They may not be household names throughout Tampa Bay. Most of them don't hold an elected public office. But these are six influential dealmakers who will have a major impact on public policy and the success of our communities in 2012.
Steven G. Burton, Tampa
This highly regarded business law attorney is an increasingly influential voice in the Tampa Bay area's economic development efforts. Burton, 50, is chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which runs Tampa International Airport, and the managing partner of Broad and Cassel in Tampa. He has pushed to expand the airport's domestic and international flights, and to have the airport play a larger role as an economic engine for the region. He is a forceful advocate for more aggressive and better focused industry recruitment campaigns. Burton has also acted as a counselor for state and local Republican leaders.
Santiago Corrada, Tampa
This personable, skilled troubleshooter was plucked from Miami in 2004 by then-Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to run the city's neighborhood services division, but his portfolio eventually broadened to oversee the Tampa convention center, cultural arts and the city's tourism efforts. Now Corrada, 47, is Mayor Bob Buckhorn's chief of staff and is the mayor's point person for the 2012 Republican National Convention, overseeing an interagency planning group that is managing all aspects of the event. How the city handles the event will be largely a reflection of his work.
Leslie Curran, St. Petersburg
Just a year ago, this City Council member was recuperating from a bicycle accident that had left her in an induced coma for nearly a week. Now, council dynamics have returned her as the 2012 council chair, and her longtime support for the arts earned her a seat on the design jury for the St. Petersburg Pier. Curran, 55, is also emerging as the council's most formidable critic of Mayor Bill Foster, and she has taken the lead in challenging Foster's obstinacy in negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays for a new stadium. Curran ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1997 and is believed to be considering challenging Foster in 2013.
Bill Edwards, Treasure Island
Mahaffey Theater, check. BayWalk, check. Downtown St. Petersburg revitalizer? That's to be determined. Edwards, who made his fortune in mortgages and now has an extensive music promotions business, seemed to be everywhere in downtown St. Petersburg in 2011. He won the city's bid to run the flailing Mahaffey, snapped up the near-vacant BayWalk shopping complex for just $5.2 million and wooed country singer Martina McBride to an unprecedented charity concert in the waterfront Demens Landing Park. Edwards, 66, has pumped lots of private money into both the Mahaffey and BayWalk. Will his investment, and business acumen, pay off?
Matt Foreman, Spring Hill
Less than five months on the job, this 28-year-old lawyer is being credited with bringing some badly needed leadership and decisionmaking skills to the Hernando County School Board. Appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in September to fill a board vacancy, Foreman joined a board that had floundered frequently over spending, staffing and school boundary issues. A continued decline in property values is expected to make the 2012 school budget year just as challenging.
Steve MacNamara, Tallahassee
A year ago, this bright but brash Tallahassee insider was the chief of staff for Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a then-hopeful U.S. Senate candidate banking on a strong session to boost his campaign. Now Haridopolos is out of the race, due in part to his team being outplayed by the Florida House. MacNamara, 58, is now Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff and has earned kudos for recasting the neophyte governor's public image and steering him toward issues that matter more to Floridians, like improved public school funding. The question, however, is whether MacNamara's leadership is an asset or detriment heading into this year's session. Scott needs a strong showing to improve his still-abysmal poll numbers.