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Aaron Kremer, Kim Gray and The Rev. Tyrone Nelson Photo by Sarah Walor
Every town has a roster of personalities who command attention. Although there are many more names worth mentioning, here are a few who commit a fair amount of passion and energy to the region — whether we like it or not
Jim Ukrop, Bob Mooney, Andy Stefanovich, Ted Chandler
Partners, New Richmond Ventures
The four men behind New Richmond Ven-tures have built separate reputations for almost syrupy-sweet civic boosterism that is both Richmond-centric and far-reaching. Ukrop, Mooney and Chandler come from the upper reaches of the region's corporate-power set. Stefanovich, the younger creative, shares his vision through TED Talks and the firm called Prophet.
Virginia attorney general
Even though he's not technically a Richmonder, it's hard to ignore "The Cooch" and his unabashedly ideological presence. And since he's already tossed his hat into the ring in the run for governor this November, Cuccinelli's notable policy-altering opinions will likely remain the talk of the town.
Eight years ago, a young Del. McClellan, who represents parts of Richmond and Henrico County, stood on a stage at the Richmond Marriott to introduce presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. A certain charismatic Illinois senator eventually won the day, but McClellan's star continued rising — she's been a super-delegate at the past two Democratic National Conventions. And more than accruing titles, McClellan has used her powers as a force for good on innumerable issues, including payday lending and a variety of women's issues.
City Council president
Look, is that the new City Council president? Or a Buddy Holly impersonator with a gavel and a juris doctor degree? Second-district councilman Charles Samuels brings an "oh gosh-golly" brand of politics to the top City Council seat this year. But he's hardly been timid while awaiting the mantle of power. In his previous four years, Samuels was vocal — on such issues as the Downtown Arts District, the city's noise ordinance and a parking-enforcement controversy on West Broad Street.
Executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia
When Kent Willis, the very recognizable face of Virginia's ACLU, announced plans to retire last year after 25 years on the job, successor Gastanaga was worried that her own face might get lost in Willis' long shadow. She needn't have worried. After more than 30 years building her own brand as a champion for legal underdogs (she's well known around Capitol Square as the voice of LGBT and Latino causes), Gastanaga may well chart a course worthy of Willis — but one that follows her own star.
James "Jay" Stegmaier
Chesterfield County administrator
With the retirement of longtime Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett, Stegmaier now occupies a top rung in the region's politics. Already a force to be reckoned with, he was one of the brains that made possible the plan that became the Greater Richmond Convention Center. A champion for regional cooperation, he is managing to convince his county board of supervisors to think regionally and to peek outside the tea party tent that's dominated Chesterfield politics of late.
Project manager, Capital Region Collaborative
With more than two years spent surveying thousands of Richmonders of all shapes, sizes and stripes, the Capital Region Collaborative is pretty certain it knows what we want. And it's Wendy Burtner-Owens' job not only to tell us, but to convince our various city and county leaders, along with nonprofits and other stakeholder groups, to work together to enact the regionalist vision captured in the CRC's recently released report, Building the Framework.
Founder and editor of richmondbizsense.com
After spinning his wheels as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahey and as a part-time reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 26-year-old Aaron Kremer took the same leap he loves writing about. "The American dream is essentially a business story," says Kremer, who launched Richmond BizSense on a wing, a prayer and a small plot of server space. Five years later, his former Times-Dispatch colleagues often follow, as they say in journalism speak, his lede.
Richmond School Board member
Elected to Richmond's school board in 2008, Gray quickly emerged as the odd woman out. When the board took up a measure that would have silenced minority opinions, she spoke out and killed it. When Mayor Dwight C. Jones appointed a task force last year to scrutinize school finances, many of their cost-control and oversight proposals were cribbed from Gray's ideas. In November 2012, an almost entirely new board rode a Gray-championed reform platform into office. She's the odd woman out no more.
The Rev. Tyrone Nelson
Church pastor, Henrico County supervisor
As pastor of Jackson Ward's Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, Nelson inherits one of Richmond's most important African-American church legacies. Now, as Henrico County's second elected black member of the Board of Supervisors (representing Varina), Nelson is making waves in county politics. He supported the move to eliminate prayer before meetings, stood strong to preserve historic New Market Road, and has a bone to pick with Henrico County Public Schools over racial equity.