Axios Power Players: 8 influential people in Denver
Denver's power players are influential people who've made a difference in our community in 2022.
Why it matters: We're rounding out the year with a newsletter dedicated to those individuals who made headlines, advanced major projects and worked behind the scenes to shape the city.
How it works: The eight people we highlight are elected officials, community activists and key members of the business community.
- We made selections based on their expertise, a reader poll and through interviews with influential people.
- The unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising in any way.
1. Jared Polis
Beyond the power inherent to his position, Gov. Jared Polis emerged this year as the state's most liked elected official and its most visible leader.
- He was triumphant in a year of hardship that started with the devastation wrought by the Marshall Fire in Boulder County and ended with five dead at a gay nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs.
2. The Walton family
Few families can compete with the clout the Waltons carry in Colorado and beyond.
Biggest move of 2022: Rob Walton's $4.65 billion purchase of the Denver Broncos in August established the family as the most influential force in Colorado. The heirs to the Walmart fortune have infused tens of millions of dollars into the state's most prominent institutions — government agencies, schools, sports teams, media outlets and nonprofits.
By the numbers: Across Colorado politics, individual members of the Walton family have donated more than $2 million to state-level campaigns from across the aisle since 2015.
3. Phil Washington
Phil Washington was appointed in July to lead Denver International Airport, the largest economic engine in the state.
Biggest move of 2022: Amid looming corruption allegations related to his time leading L.A. Metro, Washington not only persuaded the Denver City Council to confirm his appointment and double the airport renovation cost to $2.3 billion, but also earned a nomination from President Biden to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.
The bottom line: Despite a series of setbacks, Washington continues to get his way.
4. Elisabeth Epps
Community activist Elisabeth Epps is not afraid to challenge the status quo. And in 2022 she emerged with big victories against the legal and political orthodoxy in Denver.
Biggest move of 2022: Epps served as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Denver Police Department for its use of force to quell George Floyd protesters and won a $1 million verdict against the city.
- Months later, she emerged from controversy to defeat a well-known Democrat in a state House primary race and went on to easily win the seat this November.
What to watch: Epps is already making herself known in the House Democratic caucus as a loud voice on the party's far left.
5. Westside Investment Partners
- The development company has also shaped local politics, donating tens of thousands of dollars to city politicians and funneling about $640,000 into the 2021 city election to promote the development of the golf course.
Biggest move of 2022: After a years-long debate, Westside successfully pushed through its controversial development plan for the 155-acre site.
- The blueprint includes about 100 acres of public parks and open space, retail that's expected to include a grocery store, and several hundred units of affordable rental and for-sale homes.
6. Colorado Village Collaborative
Cole Chandler parlayed his work addressing homelessness in Denver into a job with the state, becoming the director of homeless initiatives at the state Department of Human Services this year.
Biggest move of 2022: Chandler is the first person in the position.
Zoom in: Chandler spent five years leading the Colorado Village Collaborative, which helped popularize two sheltering options for people experiencing homelessness.
- CVC operates tiny home villages and sanctioned campsites, connecting people who stay there with additional supportive services.
- The city has pitched in millions to run the sites.
7. Kyle Clark
- Back at the height of the pandemic, the anchor started "Word of Thanks" on his nightly "Next" show and asked viewers to donate to a different nonprofit each week.
- Clark and his viewers helped pay off school lunch debt in the Greeley-Evans School District; build an accessible playground at Stanley Marketplace; and bought presents for every child in Denver public housing.
Biggest move of 2022: The microgiving campaign continued into 2022 and reached a milestone in December that Clark says is his career's proudest achievement: Helping to raise a combined $10 million for 125 charities.
8. Caroline Glover
Caroline Glover is the head chef of Aurora-based Annette, which has earned major accolades this year.
- The restaurant is also known for giving back to the community, allocating 5% of its sales every Wednesday to Project Worthmore, a nonprofit that supports and provides resources to Aurora refugees.
Biggest move of 2022: The restaurant — inside Aurora's Stanley Marketplace food hall — won a James Beard award earlier this year for "Best Chef: Mountain."
What she's saying: "Restaurants aren't a luxury," she said during her James Beard acceptance speech in June. "We're essential. And it's time for us to start being treated that way."
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