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Desert Companion

Influence List :Quiet ones

Tod StoryTod Story, Executive Director, ACLU

Story is usually behind the scenes, but as the newish executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, he has worked directly on issues of equity and justice, including issues of police force in Southern Nevada. He served as district director for former Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and as an aide to Sen. Richard Bryan, as a founding steering committee member of the Human Rights Campaign-Nevada, as a board member of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth and a board member of the LGBTQ Center of Las Vegas. His role with the ACLU thrusts Story into the forefront of any number of high-profile issues. — Launce Rake

 

Rebecca Lambe, Democratic Strategist

Widely credited with running the ground game that got Harry Reid so easily re-elected in 2010 — she was Reid's "secret weapon," according to the New Yorker — Lambe is, according to Silver State political wisdom, the most influential operative you never see. We're told no Democrat runs for a major office unless she sanctions it.

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Missy YoungMissy Young, Executive Vice President, Switch Data Centers

As executive vice president of colocation at Switch Data Centers, "the most reliable technology ecosystem in the world," Young sells two things: her company's services and Las Vegas. The latter is considerably tougher. For this reason, she is dedicated to economic diversification and upping the city's STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, particularly for Hispanic students. Young was recently named the first-ever female chair of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance's executive committee and sits on the I.T. Sector Council for the Governor's Office of Economic Development, as well as the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Research. She's an in-the-know agenda-setter whose powerhouse status is summed up by the closing line of her Twitter bio: "Yes I do just walk into Mordor." — Kristy Totten

Yvanna Cancela

Yvanna Cancela, Political Director, Culinary Union

When it comes to Hispanic political organizing,  Cancela is the up-and-coming player here, say political observers. Just 26, she’s already been honored by the White House for her efforts to marshal support for immigration reform. "Whether it’s organizing the picket lines, defending our immigrant families or helping a housekeeper fight for her rights," says Leo Murrieta, regional field director of Mi Familia Vota, "Yvanna's role as a leader within the Culinary has helped move the Latino community forward faster than ever before."

 

Mel GoodwinMel Goodwin, Program Director, The Gay and Lesbian Center

"This is just a very socially conservative state," Goodwin told the Sun in November, on the occasion of Nevada's first week-long celebration of transgender rights. Already the face of The Center for many in the gay community (CityLife named her a local hero in 2012), Goodwin added to her portfolio with a successful Trans Pride Week in late 2013, raising awareness of a community that's still subject to bias. It doesn't hurt, influence-wise, that she also has ties to the Downtown Project.

 

 

William S. Boyd, Executive Chairman, Boyd Gaming

No casino mogul wields his influence as quietly or is as beloved for good deeds as Bill Boyd. One manifestation of his influence is the eponymous law school at UNLV, founded in 1997. Boyd has invested $30 million in it. He also wasn’t too proud to also assist in endowing the William F. Harrah Hotel College. Boyd helped raise the $13 million needed to build the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, a downtown project — and where would downtown be without Boyd Gaming’s casinos and their faithful Hawaiian clientele, a Vegas mainstay through bad times and good? — David McKee

 

Dan Klaich, Chancellor, Nevada System of Higher Education

It's hard to recall a time when Nevada's university and college system hasn't faced a challenge, typically fiscal. What makes higher ed's problems worth extra attention is its role in the Silver State's future: For Nevada to participate in the technology and knowledge fields that will define the economies of the 21st century, the state will need more educated citizens. Klaich's stewardship of the system, — now entering its fifth year facing issues ranging from UNLV's presidency to a Legislature demanding more accountability — will have a lot to do with that outcome.

 

Andrew Donner CEO, Resort Gaming Group

In September 2012, Business Insider ran a package titled "Tony Hsieh is spending $350 million to change Las Vegas." It was accompanied by 37 photos, just three of which show all or part of Donner, CEO of Resort Gaming Group. He probably deserved a more ample representation, as one photo caption suggested: "Developer Andrew Donner ... handles most of the real-estate transactions for Downtown Project." Hsieh gets most of the media adoration, but Donner swings some weight himself — Resort Gaming Group owns the former City Hall that's now the Zappos HQ; he assists Hsieh's Downtown Project on real-estate matters; RGC developed Triple George and Mob Bar on Third Street and operates the Timbers chain. Some insist he'd have little influence if not for his ties to Hsieh, but his influence downtown is hard to deny.

 

Marek ButeMarek Bute, Attorney

Should we need a Pied Piper for altruistic inspiration, look no further than this enthusiastic attorney/mobilizer, who learned at age 3 the power of civil engagement when his emigrated parents in Memphis rallied to free their son from communist Poland. Thirty years later, he’s harnessed that collaborative spirit within a disconnected LGBT community as board of trustees president at Aid for AIDS of Nevada. He also convinced his firm, Snell & Wilmer, to serve as pro bono co-counsel for the legal challenge to Nevada’s gay marriage ban. And when his own wedding plans were rejected by a Mexican resort, national LGBT bloggers rushed to expose the biased property. — Mike Prevatt

 

JW BrownJoe W. Brown, Attorney, Drone Advocate

Brown has been discussing drones since before there was a drone discussion. In fact, he's the reason the rest of us are talking about it. A military enthusiast and 30-year participant in Las Vegas' various economic-development efforts, Brown is a thought-leader when it comes to the little guys in the sky. In May 2012, Gov. Sandoval appointed him and dozen or so others, including scientists, engineers and former Air Force officers, to apply to become one of six federal drone test sites, which could create 15,000 jobs and generate $2.5 billion to $8 billion annually. "I've been the guy that's been the liaison between the political side, the educational side and the scientific side," Brown said. — Kristy Totten

 

Jay Brown, Attorney

Gaming and liquor licenses and approvals for development plans pit special interests against the public interest or each other. Then municipal officials pick winners. In the decades since Southern Nevada started growing in earnest, perhaps no one has helped rack up victories for his clients in those contests more consistently than attorney and lobbyist Brown. Yes, he famously/infamously partnered with Harry Reid on a lucrative land deal. But while Brown is very close to Reid, he shrewdly contributes heavily to politicians of both parties.

Terry Murphy

Terry Murphy, President, Strategic Solutions

The most influential person you never see — that's the word on Murphy, a consultant for businesses and government agencies on a wide range of issues. She has a magic Rolodex — her connections are legendary, accumulated during a career that's included high-ranking positions in Clark County government and an influential homebuilders group. Crucially, she's not generally seen as a cynical manipulator, but rather has a reputation as a straight-shooter, underscored by a record of volunteerism and community involvement. Not only is she president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, she also champions such community groups as Casa de Luz.

 

Jen HarneyJen Harney, activist

With three kids and a business/community center to organize, Harney seemed an unlikely person to take on Metro and the DA over sidewalk chalk protests outside the police HQ last summer. But when it came to free speech, she didn't back down. Facing withering media attention, the DA dropped the charges. "An epic win," Harney called it — a timely reminder that you can fight the power. She'll keep the art-centric activism going, opening a place for community arts and supply recyling in the Arts District early this year. — Launce Rake

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