattle School board
“Works well and gets along with others” is not a description frequently used in reference to the board of directors of Seattle Public Schools (SPS). Some hold this body of seven elected, unpaid citizens responsible for Seattle’s failure to hang on to a superintendent. Interim superintendent Larry Nyland, appointed in July for a one-year term, is the district’s fourth superintendent in five years. His predecessor José Banda, who left Seattle after just two years on the job, was reportedly frustrated by the board’s micromanagement. Case in point: the board’s refusal (in a 4 to 3 vote) to accept the recommendations of an SPS committee composed of teachers, parents and community members, charged with choosing a new elementary school math curriculum. Thomas Alsbury, a Seattle Pacific University professor whose research focuses on school district governance, says board dynamics can make or break a school district, with direct impact on student achievement. Now, with Mayor Ed Murray proposing a new, cabinet-level Department of Education and Early Learning, some wonder whether this is the first step in sidelining the school board altogether. In the meantime, there is work to be done. The Seattle school board is embarking on a search for a new superintendent—hopefully one who will stick around. Alison Krupnick
Ludovic Morlot, artistic director, Seattle Symphony
Credit: Andrew Vanasse
“Listen Boldly” is the Seattle Symphony’s tagline, and maestro Ludovic Morlot has done everything in his power to facilitate such boldness in his audiences. Since taking the reins as music director in the 2011–2012 season, Morlot has led the orchestra galloping into a new era with innovative programming that blends masterworks with world premieres, emphasizes new composition by living composers (such as the groundbreaking Become Ocean, which Morlot commissioned from John Luther Adams and which won a Pulitzer for music this year), celebrates orchestral risk takers and oddballs across the ages (showcased in the brilliant “[untitled]” series) and honors Seattle’s history of popular music (via the Sonic Evolution program—which famously wrought a symphonic collaboration with Sir Mix-A-Lot). To put it simply, Morlot’s arrival has brought a much needed vim and vigor to Benaroya Hall, not to mention whole new audiences. Brangien Davis
Raphael BernieR, clinical director, Seattle Children’s Autism Center
Raphael Bernier, Ph.D., a 42-year-old researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute, has for the first time ever, linked a genetic mutation to autism. In a collaboration that involved 13 institutions worldwide, Bernier’s research found that a mutation of the CHD8 gene significantly increases a child’s risk of developing a specific subtype of autism as well as causing several traits—such as larger heads and prominent foreheads—unique to children with the same subtype of autism. The results could allow physicians to identify babies at risk for autism before they are born. Initial reports of the findings suggest that early detection will help with early interventions that can lessen or prevent symptoms from developing. Unspoken in the announcement is the possibility that early screening may be used as Down syndrome tests have (for terminating pregnancies), which raises ethical concerns. Lisa Wogan
Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction
John Froschauer/ap images
Randy Dorn emerged in 2014 with fists up, angered by the state Legislature’s failure to adequately support education. Chief among his frustrations: the failure to pass legislation to include student growth on state standardized tests as part of teacher and principal evaluations. Doing so would have secured the state’s waiver from the stringent accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, a federal education mandate widely acknowledged to be overdue for a rewrite. By ignoring NCLB waiver requirements, Washington became the first state to lose its waiver and risk the loss of federal funds supporting low-income students. On the subject of K–12 education funding, Dorn sided with the state Supreme Court, which held the Legislature in contempt for failing to make sufficient progress toward fully funding basic education, as required by McCleary v. State of Washington, a 2012 court decision that requires education to be fully funded by 2018. In September, Dorn filed a brief with the Supreme Court, proposing that if sufficient funding progress isn’t made in 2015, nonessential state funding should be suspended. Dorn says the 2015 legislative session is crucial, calling it a “Super Bowl for full education funding.”
Karen True, director of business development, Alliance for Pioneer Square
Kevin Daniels and Karen True toast the Pioneer Square revival at the new Cone & Steiner in Stadium Place; Andrew Vanasse
When the Alliance for Pioneer Square implemented its retail recruitment plan in 2012 to bolster the neighborhood’s deflated shopping core, it hired community developer Karen True to spearhead the effort. Over the past two years, Kirkland-based True has been out evangelizing for the somewhat beleaguered neighborhood and shepherding new businesses through the challenges of financing, marketing and the Historic Preservation Board. As a result, from summer to fall, Pioneer Square welcomed 19 new businesses, retail and restaurants alike, as well as new market-rate residential developments—the first since the 1980s—including the towering Stadium Place. The nearly completed First Hill Streetcar line (which the alliance pushed to extend down Jackson Street to First Avenue) brings yet another option to this transportation hub, and reduced-price hourly parking lots are primed to entice visitors by car. True says, “The collective attitude of ‘Let’s get it done,’ both at the alliance and throughout the neighborhood, rocks my world.” Ali Brownrigg
Kevin Daniels, developer, Daniels Real Estate and Nitze-Stagen
Whether saving historic buildings, such as First Hill’s First United Methodist Church, or overseeing the first skyscraper in Pioneer Square since Smith Tower (which turned 100 this year), Kevin Daniels is that rare developer whose buildings attempt to connect the city’s past with its future. His sleek green-built tower, which looks like stacked glass boxes, is the iconic cornerstone of an ambitious office/mixed-income residential/hotel development called Stadium Place, which has been praised by Historic Seattle as bringing new life to the historic ’hood. As Mark Hinshaw wrote in a Crosscut article in March, “It’s one of the few recent examples of building an urban neighborhood, not just a single building.” Meanwhile, Daniels is hoping to preserve the 83-year-old St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, an 80,000-square-foot, historic building sitting on more than 300 acres of land that includes the biggest piece of undeveloped Lake Washington shoreline. Niki Stojnic
Brad Smith, general counsel, Microsoft
Courtesy of Microsoft
As Microsoft’s general counsel since 2002, Brad Smith, 55, leads the company’s wide range of public policy efforts, and has garnered a reputation as a straightforward and intelligent power broker. The New York Times calls him the “de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large.” Whereas Microsoft’s antitrust battles once lent it a reputation as tech’s 800-pound gorilla, Smith has worked with competitors on areas of mutual interest—not least of all, the red hot area of online privacy (think: WikiLeaks, NSA and a very angry German chancellor). Things came to a head this summer with Microsoft’s legal challenge to the United States government’s warrant for access to data held overseas. In what appears to be the first challenge of its kind, the company’s protest drew praise from Apple and Cisco. The case is still pending, but the Smith-guided response is sure to set a precedent with far-reaching implications. Drew Atkins
Nick Brown, general counsel to the governor
Nick Brown outside the Capitol in Olympia; Credit: Andrew Vanasse
In February 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty during his tenure, a reprieve for nine death row inmates. That decision was the culmination of an intensive research effort led by
Inslee’s general counsel, 37-year-old Nick Brown, who took his investigations in compelling directions, including an exploration of how the capital punishment affects—often deeply—the many penitentiary staffers who are connected to each execution. The moratorium is only a provisional measure, but as public support for the death penalty ebbs nationwide, it may be the beginning of the end of capital punishment in Washington. Lisa Wogan
The IT Guy
Michael Mattmiller, chief technology officer, City of Seattle
The idea of a city-owned broadband network, competing with the likes of Comcast, has been an appealing one for years. The pitch is that it would introduce much-needed competition into the market, driving prices down and quality up. But as continued failures and false starts have shown over the years, the devil is in the details. Navigating those details is the city’s new chief technology officer, Michael Mattmiller, 33, who now manages the city’s tech department of nearly 200 employees. A former consultant and senior strategist at Microsoft, Mattmiller is taking on a bevy of important issues, from managing city data centers to exploring how you could stream television shows and scour websites faster and cheaper than ever. Drew Atkins
Seattle magazine 2014 Most Influential Advisory Board
Joni Balter, contributor, KUOW-FM and columnist, Bloomberg View
Kate Becker, director, Office of Film + Music, City of Seattle
Kenan Block, owner, Kenan Block/Media & Communications
Rita Brogan, CEO, PRR
John Cook, cofounder, GeekWire
Jenny Cunningham, magazine writer and TV producer
C.R. Douglas, political analyst, Q13 Fox News
Randy Engstrom, director, Office of Arts and Culture, City of Seattle
Martin H. Duke, editor in chief, Seattle Transit Blog
Nancy Guppy, host, Art Zone with Nancy Guppy, Seattle Channel and KCTS-TV
Terry Hein, executive director, 826 Seattle
Leslie Helm, editor, Seattle Business magazine
Kendall Jones, founder, Washington Beer Blog
Alison Krupnick, education reporter
Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates chair of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington
Michael Luis, mayor of Medina
Mary McWilliams, former executive director, Washington Health Alliance
Julie Pham, co-owner, Northwest Vietnamese News, director of marketing, Washington Technology Industry Association
Chris Porter, programming director, One Reel
Chris Rogers, founding partner and CEO, Point32
Allison Austin Scheff, freelance food writer
Niki Stojnic, editor, Seattle Health magazine
Art Thiel, cofounder Sportspress Northwest
Russ Walker, executive producer, KING 5-TV
Paul Zitarelli, owner, Full Pull Wines
From Seattle magazine:
Rachel Hart, editorial director
Lisa Wogan, managing editor
Stephanie Mennella, design director
Brangien Davis, arts and culture editor
Ali Brownrigg, lifestyle editor
Knute Berger, editor at large and “Gray Matters” columnist
Julien Perry, dining editor
Lauren Mang, digital editor
A.J. Rathbun, contributing editor