Dec 10, 2022 - News

Axios Power Players: 14 influential people in D.C.

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Everyone’s a power player in Washington, right?

Yes, but: We’re highlighting the 14 we think had the biggest impact around town this year.  

What’s happening: The brains behind I-82 — the ballot measure that will change how we dine and tip — top our inaugural list.

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 Washington the most. 

  • 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.

Adam Eidinger, Ryan O’Leary and Aparna Raj 

Initiative 82 organizers

From left: Adam Eidinger, Ryan O’Leary and Aparna Raj.
From left: Eidinger, O’Leary and Raj. Photos courtesy of Kris Furnish, Ryan O’Leary and Aparna Raj

Adam Eidinger runs a political consultancy firm called Mintwood Strategies that helped get marijuana and magic mushrooms legalized in D.C. Ryan O’Leary is a former restaurant server. Aparna Raj is an organizer with the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. 

Why we picked them: They were the architects of D.C.’s Initiative 82 campaign to overhaul how tipped workers get paid, and it passed in November by over 74%.

  • Eidinger was the campaign's mastermind and helped with local fundraising for the $438,000 effort. O’Leary filed the ballot petition and spoke out on the issue, while Raj worked on the ground game. 
  • Together they beat back some of the local restaurant world’s heaviest hitters including José Andrés and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, as well as numerous servers who preferred the status quo.

What we’re watching: Eidinger in particular has a real track record of getting liberal priorities on the ballot and passed. What will he propose next?

Taylor Heinicke

Commanders’ new starting quarterback

Taylor Heinicke
Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Two years ago, when Washington called Taylor Heinicke to be their backup quarterback, he was taking online classes. Today he’s making us root for our football team again.

Why we picked him: Heinicke (say it with us: Hein-ick-EE, not Heineken) came off the bench in late October for injured ex-starter Carson Wentz. The team was 2-4. Since then, the 29-year-old has done the unthinkable: slot the Commanders into playoff contention after a four-game undefeated streak.

D.C.'s football faithful haven't had this much fun in years! And it’s thanks to him.

Carla Hayden

Librarian of Congress

Photo: Shawn Miller/ Library of Congress.

Carla Hayden became the 14th librarian of Congress in 2016 — the first woman and first Black person to hold the position. This year, she made the library cool.

Why we picked her: On Sept. 23, Hayden tweeted about the Library of Congress’ flute collection, tagging music superstar Lizzo and writing “we would love for you to come see it and even play a couple when you are in DC next week.” Lizzo’s response: “IM COMING CARLA!”

  • Days later, James Madison's 200-year-old crystal flute — which Lizzo played at Capital One Arena — was the talk of the internet.

What we're watching: Hayden has made it her mission to modernize the Library, launching a mobile app and upping the tech savvy of the National Book Festival. She plans to develop an open source IT platform to make LOC’s collections more accessible, one more step in making history rock.

Ian Callender and Kevin “Scooty” Hallums


Ian Callender (left) and Kevin “Scooty” Hallums.
Callender (left) and Hallums. Photo courtesy of Kevin “Scooty” Hallums

Ian Callender, owner of event design firm Suite Nation, and Kevin “Scooty” Hallums, co-founder of events agency Rock Creek Social Club, are local creatives who played on the same Prince George's County church basketball team as kids.

Why we picked them: The business partners are creating some of the coolest new spots to hang out: gathering spots in renovated shipping containers that they call Sandlots.

  • This year, in addition to more temporary locations in Georgetown, Tysons and Navy Yard, the duo transplanted Sandlots to a high-end entertainment desert — Anacostia — and opened their first permanent location.

Eastern High School marching band

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dubbed the “pride of Capitol Hill," Eastern High School’s marching band has brought music to neighborhood streets for years. They've even performed at NFL halftime shows and in parades for presidents.

Why we picked them: The band stole local hearts after being spotlighted in the Washington Post, which netted them $115,000 in donations for new equipment and activities, as well a $30,000 GoFundMe to purchase a new car for band director James Perry.

  • It’s hard to imagine a more awesome tribute to a group whose power comes from sparking pure joy.

Monty Hoffman

Developer of the Wharf

Monty Hoffman.
Photo courtesy of Hoffman & Associates

Monty Hoffman, a longtime D.C. developer, is lauded for reviving the Southwest waterfront with his Wharf project, which debuted in 2017. 

Why we picked him: Hoffman just completed the Wharf's final phase. The venture brought luxury condos and celebrity chefs to the neighborhood, built a mile-long walkable waterfront between the fish market and Fort McNair, and cemented Southwest D.C. as a hot spot. 

What we’re watching: Hoffman’s new project is a mixed-use development in the city’s next up-and-coming waterfront neighborhood, Buzzard Point.

Alana Eichner and Antonia Peña

Directors of the D.C. chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Eichner (left) and Peña. Photo: Courtesy of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Alana Eichner and Antonia Peña have spent years organizing domestic workers in the District, hosting town halls and seeking out nannies at playgrounds to inform them of their rights, or lack thereof.

Why we picked them: Eichner and Peña, a former domestic worker herself, are the force behind transformative legislation pending before the city that would grant caretakers, cooks, cleaners and other household workers the same employment protections afforded to others.

What we're watching: The bill is likely to pass this month, and the activists tell Axios they’ll be watching implementation closely to ensure both employers and workers know the law.

Hany Hassan


Photo: Courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle

Hany Hassan is the director of Beyer Blinder Belle's D.C. office, and the architectural icon behind some of our area’s most prominent historic building overhauls, including the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington Monument's new visitor’s center.

Why we picked him: Hassan was the hidden hand behind one of the year's buzziest cultural happenings: the Rubell Museum opening. In his vision, the dilapidated Randall school-turned-home for contemporary art retains its original exterior but benefits from accessibility upgrades and a light-drenche glass pavilion.

What we're watching: Hassan’s work in this corner of Southwest D.C. isn’t done. He’s also designing an adjacent apartment building that will include affordable units.

Latrena Owens

Director of D.C.’s St. Elizabeths East Campus redevelopment

Latrena Owens portrait photo
Photo courtesy D.C. government

Latrena Owens is in charge of the 183-acre redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths East Campus, overseeing the building of hundreds of homes, a massive hospital and new businesses. She previously helped steer completion of the I-395 freeway through the heart of D.C. and managed the city’s economic development portfolio worth over $3 billion.

Why we picked her: St. Elizabeths isn't just the District’s largest construction project. These are hallowed grounds: Historic buildings on the grassy site were home to a prominent 19th century psychiatric hospital, and Civil War soldiers rest in surrounding cemeteries.

  • This year the city broke ground on a $375 million GW-run hospital, a long time coming for the underserved neighborhood.

What we're watching: On tap are mixed-use developments across 18 parcels next to the Congress Heights Metro station and the arena where the Mystics play.

Daniel Adler

"Bike Man"

Daniel Adler poses with his bicycle on an intersection
Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Daniel Adler is a Dupont Circle resident, an environmental lawyer — and city liberals’ hero of the year.

Why we picked him: Adler brought the right-winger trucker convoy to a near-halt on 17th Street downtown last March after the group had spent weeks jamming up the Beltway and making drivers' lives miserable.

  • His slow pedaling, even as the truckers laid into their horns, earned him free local beer, a shoutout from Jimmy Kimmel and a spot in the history books as the "Bike Man" who avenged D.C.

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

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note the accurate last name for Antonia Peña.


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