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The Power 100 (No. 100 - 76)

By , - Last modified: February 6, 2017 at 6:56 AM
100. The voters (NR)
100. The voters (NR)
Remember them? If you’re a politician, you’d better. The silent majority just showed they are tired of being taken for granted. And instead of talking to them, you’d better listen to what they have to say. There’s never been a time when the power of a single vote, and get-out-the-vote moments, have been so important. The message, we must admit, goes as much to the media and the pollsters as the politicians. Figuring certain communities will vote a certain way, or even vote at all, should never be assumed again. “A lot of people learned a lot of things about voters this past election,” one insider said. “It will be interesting to see how the next election goes.” In Jersey, it comes this year, when voters pick the next governor. And that vote will have more impact on next year’s list than any other person.
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Remember them? If you’re a politician, you’d better. The silent majority just showed they are tired of being taken for granted. And instead of talking to them, you’d better listen to what they have to say. There’s never been a time when the power of a single vote, and get-out-the-vote moments, have been so important. The message, we must admit, goes as much to the media and the pollsters as the politicians. Figuring certain communities will vote a certain way, or even vote at all, should never be assumed again. “A lot of people learned a lot of things about voters this past election,” one insider said. “It will be interesting to see how the next election goes.” In Jersey, it comes this year, when voters pick the next governor. And that vote will have more impact on next year’s list than any other person. Is there anyone who wouldn’t take his call or his counsel? The state is lucky to have such a revered elder statesman who, when called upon, can influence any conversation by the depth of his knowledge and the quality of his character. As we move into a new world of politics, many in the state willingly look back to older times, when Kean was running the state. “His presence and gravitas can not be overstated,” one observer said. “It would be great if we could have someone of his ilk again.” That being said, it is clear that Kean still has influence. “How could he not?” asked another. “He knows everything and anything about the state.” Perhaps it’s fitting that he’s No. 99, a number synonomous with ‘The Great One.’ President Trump wants to bring manufacturing back to the United States. And it only makes sense for Jersey to be a landing spot, considering the quality of the workforce and Trump's familiarity with the state. The administration's first call should go to Kennedy, the solid head of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. He is ready to help build up what the state has going while adding more companies. It's the old joke: She's the person you hope you never have to call. But when it comes to crisis management and image and brand consulting, there are few better than the head of Evergreen Partners. “The trick is, she's always behind the scenes,” one insider said. “Everybody knows her. There doesn't seem to be anybody of any regard in the state who doesn't know her or hasn't talked to her. She's been a player in one form or another for 30 years.” Zita has been pushed for the list for years. This year, the co-founder of Kaufman Zita Group pushes through and makes it. “She’s one of the top public affairs people in Trenton,” one insider said. “The recognition is overdue because it’s certainly recognized by others.” This trio of legislators may be in line for everything from Assembly Speaker to lieutenant governor. Is there any truth to it? Better question: Does it matter? In an election year, speculation alone raises your stature. Who? Fair question, but you’ll hear about them soon enough. Scudder is the state treasurer, while Steinhauer is the president of the New Jersey Education Association. On Scudder, said one insider: “He’s the treasurer of a budget that can’t be balanced. That’s where the fight is going to be. To me, he’s going to be in the power position. Do you think (Gov. Chris) Christie is going to want to deal with that? Scudder is going to be on the front line.” As for Steinhauer: “If he doesn’t make a deal as part of this budget, it’s going to screw the state. There will be fiscal implications. If they just hold fast and be obstinate, nothing is going to get done and it’s going to take more money away from infrastructure. The pension problem is going to strangle Christie’s successor. We’ll get a preview of that this year and it’s not going to be pretty.” The marketing, public relations and government affairs expert is connected to far more power people in the state than many realize. “Is there anybody he doesn’t know?” said one insider. And then there’s this: “There’s no one better,” another insider said. “If you’re going to have a public relations person on the list, he’s the one. He’s the master of the PR world and he’s very influential with people on the list.” Brown is the powerful chair of the board of governors at Rutgers, who may one day have to lead a search to find a replacement for Robert Barchi, when the president decides to retire. Hobbs is the athletic director who hopes his hires for the school’s football and men’s basketball team can find enough success to allow the athletic department to stand on its own financially. Still don't know her? Look her up. Her digital marketing company, Marketsmith Inc., is one of the best in the state and heads a collection of companies which do more than $100 million in revenue. But it is her commitment to charity and the community that sets her apart and makes her a model for how companies can be civic-minded and support the state and its residents. One insider, after truly understanding the depth of her work, had only one response: “She's a unicorn.” Gaining a seat on Horizon’s board was just the latest example of how connected Medina is. As the head of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, he has companies clamoring for the opportunity to understand how they can reach his ever-growing constituency. It’s hard for association heads to make the power list, but Hart — as anyone who knows her will tell you — is an exception. The founder and head of BioNJ is recognized globally for her work promoting life sciences, still a key sector in New Jersey. Saker owns and operates more than two dozen ShopRites in the state, but his involvement in the food industry goes much deeper. Saker is taking over as the head of the New Jersey Food Council, a group his father helped found and was first leader of, nearly 50 years ago. As one of the largest owners of ShopRites in the state, his influence in one of the state’s biggest industries (food) is huge. But his power crosses industries. He is on numerous boards; most notably, he is chairman of Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation. Here’s two things you may not know, according to an insider: “He’s one of the most philanthropic people in the state, helping so many people; no one knows about it.” And then there’s this: “Every major politician comes by to talk.” Much praise for the head of NJPAC because he uses the arts organization as a vehicle to drive so much more, one insider said. “This is a guy who so completely thinks outside the box of nonprofit fundraising. He’s really pushing on development. This is a guy who is so committed to the role of the arts in the state and in Newark, he’s formed associations with other corporate leaders. He has the most far-reaching arts engagement program that I’m aware of.” Any discussion about Cole always starts with a joke about the seemingly neverending construction boom at Montclair State University, where she is president. But that’s what happens when you rebuild and remake a higher ed institution into one of the state’s finest. “What she has done there is remarkable,” one insider said. “The new buildings and programs are top notch. She deserves a lot of credit.” The superlatives are never in short supply when insiders describe Davis, an executive vice president in charge of corporate affairs at RWJBarnabas Health. Smart … driven … prepared … professional. And then there’s this: “Make sure you don’t cross her; she is more powerful than a lot of people realize.” Her impact goes beyond health care and Trenton. Davis is president of the Executive Women of New Jersey, an organization doing great work to promote not just women but diversity and inclusion issues. Castner is another top corporate and regulatory official, making sure Trenton is well aware of the views of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “Castner was a solid pickup for Horizon; few are as well connected,” one insider said. “The OMNIA issue appears to have passed, but that doesn’t make him any less influential or any less important to Horizon. This is a guy you want to have on your side. Even more importantly, he’s a guy you don’t want to go up against.” Siekerka continues to build the New Jersey Business & Industry Association into a force that rivals the state chamber in significance and power. “Michele has been great since taking over,” one insider said. “She instantly earned the respect of the business community.” The good news: The two organizations are willing to work together and often do. Many feel his impact as the leader of the State Chamber of Commerce grows in importance. “Whenever there is an election, candidates always want to know how to get in good with the business community, no matter what they saw outwardly,” one insider. “Tom is very well connected.” It starts in his own board room. “That’s one of the most powerful boards in the state. It’s something that really helps set the state chamber apart.” Verizon’s point person in Trenton (and elsewhere) always gets nods from our insiders. “She’s a government relations person of high class,” one said. “She’s invisible to some extent, but that’s how government relations people are supposed to be. But don’t be fooled, there are few better.” Five years into job, Farvardin has succeed in elevating Stevens Institute of Technology to an even higher level. Applications are up, both in quality and quantity, and the school’s graduates regularly enjoy one of the highest return on investment in the state. The world is rushing to find more STEM graduates; Stevens is producing them as well as anyone. “They are a hidden gem,” said one. The Princeton University president is sending out the message that the school wants to be more involved with the business community in the state. The news is welcomed by many who felt the prestigious university was more concerned with its global reach than its backyard. “They need to be more active here,” one insider said. “They have unlimited funds; they can do anything they want. They can come up with more things to be more active and be more of a connector.” The Trump administration is promising to deliver huge dollars to repair and update the country’s infrastructure. A number of top engineering, construction and architecture firms figure to benefit — and any number of them could fill this spot. One insider made a convincing push for Maser, of Maser Consulting. “Look at the wide variety of work they are doing around the state and the region,” they said. “Maser is as good as any.” As the executive director of the State League of Municipalities, he yields a lot of power and influence. This year, because of the recent affordable housing ruling, it’s even greater. “He will do the battles with Kevin Walsh,” one insider said, referring to the head of the Fair Share Housing Center. “He’s going to be pivotal on COAH. As the head of the municipalities, he’ll have a huge role in figuring out how this will all play out.”

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