Predicting the future is a fool’s game. But it’s a good bet that most of the dozen people on our list will be in the news in 2022 — by making progress or making waves, throwing touchdowns or passing new laws.
Cathie Wood — The average Tampa Bay resident might not know Wood, the Wall Street icon who founded ARK Investment Management, but the fact that she chose to move her company headquarters from New York City to St. Petersburg last year is a coup. Wood’s firm, which manages about $42 billion in assets, is known as a big investor and influencer in the technology community, including gene-editing, robotics, artificial intelligence, energy storage and blockchain technology. The firm is also partnering with Pinellas County to launch the ARK Innovation Center, a talent incubator to support entrepreneurs and tech startups and attract top talent to the area. That Wood sees Tampa Bay as a solid investment for her firm speaks volumes for how far the area has come in recent years.
Chris Sprowls and Wilton Simpson — The local politicians — State House speaker Sprowls is from Palm Harbor; Senate president Simpson from Trilby — passed nearly all of their priorities in last year’s legislative sessions. Will they have similar success during the 2022 session, which begins Tuesday? Yes would be a good bet, given their track record and the Republican dominance in both the House and the Senate. This is their last session as top dogs in the Legislature, further motivation for them to leave a lasting legacy.
Bemetra Simmons — The new president and CEO took the reins in September at the Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of local business leaders whose aim is improving the quality of life in Tampa Bay. She replaced Rick Homans, who helped broaden the partnership’s mission from pure economic development to quality of life across the socioeconomic spectrum. The partnership also quickly pivoted when COVID struck and produced several in-depth reports on how the pandemic was affecting the Tampa Bay area. Simmons, a former banker and leader with the United Way Suncoast, said she liked the partnership’s recent focus on equity. Her experience is well suited to ensuring the partnership remains an important player in regional economic issues.
Terri Lipsey Scott — This is another big year for the executive director of the Woodson African American Museum of Florida. The museum, with help from the Pinellas Community Foundation, is trying to raise money to build a new $27 million facility in St. Petersburg’s historic Deuces neighborhood. The proposed 30,000-plus square foot building is billed as the first newly constructed landmark museum in Florida built exclusively to celebrate African American history, art and culture. It would also be a massive expansion for the museum, which started out in a rental space and community center. Scott has a long history of working to make St. Petersburg a better place, and the museum project could end up being another crowning achievement.
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Herb Donica — The Tampa lawyer has the important task of managing the Piney Point fertilizer plant property responsible last spring for spilling 215 million gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay. A judge appointed Donica as an independent receiver after the spill. Two decades ago, he worked with the bankruptcy trustee for the property’s one-time owner, Mulberry Corp. Donica knows the property and appears to understand what’s at stake. “I have one goal, and that’s to shut this thing down and make it safe,” he said in August. Here’s hoping Donica is the right person to finally help close this property and end the threat of another environmental disaster.
Ileana Cintron — A graduate of Yale and Harvard, Cintron is deputy director of Enterprising Latinas, which wants to create “pathways of opportunity for Latinas in Tampa Bay by teaching new skills, creating networks of mutual support, and advocating for innovative solutions to promote economic mobility and equity.” Cintron and others with the nonprofit group also made educating the Hispanic community about the COVID pandemic and the importance of vaccines a priority. The group has been a voice of reason, debunking myths about the virus and vaccinations. COVID has disproportionately affected Hispanics, and given that the pandemic isn’t over, Cintron and Enterprising Latinas can continue to play an important role in keeping people safe and informed.
Curtis Reeves — The retired Tampa police captain shot and killed Chad Oulson after a dispute inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater in January of 2014. Eight years later the infamous criminal court case is still unresolved. The long wait has included three judges, 10 days for a stand-your-ground hearing, multiple prosecutors, countless hearings, more than 100 witness depositions and five foiled trial dates, the Times recently noted. Reeves, now 79 years old, faces a second-degree murder charge, and the latest trial date is set for February. Will this case finally come to an end this year?
Tex and Kay Carter — The husband and wife duo, along with several other supporters, are trying to save 14 acres of woods on Klosterman Road in unincorporated Pinellas County near the suburban border of Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor. Tex is the president and Kay is the treasurer of the West Klosterman Preservation Group, a nonprofit. The county school district, which owns the land, agreed to sit on offers ranging up to $3.3 million from developers while the Carters and the preservation group try to raise enough money to buy the property. The school district gave the group until July 1 to come up with $3 million, but so far the group has raised just a fraction of what’s needed. The clock is ticking.
Jenn Petion — Petion is president and chief executive officer of Family Support Services of North Florida, which took over child welfare services in Pinellas and Pasco counties on Jan. 1. It’s now her job to ensure things get better in what is the biggest child welfare district in Florida, where more than 2,600 children are currently separated from their families. The agency that previously oversaw child welfare lost the contract amid allegations of mismanagement and endangering children. Among other problems, the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office is investigating “institutional abuse of children” involving top executives at the ousted agency. Petion has a big and important job to take on in the two local counties. It is not an overstatement to say that children’s lives are at stake.
Tom Brady — Could the ageless quarterback lead the Bucs to another Super Bowl victory? Will he stick around the area for a while, which would only up the Tampa Bay area’s cool factor? And how does he seem to look younger with every passing year? Seriously, he would make Benjamin Button jealous.
Ken Welch — St. Petersburg’s new mayor has a lot of work ahead to ensure the city maintains its momentum. Will he find ways to create more affordable housing and possibly entice the Tampa Bay Rays to stay in St. Petersburg?
David Miscavige — Is this the year the public hears more from the reclusive leader of the Church of Scientology?
Rhea Law — What does the well-respected interim leader of the University of South Florida do after the school finds a permanent replacement? She can’t possibly retire, right?
Nadia Combs — If she’s inclined, how will the chair of the Hillsborough school board convince a wary electorate to vote in favor of increasing the sales tax to raise more money for education?
Stacey White — Can the Hillsborough County commissioner thwart another transportation sales tax referendum?
David Green — Will the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, which Green runs, exist next year? Or will the latest legislative attempt to disband the agency succeed?
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.