Power & The New Establishment

Minnesotans don’t talk about power. Your neighbor might be your boss—might be the boss of a lot of people—but you don’t make a big deal about it and neither does she. We’re not impressed by authority. Not like Chicagoans or New Yorkers. We talk instead of community, which stokes our civic pride and our sense of equality, sometimes at the expense of realizing grand visions, celebrating leadership, and offering Martin Scorcese something—anything—to make a movie about. Well, somebody’s in charge. And like everything else, that somebody is changing. It’s no longer just the guy with the biggest cigar. It’s the woman with the website, the dude on a bike, the student in the wheelchair, the punter with balls. Here, in a snapshot of Twin Cities influence—debatable and incomplete by its very nature—our list of 75 leaders now calling the shots.

The 75 Most Influential People in the Twin Cities

[1] Gregg Steinhafel CEO of Target Corp. If all he did was sign the paychecks of some 28,000 Minnesotans as head of the state’s largest private employer, he’d still be top dog. But his own paychecks comprise the highest straight salary among local CEOs, and he’s greatly expanded Target’s Twin Cities footprint. There’s no escaping the company’s benevolent rule—bullseye.

[2] Mark Dayton Governor. His real test: leading with a DFL majority.

3] Amy Klobuchar U.S. Senator.  Most popular senator in the country and arguably for good reason.

[4] Al Franken U.S. Senator. Destined for an easier election in 2014.

[5] Greg Page CEO of Cargill. Head of the country’s largest private company and a major voice in how to feed a projected 9 billion people.

[6] Paul Thissen Speaker of the House. Leads with the first DFL-majority trifecta—House, Senate, and governorship—since 1990.

[7] Zygi Wilf Owner of the Minnesota Vikings. Shook a stadium out of empty state pockets.

[8] R.T. Rybak Mayor of Minneapolis. Emerged from a recession and the city-squeezing Pawlenty era with miraculous budget discipline, while stoking a billion-dollar building boom, keeping the Vikings in town, and helping keep Obama in the White House (as a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee). It’s hard to imagine Minneapolis without him, and if he gets his wish—a political or executive job that keeps him in town—we won’t have to.

[9] Barbara Johnson President of the Minneapolis City Council. Without Johnson’s support, no Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

[10] Chris Coleman Mayor of St. Paul. A key backer of the Central Corridor line and a fierce advocate for his city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, Coleman has earned the endorsement of Hillary Clinton and, in 2014, he’s expected to head the National League of Cities.

[11] Stephen Hemsley CEO of UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group ascended to the Dow Jones Industrial Index last fall, the only healthcare insurer on the list and the second Minnesota firm, with 3M.

[12] John Nienstedt Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A doctrinaire in an epic battle to hold the Catholic line.

[13] Marilyn Carlson Nelson Outgoing chair of Carlson. The wealthiest Minnesotan (along with her sister, Barbara) and an influential booster of businesswomen.

[14] Barbara Carlson Gage President of the Carlson Family Foundation. A major philanthropist in support of children.

[15] Joe Mauer Catcher, Minnesota Twins. Adrian Peterson may play better, but no local athlete is better for business.

[16] Eric Kaler President of the University of Minnesota. Keeping quality while fighting privatization.

[17] Linda Cohen Chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Demanding accountability.

[18] Gail Boudreaux CEO of UnitedHealthcare. Managing more than 50,000 employees, overseeing the health benefits of some 37 million people, and moving up Fortune’s list of the most powerful women.

[19] Mary Brainerd CEO of HealthPartners. HealthPartners’ merger with Park Nicollet, combining insurance and medical care, offers a glimpse of the future.

[20] Ralph Burnet City shaper. Synonymous with real estate and owner of the Foshay Tower’s W Hotel and Le Meridien Chambers hotel (featuring his art collection), Burnet has done more than any other mogul to shape Minneapolis’s image as a forward-thinking place.


[21] Chris Kluwe Minnesota Vikings punter, activist. Few athletes have used their celebrity to argue as relentlessly against entrenched injustice—and with as much refreshing candor. His first sally in the same-sex marriage debate was a doozy, insisting that marriage equality wouldn’t turn straight men into “lustful cockmonsters.” Then, in opinion pieces, commercials, and even a bit of theater, Kluwe eviscerated the arguments of anti-equality advocates with humor and precision. For this, he wound up atop Salon.com’s brainy list of Sexiest Men of the Year.

[22] Mary Kiffmeyer State representative, current ALEC state chair. Voters rejected her push for photo ID. But don’t expect her to stop pushing.

[23] Norm Coleman Super-PAC leader. As chairman of the Congressional Leadership Fund, he met his goal: maintaining a GOP majority in the House of Representatives.

[24] Alida Messinger Philanthropist, Democratic donor. The Rockefeller heiress and ex-wife of Governor Dayton keeps campaigns aloft while supporting  quality-of-life issues.

[25] Richard Carlbom Campaign manager for Minnesotans United. A proven politico even before the amendment debate, he was mayor of St. Joseph at age 23 and managed Congressman Tim Walz’s 2010 campaign.

[26] Garrison Keillor Showman. Also: author, bookstore proprietor, progressive pugilist, icon.

[27] Bernadeia Johnson Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. Pushed for “focused instruction” and teacher evaluations based partly on test scores.

[28] Janeé Harteau Minneapolis Police Chief. Building a proactive force focused on more than arrests.

[29] Stuart Ackerberg Developer. No one has transformed the Minneapolis landscape more than Ackerberg, from Uptown’s MoZaic building to the North Side’s West Broadway.

[30] David Shea Designer. The go-to guy for restaurants and retail has shaped entire avenues, from Hennepin’s Solera and Chambers hotel to Nicollet’s Dakota and JB Hudson.

[31] Susan Haigh Chair of the Metropolitan Council. Since ascending to the top of the Met Council in 2011, Haigh, who also heads the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, has used her leverage to prioritize light rail and affordable housing. Progress on the Central and Southwest Corridor lines—and plans for affordable housing surrounding them—suggest it’s working.

[32] Stanley S. Hubbard CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation. Has his hands in everything from KSTP to satellite TV to mufflers for private jets.

[33] Patricia Torres Ray State senator. The first Latino elected to the Minnesota Senate, in 2006, sits on several powerful committees. Her power of persuasion, as majority whip, led John Marty to tap her as his gubernatorial running mate in 2010.

[34] Peggy Lucas Co-founder of Brighton Development. The force behind the riverfront revival in Minneapolis.

[35] Joe Dowling Artistic Director of the Guthrie Theater. The Guthrie season sets the tone for civic dialogue—about race, class, history—like no other institution in town.

[36] Christine Morse CEO of the Margaret Cargill Foundation. Upon the death of Margaret Cargill, in 2006, her estate became the largest private foundation in Minnesota. Morse now directs $6 billion toward the arts, environment, animal welfare, etc.

[37] Alberto Monserrate CEO of LCN (Latino Communications Network). Few people understand immigration to the Twin Cities, particularly in the Latino community, like Monserrate. Arriving from Puerto Rico in 1984, he helped create a Spanish-language media empire, including La Prensa newspaper and two radio stations. Now he chairs the Minneapolis School Board.

[38] Jack Jablonski Role model. Paralyzed by a check to the back, the high-school hockey player touched off a national conversation about making the sport safer. More than 17,000 athletes have taken “Jack’s pledge” to play the game more safely.

[39] Tammy Aaberg Anti-bullying activist. The mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide, she’s pushed the Anoka-Hennepin school district to settle an unprecedented suit alleging a hostile environment and started Justin’s Gift, a nonprofit supporting gay youth.

[40] April Todd-Malmlov Director of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange. Hard to think of a more fraught, or important, job right now.

[41] Sona Mehring CEO of CaringBridge. Her social network for sharing news about people with serious health issues has more than 300,000 personal sites and, in 2011, had more than 43 million visitors. With a growing list of powerful partners, including the AARP and Mayo Clinic, it’s become an essential part of how we live in America.

[42] Nancy Barnes Editor of the Star Tribune. Setting the news agenda for the state.

[43] Kaywin Feldman Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. One blockbuster show after another, while positioning the MIA for sustainability.

[44] Olga Viso Director of the Walker Art Center. Unprecedented community outreach. Also: cat videos.

[45] Judy Dayton Philanthropist. You can hardly throw a painting in Minneapolis without hitting an arts venue supported by Dayton and her late husband, Ken. And as a charter member of the One Percent Club of über-philanthropists, she still writes some very big checks.


[46] John Piper Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The evangelical thinker has a mega-church, 77 books to his name, and the No. 11 spot on Preaching magazine’s list of the 25 most influential pastors of the past 25 years.

[47] Charlie Vig Chairman of the Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The new head of the tribe behind Mystic Lake inherits an enormous and quiet philanthropic mission—and a squeeze on tribal gaming.

[48] Rafael Ortega Ramsey County commissioner. Ortega nearly brought the Vikings to Arden Hills. The loss won’t distract him from quieter battles for sustainable cities and against sex trafficking.

[49] Philip Bither Performing arts curator for the Walker Art Center. The Twin Cities’ ultimate tastemaker.

[50] L. Kelley Lindquist President of Artspace. Developer of the Cowles Center for the Performing Arts and myriad other art-related buildings nationwide.

[51] Dana Nelson Founder of GiveMN (Give to the Max Day). Raised more than $65 million for good causes in four years. Yeah: wow.

[52] Dennis Nguyen Chairman of New Asia Partners private equity firm. When Governor Dayton needed a wingman to pitch Minnesota businesses in Asia, he tapped Nguyen, who moves easily between Minnesota and Shanghai.

[53] Peter Bell Former chair of the Met Council. His direct and widely sought insights range from affordable housing (unlikely to resolve social issues) to drop-outs (let ’em go).

[54] John Knapp Lobbyist. The Winthrop & Weinstine shoulder-squeezer has lobbied at the capitol since 1977, most recently defeating an attempt to collect sales tax from out-of-state online retailers.

[55] Belinda Jensen KARE-11 meteorologist. Few people hold more power over Minnesotans than its weather forecasters. But none wield that influence with the same appeal as Jensen, whose encouragement of girls in science, for example, exemplifies the new two-way street of media and the public.

[56] Richard and Larry D’Amico Restaurateurs. Synonymous with dining in the Twin Cities.

[57] Phil Roberts CEO of Parasole Restaurant Holdings. Impresario of guilty pleasures, from Manny’s to Chino Latino.

[58] Javier Morillo-Alicea President of SEIU Local 26. The charismatic leader of janitors and other service workers has pressured Washington for common-sense immigration rules.

[59] Sondra Samuels CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone. She aims to replicate the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone on Minneapolis’s North Side, working with schools, parents, and partners like the U’s Center for Early Education and Development to move kids “from cradle to career.” She has a $28 million federal grant to expand to 1,200 families by 2014.

[60] Ken Charles Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills. One day before General Mills’ CEO denounced the proposed marriage amendment, Charles set the stage, testifying before the U.S. Senate in support of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

[61] Laysha Ward President of Target Community Relations and Target Foundation. The public face of Target doesn’t just hand out checks. She’s thinking about change in education, healthcare, etc., and talking about it at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

[62] Nancy Feldman CEO of UCare. A former assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Health, Feldman single-handedly reduced Minnesota’s budget shortfall by $30 million when UCare unexpectedly returned “extra” profits to the state—one of the insurer’s biggest clients.

[63] Michael Crusham Market manager for Clear Channel. Cities 97, KDWB, KFAN, etc.

[64] Tom Barnard Host of the KQRS radio morning show. The old dog behind Minnesota’s most popular morning show is still learning new tricks, launching a podcast last summer.

[65] Bill Pohlad Minnesota Twins co-owner, film producer. From Brokeback Mountain to Tree of Life, he’s the go-to guy for getting challenging visions on screens.

[66] Kam and Kevyan Talebi Co-owners of Kaskaid Hospitality. Crave. CraveCrave. CraveCraveCraveCrave.

[67] Jason DeRusha WCCO anchorman, food writer, social-media whiz. If anyone understands where mass media is going—please tell us! No, seriously, it’s DeRusha.

[68] Michael Brodkorb Political strategist. Republican leaders thought they had put down their attack dog last winter. But he bit back and is now a public-affairs consultant.

[69] Bao Vang Head of the Hmong American Partnership. A power vacuum remains in the Hmong community, but Vang looks out for its interests, heading the largest Hmong nonprofit.

[70] Joe Spencer St. Paul director of arts and culture. The “coolness king” is heating up St. Paul with new festivals, public art, food trucks, and entertainment nodes like the one surrounding the Amsterdam Bar and Hall.

[71] Pamela Alexander Retired judge, head of the Council on Crime and Justice. A powerful advocate for racial equity in the justice system.

[72] David Safar Music director at 89.3 The Current. A lot of musicians owe Safar a big wet kiss.

[73] Seimone Augustus Minnesota Lynx guard. The Lynx’s all-time leading scorer helped revive the state’s sports mojo with a championship title in 2011. Then she nabbed gold at the London Olympics. She also came out for same-sex marriage, telling the Associated Press, “Everyone thinks that the WNBA is one big lesbo party anyway.”

[74] Shaun Murphy Minneapolis cycling czar. He coordinated the multi-million-dollar federal initiative to build out the city’s cycling and walking infrastructure, making him the archnemesis of Portland.

[75] Dessa Hip-hop artist. From headlining concerts to talking ethics at Augsburg College’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum to wonking out on MPR’s Friday Roundtable to releasing her eponymous Elixery lipstick, Dessa is the Renaissance woman of rap, the philosopher queen of hip-hop.


The Breakdown

A closer look at our Power List people

PROFESSION  Politics 25%   Business 19%   Entertainment 13%   Art/design 9%   Philanthropy 9%   Media 9%   Sports 8%   Education 5%   Religion  3%   SEX  41% Women, 59% Men   MOST POPULAR NAMES  1) Joe  2) John  3) Mary   YOUNGEST  Jack Jablonski, 17  OLDEST  Judy Dayton, 84   UNDER 50  36%   WHITE  75%   PEOPLE OF COLOR  25%

Where Power Shops

“I rarely wear anything that’s not from here,” says St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman at Heimie’s Haberdashery, a short stroll from City Hall. Proprietor Anthony Andler has his suit size memorized: 44 long. But he’s not ready to mimic Richard Roundtree—yes, Shaft—who recently bought a red fedora. For a lively account of shopping with the mayor (surprise cameo: Don Shelby): mnmo.com/power.

How Power Lives

A century ago, when power in Minnesota shifted from the salons of Summit Avenue to the boardrooms of Minneapolis, there were no addresses more desirable than those around Lake of the Isles and Lake Minnetonka. Now, as the nature of power itself is changing, we wondered if these classic enclaves were morphing as well. What could we learn from who lives there now?  Our conclusion: the stereotypes of Kenwood as a bastion of liberal philanthropists and Wayzata of conservative entrepreneurs are outdated, reflecting a new pluralism of power. But they’re still the place to be. Here, a house tour of the lakes, noting the prominent neighbors who now call them home.

Where Power Dies

No hallowed ground holds a greater cross-section of influential Minnesotans than Lakewood Cemetery, on the eastern shore of Lake Calhoun. From Paul Wellstone to Tiny Tim, Piper to Jaffray, it’s the place to make a lasting statement, our eternal civic dialogue. Here we note the notables, along with the relative size of their monuments and any parting thoughts.

Power Party People

We asked the top arts groups in town: Whom do they never fail to invite to galas? Here, the old and new guard of cultural leaders.

The Must Haves
Judy Dayton
Muffy MacMillan
Margaret and Angus Wurtele
Elizabeth Redleaf
Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad
Chip and Vicki Emery
John and Ruth Huss
Karen Bachman
Art and Martha Kaemmer
Karen and John Larsen
Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison
Fred and Gloria Sewell
Nivin MacMillan
Beverly Grossman
Burt and Rusty Cohen
Blythe Brenden
Nancy and John Lindahl
Robyn Hansen and John Clarey
John Nassif
Colleen McGough Wood and Brad Wood
Lou and Francine Nanne
Glen Taylor
Jane and Ogden Confer
Dick and Nancy Nicholson
John and Nancy Burdige
Barb Davis and Fran Davis
Mary W. Vaughan

The Up and Comers
Cornelia and Eric Dayton
Karin and Dean Phillips
Sally and Maurice Blanks
Abbi Rose and Michael Blum
Mitzi and Brent Magid

The Creative Class*
Scotty Reynolds
Kate Iverson
Scott Mayer
Annie and Peter Remes
Dustee and Justin Jenkins
Dan Jensen
Hollie Mae Schultz
Rajni and Rajiv Shah

*As defined by one arts org:
“Well-networked creative and
artistic professionals who add
fabulosity to any event.”



To see behind the scenes and learn more about this story, read “The Power Issue.” Also, read “Built to Lead,” about the state’s greatest breeder of leaders.