Dec 10, 2022 - News

9 of Philadelphia's most powerful people in 2022

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

She might no longer live in Philly, but she hasn't turned her back on the city.

  • In fact, she put it in the spotlight and united us.

What's happening: Comedian and TV powerhouse Quinta Brunson tops our inaugural list of Philly's most influential people.

How it works: We reflected on the past year's headlines, considered what's coming in 2023 and polled our most plugged-in sources about who they believe has shaped Philadelphia the most.

Of note: Our unscientific list is produced entirely by our 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.

Here's where we landed ...

1. Quinta Brunson

Quinta Brunson holds up an Emmy award in the air.
Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Quinta Brunson, the creator of "Abbott Elementary," captured the city's attention around this time last year when she released the Philly-centric comedy in which she plays a teacher trying to fix the public school system one broken light bulb at a time.

Biggest move of 2022: The Philly native won an Emmy and other national accolades, but we're most enamored with how her show, now in its second season, nails our town and all of its idiosyncrasies.

What we're watching: What kind of madness erupts if "Abbott Elementary" isn't renewed for a third season.

2. Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper stares off into the distance in front of a blurred-out crowd.
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The All-Star slugger Bryce Harper's breakout postseason play that powered the Phillies to the World Series for the first time since 2009 proved that he was worth the $330 million contract he signed years ago.

Biggest move of 2022: The playoff-defining, two-run shot instantly dubbed "the swing of his life."

What we're watching: Harper will be sidelined for part of next season following elbow surgery, raising the question: Can he return as the same dynamic player he was this year?

3. Cristina Martinez

Cristina Martinez smiles at the camera while wearing a straw hat and a white chef's jacket with the Mexican flag on the lapel.
Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Martinez

South Philly Barbacoa's and Casa Mexico's owner Cristina Martinez — who's known for her efforts to feed Philadelphians in need and empower undocumented workers — has a new title: best chef in the mid-Atlantic.

Biggest move of 2022: Martinez's James Beard Award isn't the only way she's building out her legacy this year. Casa Mexico expanded its footprint, taking over the space vacated by former music venue Connie's Ric Rac.

What we're watching: How Martinez will use her growing prominence to shine light on food insecurity and immigrant rights issues in Philly.

4. Mabel Chan

Mabel Chan smiles in front of a pink background.
Mabel Chan. Courtesy of Mabel Chan

Mabel Chan, senior adviser for Philadelphia's Chinese Benevolent Association, gained the trust of her community of Chinatown over decades running her former restaurant Joy Tsin Lau and through neighborhood advocacy work.

Biggest move of 2022: Chan joined a Chinatown steering committee evaluating the 76ers' proposed arena in the neighboring Fashion District.

  • Although no one leader speaks for all of Chinatown, Chan's approval is seen as critical for winning the neighborhood's support for the stadium's construction.

What we're watching: The committee will conduct a study to assess Chinatown's conditions and challenges, which will inform the group's response to the stadium proposal.

5. Lia Thomas

Lia Thomas smiles in the pool while wearing a Penn swimming cap and goggles on her forehead.
Photo: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has become a powerful and polarizing figure in and out of the pool, bringing a national conversation about transgender women in sports to Philadelphia's doorstep.

Biggest move of 2022: She became the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship after finishing first in the women's 500-yard freestyle this spring.

What we're watching: Thomas is focusing on civil rights and public interest law right next door to her alma mater, at Drexel's Kline School of Law.

6. Donta Rose

Donta Rose smiles while standing next to two women.
Donta Rose. Photo courtesy of Donta Rose

Donta Rose, a Morgan State University engineering student who grew up in North Philly's Sharswood neighborhood, is helping California-based Grocery Outlet expand in Philly.

Biggest move of 2022: This July, Rose opened a Grocery Outlet store in Sharswood — a food desert that's lacked a full-service grocery store since the 1960s.

What we're watching: A new apartment complex is expected to open in the coming months in the plaza where Rose's Grocery Outlet is located, Rose says, which could bring new investments to the neighborhood.

7. Corrin Stokes

Corrin Stokes smiles at the camera.
Photo: Courtesy of Corrin Stokes

Corrin Stokes, a youth counselor at Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Service Center (PJJSC), helped raise the alarm about overcrowding and understaffing at the city-run facility in West Philly this fall.

Biggest move of 2022: Stokes was the leading voice in bringing attention to the chaotic and dangerous conditions at PJJSC.

  • She gave public testimony to city legislators in October, which ultimately resulted in the city suing the state, and then a court order to transfer some children to state-run rehabilitation facilities.

What we're watching: Stokes told Axios the facility remains overcrowded as about 40 children await transfers. Stokes is also on leave due to an injury sustained during a fight that broke out at the facility in October.

8. Mark Reed

Mark Reed smiles while wearing a blue suit.
Photo: Courtesy of Lukas Keapproth/Loyola University Chicago

Philly native Mark Reed, the first non-Jesuit president at St. Joseph's University, led the school for seven years before leaving the post in August.

Biggest move of 2022: While he's now at Loyola University Chicago, Reed oversaw St. Joe's yearslong merger with the University of the Sciences to completion.

  • The merger, the largest in St. Joe's 171-year history, boosted the university's student population, programs and endowment, plus it added UScience's 24-acre campus in West Philly to its portfolio.

What we're watching: St. Joe's is currently exploring the sale of land and buildings in the former USciences campus.

9. Alexander Tominsky

Screenshot of Alexander Tominsky/@AlexiconTom's Twitter feed
Screenshot of Alexander Tominsky/@AlexiconTom's Twitter feed

Part masochist, part cultural Moses, Alexander Tominsky challenged Col. Sanders for most well-known "Chicken Man" this year.

Biggest move of 2022: After Philly lost two major championships on the same day in November, he drew hundreds of spectators to an abandoned city pier to watch him devour his 40th rotisserie chicken in 40 days.

  • He gave us a win in a big weekend of defeat.

What we're watching: Tominsky continues to use the attention to raise money for local charities. Hopefully, his body is repairing now that he's done with his greasy mission.

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


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