Dec 10, 2022 - News

Axios Power Players: 8 influential people in Salt Lake City

Illustration of two rows of dominos falling with text overlaid that reads Power Players Salt Lake City.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We are excited to announce our 2022 power player list.

Why it matters: These influential individuals are shaping our city.

Methodology: We selected these power players using our own expertise, polling readers, and through interviews.

  • The unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising in any way.

Taylor Anderson and Sweet Streets

A man in a straw hat appears on a city street bike lane.
Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson co-founded the nonprofit Sweet Streets in 2019 to promote "people-first" urban planning and push back against the cars-first mentality that defines most American cities.

  • Sweet Streets' rising prominence became most evident when its campaign to reduce most of the city's speed limits to 20 mph came to fruition.

What's next: Sweet Streets is pushing for a redesign of 2100 South in Sugar House that makes it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Fanny Guadalupe Blauer

A headshot of a woman in a colorful shirt.
Photo: Courtesy of the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement

Fanny Guadalupe Blauer has worked for years to raise the visibility of Latino artists in Utah.

  • This year her group, Artes de México en Utah, launched an Artists in Residence series at the Leonardo and was involved with the museum's first immersive exhibit to be narrated in Spanish.

The latest: Blauer received a Mayor's Artist Award this year, and this summer, Artes de México was one of the first recipients of the Governor's Spirit of Service Award.

Nate Blouin

A man in a pink button-down shirt stands in front of a duck pond.
Nate Blouin. Courtesy image.

Democrat Nate Blouin is taking the state Senate seat held by Gene Davis for 23 years — an upset that risks being overshadowed by Davis' resignation amid a sexual harassment scandal.

  • But the primary, which Blouin won handily before the harassment investigation, could signal rising dissatisfaction among Salt Lake Democrats with long-established centrists.
  • Blouin, 33, is an environmental activist who challenged Davis after he voted with Republicans on key issues.

Of note: Blouin joined centrist Democrat leaders in supporting Evan McMullin in the general election against U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, even after McMullin's candidacy left Democrats angrily divided.

Yes, but: Blouin's support for McMullin was relatively tepid, and his policy agenda is likely to retain progressives' support.

Dee Brewer and the Downtown Alliance

A portrait of Dee Brewer.
Dee Brewer. Photo courtesy of Downtown Alliance.

Dee Brewer, 60, became the Downtown Alliance's executive director in 2018. Since then, the nonprofit has supported events and businesses that have allowed Salt Lake City's downtown scene to thrive even during the global pandemic.

  • For two summers in a row, the Downtown Alliance, in partnership with the city and Sweet Streets, closed down a few blocks on Main Street to make it more walkable to nightlife visitors.

What they're saying: "The experiment with Open Streets became very important for supporting downtown merchants, restaurateurs and bar owners," Brewer told Axios.

What's next: Brewer said the downtown population is projected to double in the next two to three years, which will "substantially" change the area's economy.

  • Currently, the Downtown Alliance has plans to open a permanent public market that's open every day in the Rio Grande neighborhood.

Gov. Spencer Cox

Gov. Spencer Cox sitting down laughing.
Photo: Courtesy of the Utah State Office of the Governor

Gov. Spencer Cox, 47, made national headlines this year after he vetoed a controversial bill that banned transgender girls from competing in school sports matching their gender identities.

Details: In a rare and impassioned letter to the Utah Legislature, the Republican governor countered the GOP-controlled state Legislature's decision to pass it and criticized the message it sent to the state's transgender youth, who already face a higher risk of suicide.

  • "I don't understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly," he wrote.
  • Ultimately, the Legislature overrode his veto, but several LGBTQ groups celebrated Cox's decision to not toe the party line.
  • As a result of his veto, Cox received swift backlash from his GOP colleagues and FOX News host Tucker Carlson.

What's next: Cox is slated to chair the National Governors Association next year.

Rep. Sandra Hollins

A portrait of Rep. Sandra Hollins.
Photo: Courtesy of the Utah House of Representatives

Utahns celebrated their first Juneteenth as a state holiday this year thanks to Rep. Sandra Hollins, a Salt Lake City Democrat.

Details: Hollins, 52, is the first Black woman to serve in the Utah Legislature. She co-sponsored a bill to make Juneteenth National Freedom Day an official state holiday.

  • The bill came nearly two years after nationwide social justice protests were spurred by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Rose Park Brown Berets

Illustration of a gold key with the "no" symbol replacing the top of the key.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Racial justice takes on big systems, but the Rose Park Brown Berets keep a laser focus on their own backyard.

  • This year, the group has fought developments that ejected residents and merchants on the diverse west side of Salt Lake City, created a tip page for neighbors to report "slumlords" and developers, and hosted a music festival to raise funds for families displaced by new construction.

State of play: City officials called their demand for a construction moratorium in Rose Park unenforceable, and their neighbors are struggling after ultimately being evicted.

  • But they are getting — and keeping — vulnerable people in contact with one another and with others who care about their goals.

The 9th and 9th Whale

A large, colorfully-painted statue of a whale breaches from a traffic circle on a snowy day.
Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

Of course some of you nominated an inanimate object as a Power Player.

  • And honestly, we can't find it in ourselves to disagree.

Why it matters: The breaching whale sculpture in the roundabout at 900 South and 1100 East either thrilled or infuriated the denizens of Salt Lake, with few reactions in between.

  • If that's not a power play, then what is?

Who's on our radar

Illustration of stars with the words "People We're Watching."
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

These folks are on our radar for this upcoming year.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall

  • The mayor's priorities include planting more trees on the west side, reducing homelessness and bringing the Winter Olympics back to the city. Mendenhall will also seek re-election next year..

Will Hardy

  • Utahns love the Jazz. Lucky for them, Will Hardy has done well so far in his first year as the team's head coach. He still has big shoes to fill in replacing Quin Synder who left this year.

Spencer Herrera and Dallas Olson

  • The couple's Fácil Taqueria has moved into a permanent home after operating for years out of a food truck. Now it's one of Salt Lake's best-reviewed new restaurants.

State Sen. Luz Escamilla and state Rep. Angela Romero

  • In a historic first, two Latinas will serve as minority leaders in both chambers of the Utah Legislature.

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

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