The List (11-20)

The List: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50

11. Curt Walton
City Manager
In 2006: Unranked

Walton “understands power and how to use it,” one person told us. This past summer, in a minor surprise, City Council chose him to replace longtime, and extremely powerful, city manager Pam Syfert, who retired, and he handled the transition with aplomb. Walton is unassuming and shies away from the limelight, as all effective bureaucrats do, but he’s smart and decisive. He has earned bipartisan praise for his leadership. He has granted his direct reports more influence than Syfert did, which keeps everyone happy. And so far, his first major hire, police Chief Rodney Monroe, has been a hit.

12. Harvey Gantt
Principal, Gantt Huberman
In 2006: 12

Once a major force in Charlotte—as mayor, he helped put in motion the plan that led to the center city resurgence—Gantt is content to stay mostly behind the scenes, mentoring younger politicians, getting involved when called upon. But when called upon, such as when he chaired the Foundation for the Carolinas board two years ago as it began a strategic shift, people listen. He has gravitas, and he’s able to bridge communities.
Gantt is also well connected within the Democratic Party, and he could gain more influence if Obama wins.

13. Michael Tarwater
CEO, Carolinas HealthCare System
In 2006: 13

Under Tarwater’s leadership, CHS has been gobbling up land in Charlotte, especially in the Dilworth area near its main campus. The economy may be slumping, but the health care industry is virtually recession proof. So, as big as the CHS system is now—it’s the third-largest public hospital system in the country—expect the expansion to continue. And it’s already the largest employer in the city. Tarwater himself doesn’t make many headlines, but that’s partly by design.

14. Pat Riley
President and CEO, The Allen Tate Company
In 2006: 15

Real estate network Allen Tate Co. has long been one of the most influential companies in the city, and while Allen Tate himself is still chairman, Riley holds most of the reins. Energetic, enthusiastic, and likeable (sort of like, um, a realtor), Riley is extremely active in civic affairs, and while he’s not at the level of driving major initiatives himself, he can get people together and get things done. He’s the current chair of the Charlotte Chamber—always a powerful role—and he’s been a go-to person in the Wachovia saga, trying to make sure as many jobs as possible stay here.

15. Tim Newman
President and CEO, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
In 2006: 16

Newman is a high-energy salesman and master networker with an impressive Rolodex that spans from Charlotte to Raleigh to Washington, D.C., to New York. While the financial services industry works through its troubles, industries like hospitality and tourism will be important to Charlotte’s economy. By all accounts, Newman has done an excellent job retooling CRVA into a focused, effective organization. Through CRVA, Newman is responsible for some of the largest facilities in the area, with more to come. CRVA is getting a huge new ballroom as part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame development, and the new cultural facilities will help Newman’s cause even more.

16. Harry Jones
County Manager
In 2006: 20

By nature, the county government, which is concerned mainly with schools, parks, and public health, is not as powerful as city government, which is why Jones ranks lower on this list than his counterpart at the city, Curt Walton. But in eight years on the job, Jones has impressed more and more and been a steadying influence as politicians come and go. He oversees a budget of almost a billion and a half dollars and a staff of 4,700, and as the economy continues its downswing, it’s likely that more and more
citizens will have to rely on county services.

17. Bob Morgan
President and CEO, Charlotte Chamber
In 2006: 31

Morgan, who moved into the chamber’s top spot in late 2005, has reenergized the organization, which a few years ago was losing influence as it resisted change while Charlotte expanded and grew more diverse. He has expanded the chamber’s reach by partnering with minority chambers, and we were told that Morgan is well liked by everyone he works with. He helped lead efforts to land the downtown cultural facilities campus, keep the transit tax, and pass the $516 million education bond. As the big shot CEOs become more nationally focused, Morgan knows whom to go to get things done, and he knows how to build teams to make things happen.

18. Todd Mansfield
President and CEO, Crosland Inc.
In 2006: 26

Charlotte doesn’t have many thought leaders—people come here to raise families and make money, not to think—but Mansfield is one. “He’s almost Jeffersonian in intellect,” we were told. “You know he’s always three steps ahead of you.” That, combined with his business skills, makes him a force in Charlotte. He serves on the powerful Center City Partners and Carolinas HealthCare boards, and the company he runs, Crosland, is one of the Southeast’s largest developers. He’s also the chair of the Urban Land Institute, a national land-planning think tank. If he sticks around Charlotte, look for him to continue creeping up this list.

19. Tony Zeiss
President, Central Piedmont Community College
In 2006: 11

The high-energy Zeiss is a regular on this list because he has been extremely effective in building out CPCC’s
campuses, which span the city. To do so, he’s had to work closely with various levels of government and repeatedly convince the media and voters to support several bond packages. Annually, 70,000 students pass through the doors at “CP,” and local business leaders understand the importance of that workforce. In sixteen years on the job, Zeiss has built a strong network with those business execs as well as with local and statewide politicians. And when he takes on a pet project, be it a greenway or a fancy statue, that project invariably gets done.

20. Rick Hendrick
Owner, Hendrick Motorsports
Chairman, Hendrick Automotive Group
In 2006: Unranked

Until the push for the NASCAR Hall of Fame two years ago, stock car racing, despite its popularity nationwide and the accompanying profits, had remained on the fringes of Charlotte’s power circle. That changed when Wachovia and other local corporations joined forces with Hendrick to help bring the Hall here. Hendrick’s involvement with Levine Children’s Hospital introduced him to more of Charlotte’s power brokers. Because of the success of his race team and the fact that he signed Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick is probably the most powerful person in NASCAR outside of the France family, and he also owns eighty car dealerships.