Dec 10, 2022 - News

6 of Houston's most powerful people in 2022

Illustration of two rows of dominos falling with text overlaid that reads Power Players Houston.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Houston's power players are influential people who make an impact on the fourth-largest city in America.

Why it matters: The selected individuals are shaping our city. They've made headlines, used their positions to advance major projects and worked to make a better Houston.

Methodology: Axios Local teams across the country selected up to 10 power players who made significant advancements this year by using their own expertise, polling readers and through conversations with influential people.

Of note: This unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising in any way.

  • People who made the power list were not notified of their selection until publication.

The bottom line: There are so many talented people in our community, but we can't highlight them all.

  • Missed someone or know someone we should watch in 2023? Email [email protected] to send us your thoughts.

1. Chris Canetti

Photo of a man in front of a podium.
Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Chris Canetti has served as the president of the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee since 2019, and his work paid off this year.

  • Canetti served as president of the Houston Dynamo for nearly a decade, making him the longest-tenured MLS team president.
  • He also led the effort to create the Houston Dash, the first expansion franchise in the National Women's Soccer League in 2014.

Biggest move of 2022: Canetti worked with FIFA to secure Houston's World Cup bid this summer.

  • Houston was selected as one of 11 U.S. host cities for the 2026 World Cup.
  • Canetti bridged several Houston entities to sell the city to FIFA.
  • In his strategic plan submitted to FIFA, Canetti prioritized Houston's diversity and social and environmental responsibility.

The payoff: Canetti estimates that hosting five to six games could generate nearly $1 billion, using the 2017 Super Bowl game as a metric.

What we're watching: Houston got the bid, but Canetti's job is far from over. While 2026 seems far away, the city has to make sure the preparation is smooth and that NRG Stadium is ready, as the world will be watching the Bayou City.

  • It's unclear which games Houston will host.

2. William McKeon

Photo of a white man wearing a red tie.
Photo: Courtesy of the Texas Medical Center

The Texas Medical Center is already the largest medical complex in the world with 61 different institutions across 2 square miles, but TMC president William McKeon doubled down this year to ensure that the district will continue to be at the forefront of advancing health care.

  • Since McKeon joined TMC in 2013, he has pushed it to invest in innovation and clinical research.
  • During the pandemic, McKeon helped lead the effort to get Houston's hospitals to work together as one unified organization for COVID-19 protocol, supply chain navigation and understanding the virus.

Biggest move of 2022: McKeon announced a new center for biomanufacturing earlier this year. In the event of another crisis like COVID-19, Houston would be a major national aid distribution source.

  • The TMC BioPort, which will span several hundred acres, aims to address medical supply chain issues faced by the U.S. during the pandemic by manufacturing and distributing medical supplies, therapies and pharmaceuticals.
  • McKeon estimated that the BioPort will help double the size of the medical center in 5–10 years and will create 100,000 jobs.
  • Plus, TMC made more commitments to health care innovation this year: McKeon said the medical center invested in a venture fund to help launch and scale startups and it will expand the Innovation Factory to create labs for early-stage companies and clinical trials.

What we're watching: The construction progress on the TMC Helix Park, a 37-acre campus focused on life science research and commercialization, previously referred to as the TMC3 campus.

  • The campus' first building is slated to finish in mid-2023. The Helix Park promises to create more than 23,000 jobs and have a $5.4 billion annual economic impact.
  • Plus, the TMC Innovation Factory Labs are expected to open in early 2023.

3. Khori Dastoor

Photo of a woman wearing a blue dress in front of a window.
Photo: Thomas Guerrero, courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera

Houston has an established art scene, and Khori Dastoor took the helm of the world-renowned Houston Grand Opera last year.

  • Before joining HGO, Dastoor was the general director of Opera San José, where she worked to establish financial stability and usher in a more diverse patron base.
  • Dastoor has also performed as an operatic soprano for about a decade in the U.S. and internationally.

Biggest move of 2022: Dastoor became the first woman to be the HGO's CEO, and she successfully worked to revive the opera, after theaters were shut down for the better part of the past two and a half years.

  • She's focused on attracting a new audience and has brought more new single-ticket buyers than in the last five years.
  • To help increase ticket and season sales, in the women-centric 2022-2023 season, Dastoor brought back the classics, like Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” and introduced new shows like "The Wreckers" — the first time the show has been produced by a major U.S. opera company.
  • She's also introduced acclaimed singers, like Angel Blue.

What we're watching: Dastoor is already planning the upcoming seasons for the next five years.

  • Dastoor told Axios she hopes to propel the opera forward, highlight diverse talent and stories, and showcase the full spectrum of the American experience.

4. Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks at a podium with several microphones during a press conference
Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Hidalgo will serve her second four-year term as Harris County judge starting in 2023 after successfully warding off a competitive Republican challenger.

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Hidalgo moved to Houston with her parents when she was 14 and has been skyrocketing in status ever since.

  • She's the first Latina to lead the county and oversees a nearly $4 billion budget.
  • Hidalgo also touts being listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
  • Her progressive policies have made her a target of conservatives and a celebrated leader for liberal constituents.

Biggest move of 2022: Winning re-election. Hidalgo was challenged by political newcomer Alexandra Mealer, whose local celebrity endorsements and massive war chest almost carried her to the finish line.

What we're watching: Hidalgo has high hopes for improving early childhood education and mental health resources in her second term, she previously told Axios.

  • Hidalgo will also have an easier time legislating with fellow Democrats after Lesley Briones won her election, solidifying a 4-1 Democrat majority on Commissioners Court.

5. Lizzo

Photo: Chris Polk/E! Entertainment/NBC via Getty Images

The multitalented, flute-wielding music star is redefining the pop landscape and is uplifting women of color with her platform.

Lizzo, born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, is a native Houstonian and reps H-Town as often as she can on the international stage.

  • Lizzo returned to Houston for her homecoming concert this fall, where she paid tribute to her roots and gave a shout out to Alief Elsik and rapped a few bars from Z-Ro's "Mo City Don" — an H-Town classic.
  • During her trip, she also name-dropped several of her Houston eateries, including Shipley's and Chapultepec Lupita.

Biggest move of 2022: From five Grammy nominations to being crowned the People's Champion by the People's Choice Awards, it's hard to narrow down the pop icon's accomplishments.

  • Lizzo released her album "Special" and launched a global tour this year.
  • "Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls" reality competition show premiered and won three Emmy awards.
  • In April, she launched her shapewear and clothing brand "YITTY" with Fabletics.

What we're watching: The 2023 Grammy Awards are Feb. 5, where Lizzo hopes to walk away with wins for Best Pop Solo Performance, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year.

6. David Fields

David Fields wearing a blue dress shirt and black blazer poses for a photo against a brick wall
Photo: Courtesy of the Houston Planning and Development Department

David Fields is the man behind implementing Houston's Vision Zero strategies.

Fields was hired in 2020 as the first person to serve as Houston's chief transportation planner.

  • He oversees the Houston Bike Plan, which prescribed more than 1,800 miles of high-comfort bike lanes throughout the city after it was approved by the City Council in 2017.
  • He is also a champion for multimodal transportation, working closely with the Texas Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Transit Authority and other agencies on various projects.

Biggest move of 2022: Fields helped defeat a last-minute objection from a small group of community members in the Heights who opposed the 11th Street bikeway project earlier this year.

  • Despite a monthlong hold on the project from Mayor Sylvester Turner, construction is now underway and will be completed in 2023.

What we're watching: Fields is overseeing several projects, including dozens of new miles of bike lanes throughout the city. Many are slated for construction in 2023.

Go deeper: See all 200 of Axios Local's Power Players in 2022


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