6:30am | This marks our fourth annual Most Powerful People In Long Beach list where we highlight powerful people in Long Beach who are making a difference. There are thousands of people who impact Long Beach each day in powerful ways so narrowing the decision to a few is not an easy task. As always, the list is a collection of people who gained notoriety for the decisions they have made, the actions they have taken, and their leadership to produce results.
Thanks to an overwhelming response from our readers submitting their nominations and the advice from Long Beach Post staff including current and former writers in developing the final list below. Each person on the 2010 Most Powerful People In Long Beach list reflects why we live in the best city in the world.
1. Dr. Charles B. Reed, Chancellor, The California State University
Former State Senator John Burton, one of the fiercest pro-labor advocates in California political history walked into a room in the State Capitol filled with labor leaders who gathered for a tenacious meeting with the new Chancellor of the California State University. Senator Burton immediately looked at the group with an infectious stare and said, “Whatever this man says, I believe. Period.”
That man was Chancellor Charles Reed.
A resident of Long Beach since assuming his post as Chancellor in 1998, Dr. Reed is the leader of the California State University (CSU). Headquartered in Downtown Long Beach, the CSU is the largest higher education institution in the world. The CSU boasts 23 campuses, nearly 433,000 students, 44,000 faculty and staff, an annual budget of $5 billion, and has achieved the rank of being the most diverse, and one of the most affordable university systems in the country, if not the world.
At the top of the list of powerful institutions is a powerful man who in twelve years at the helm as Chancellor has seen good times and bad times. Increasing investments in the CSU by California’s Legislature welcomed Dr. Reed to his post early in his tenure. Over time, that funding eroded, causing friction between the faculty unions, students and elected officials at all levels of government over the best course of action to protect the future of the CSU. Chancellor Reed never wavered from what he believed was the best way forward. He told the Long Beach Post in January 2009, “If we continue to chip away at public funding for higher education, we jeopardize the very investment in our state’s human capital and in the strength of the economic engine that has propelled California to a position of global leadership.”
Chancellor Reed is not the type of leader who will sit down with you for a cup a tea and talk about the events of the day. Instead, he walks into every room on a mission. He rarely sits and prefers to hold your arm as he leans in to tell you want he wants from you. This strong leadership style does not work for many people, but it has become Chancellor Reed’s trademark. And people who experience his style know that when he says something you will never doubt the seriousness of his words, his determination to get the job done, or his passion for the California State University…whether you like it or not.
Long Beach is home to many powerful people. But, very few maintain their power for so long in a turbulent sea of changing local, state, national and international politics like Long Beach’s most powerful person – Chancellor Charles Reed.
2. Skip Keesal, Jr., Partner, Keesal, Young & Logan
There are few people in Long Beach who have ever had breakfast with the President and dinner with the Queen of England. Only one can do both and then squeeze in hosting a luncheon fundraiser for the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club with a Four-Star General as the guest speaker.
Skip Keesal, Jr., founder of the city’s largest law firm, Keesal, Young & Logan, is no stranger to the world’s most powerful people. Skip is always bringing them to Long Beach to tour the city and speak to a sold out crowd to benefit a local non-profit on the top floor of his law firm offices. The facility rental log of Skip’s full-service kitchen and reception room atop his downtown law firm is meticulous cared for by full time staff. Name a Long Beach non-profit and it’s probably in that book.
Skip’s influence reaches far beyond the courtroom into the lives of everyday Long Beach residents. Whether it is his role on the Board of Governor’s at Cal State Long Beach, the Board of Trustees for the Boys and Girls Club or his involvement with the Long Beach Police Foundation. He is also an influential businessman with major development assets in Downtown Long Beach. His newest project is a multi-tower development.
Skip is the heartbeat of Long Beach – his fingers are firmly on the pulse of the city and nothing big happens unless Skip is behind it. Major business developments to maintaining Long Beach’s most influential law firm seem to always come second to giving back to benefit our community.
3. Mayor Bob Foster and First Lady Nancy Foster
Mayor Bob Foster continues to make major impacts in Long Beach and throughout the region. According to our recent research poll, a solid majority of voters (63.7%) favor their mayor and 60.3% believe the city is on the right track – both a clear indication that Foster’s leadership is not going unnoticed.
His work ranges from replacing nearly 20,000 container hauling trucks in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles with cleaner-burning models to introducing a pension reform proposal putting him at odds with local unions. Mayor Foster also made headlines recently after he opened a committee for a potential run at the seat of California State Treasurer in 2014.
First Lady Nancy Foster is dedicated to Long Beach in much of the same way as her husband of 42 years. Her passion for Long Beach non-profits and local pet causes touches all corners of the city. She is known for being ever positive and optimistic about the city and its future. A recent Facebook post of hers says it all, “What a gorgeous morning!! I am so appreciative of the sun!! Bless this wonderful day!! Love it!” Her advocacy on behalf of mental health issues has also made an impact on countless Long Beach residents.
Together Team-Foster dedicates their time, energy and money so that people throughout Long Beach benefit from the power of their partnership.
4. Dr. F. King Alexander, President, California State University, Long Beach
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, President, Long Beach City College
Christopher Steinhauser, Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District
F. King Alexander, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and Chris Steinhauser collectively impact the lives of over 160,000 people each day leading Long Beach’s three major public education institutions and their collective youth, young adults and returning adult students.
Education and political leaders from around the world routinely call upon the three men to talk about the Long Beach College Promise, a pact between all three institutions dedicated to increasing college access and seamless education in Long Beach. Typically the first question asked is, “How do they do it?” The answer is simple. The three leaders work together and their strong professional bond is emblematic of the cooperative spirit between the three institutions. They do it by all getting in the same room and routinely talking to each other. Seems like common-sense. But the reality is that a strong commitment and partnership between three local education institutions is rare and almost never happens throughout the nation.
Individually, they lead large education centers dedicated to providing high quality education to all that seek it. Together, they are a powerful force for change, innovation and partnership.
5. Dr. Mario Molina and John Molina, J.D., Molina Health Care
Long Beach-based Molina Healthcare started with the idea that some of our city’s neediest people deserved improved quality of care. Since the passing of their father Dr. C. David Molina who founded the company in 1980, Dr. Mario Molino and John Molina, J.D. are leading one of the most successful managed healthcare companies in the nation. They also lead one of the largest Hispanic-run companies in the nation. As CEO of Molina Healthcare, Mario is responsible for a company that serves 1.4 million members in ten states and the company is ranked among the top 100 Fortune 500 companies in California. As CFO of Molina Healthcare, John has led the company’s transformative growth into a multi-billion dollar company.
Aside from running a successful company, Mario and John are two of the city’s most active charity and community investors. Their vast portfolio of community involvement ranges from the Aquarium of the Pacific to the Long Beach Cancer League to their involvement in early childhood educational efforts throughout the city.
6. Senator Alan Lowenthal, California State Senate, 27th District
Senator Alan Lowenthal has represented Long Beach in some political capacity since he was first elected to the City Council in 1992, and has remained one of the most visible and well-respected local politicians ever since. He almost cashed in on that reputation by flirting with a run for Lieutenant Governor, though he eventually decided against it.
As Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Lowenthal co-requested an audit of the $43 billion bullet train project that ultimately showed more than $3.4 million was paid to contractors without proper proof that the work had been completed.
He also introduced SB518 which proposed to offer rewards to cities that find ways to increase the use of public transportation and reduce overall “vehicle miles” in order to comply that greenhouse emission standards that will be enacted in 2020. The bill also asks for ways to reduce free parking that Lowenthal says encouraged driving and passes costs onto businesses in the form of raised prices and reduced wages.
Whether or not SB518 sees the light of day again, it’s intention is rooted in environmental concern, a staple of Lowenthal’s political career. And this next year may see the resurgence of his longtime pet project, SB974, that would have levied a $30 tax on each cargo container brought into the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Lowenthal has two more years in his current office and you can bet that the restless politician will make plenty of news in that time.
7. Suzanne Frick, Assistant City Manager, City of Long Beach
Running the City of Long Beach is no easy task. The City Council hired City Manager Pat West to take on the challenge of managing thousands of city employees and the day-to-day operations of the bureaucracy. One of the most important decisions a city manager can make is appointing his or her number two.
Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick is more than a number two. She is the first line of defense in managing the city and is very effective at getting a job done. Frick helped lead a tough budget year and strengthened her reputation as a tough negotiator and a fierce defender of the city kingdom. Going head-to-head with Suzanne is all but certain if anything is to be done when the City of Long Beach is involved.
8. Justin Rudd, Community Action Team
An exclamation point is a commonly used punctuation mark typically used to indicate strong feelings and often marks the end of a sentence. In Long Beach the exclamation point is synonymous with the name Justin Rudd! He can definitely spark strong feelings of volunteerism but rarely does Justin align with the end of anything.
Through his non-profit, the Community Action Team, Justin hosts a number of events ranging from Beauty Pageants, to Spelling Bees, to the famous Howl’oween Dog Parade to nearly 200 beach clean-ups under his belt. Thousands of people depend on Justin to provide diverse opportunities to improve the city they love.
9. Pastor Wayne A. Chaney Jr., Wayne Chaney Ministries
Over forty five years ago, his grandfather set the stage for a young, aspiring Wayne. A Long Beach legend for a generation, the late Joe Chaney Jr. inspired many into service and to becoming the best anyone could be. Carrying on that tradition was no easy task but the young Wayne grew up and now leads Wayne Chaney Ministries. Pastor Chaney is in the business of transforming lives and he does so through the Antioch Church of Long Beach.
Pastor Chaney and his wife Myesha also founded the Long Beach Gospel Fest. A summer gathering of over 35 of Long Beach’s religious organizations for a showing of music, food and community it has grown into the premier religious event in Long Beach. Pastor Chaney told the Los Angeles Times this past summer, “”Against the backdrop of a big-city skyline, it has an especially beautiful resonance. Beyond the gospel music, we are witnessing the addition of something new and wonderful to Long Beach.”
Pastor Cheney is not new to Long Beach. But his powerful leadership, passion and ability to bring people together is constantly renewing our community’s commitment to themselves and the city.
10. Blair Cohn, Executive Director, Bixby Knolls Improvement Association
Bixby Knolls is in a renaissance. At the center of the action is Blair Cohn. In a recent Long Beach Post article, Sander Wolff accurately described Cohn, “Rumors abound about a secret lab where scientists are applying advanced genetic techniques to create multiple copies of Blair Cohn. His boundless energy, his seemingly inexhaustible positivity, his penchant for direct engagement with community, and his abundance of good ideas have transformed Bixby Knolls from a sleepy cultural backwater to a thrumming hub of good times.”
Young, polite, aggressive, and fun, Blair is never tired. His mission is clear, reenergize his community and focus them on improving the local economy and quality of life. Strollers, Literary Society, Supper Club, Community Happy Hours, Community Parties, First Fridays, and the annual Car Show, to name a few, top the list of events and gatherings Blair either created or re-imagined to spark Bixby Knolls into action.
Blair understands that the power of leading a community is in direct proportion to a community’s willingness to engage. Bixby Knolls is willing and Blair is leading the way.
Ones To Watch
Chief Jim McDonnell, Long Beach Police Department
His values are deeply rooted in tradition and he is the first to tell you that. But he also warns you that he is a change-agent and completely committed to learning from the past to make positive improvements for the future.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has been on the job for just over seven months and in that short timeframe he has navigated a tough budget process, set his eyes on increasing the use of technology in police work and has secured the support the greater Long Beach community. The road ahead for Long Beach’s Police Chief is long and riddled with challenges. But he was hired because of his tenacity and determination. Long Beach has its eyes on their Chief and they are watching him very, very closely.
Mario Cordero, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners
Last month, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Mario Cordero to the Federal Maritime Commission. The Federal Maritime Commission is an independent regulatory agency responsible for the regulation of ocean shipping.
Cordero is no stranger to Long Beach. He is a deeply rooted community activist and a vocal advocate for Long Beach’s Latino community. His new appointment, if confirmed by the Senate, will most likely take him away from Long Beach back to Washington, D.C. for a full-time commitment. However, his impact on Long Beach will continue and that is something to watch for in the coming year as his rise to one of the top trade posts in the country will no doubt have an impact back home.
Scott Jones and Robin Jones, We Love LB
Brother and sister Scott and Robin Jones love Long Beach. So much so that they started a local non-profit and named it We Love LB. We Love LB grew from an idea just two years ago to just over 25,000 Facebook fans dedicated to knowing and serving the people and neighborhoods of Long Beach.
Their team of supporters reach out to Long Beach high schools to promote service learning, they host service focused, community events all throughout the city, and they form partnerships that bring organizations together to share ideas and resources to improve Long Beach. Their passion and determination is working. More and more people are not just watching their work, they are actively engaging, too.