Axios Twin Cities
December 10, 2022
Happy Saturday! We're interrupting our regular weekend programming to share our inaugural Axios Twin Cities Power Players list.
- As 2022 comes to a close, we're looking back at people who shaped the biggest news in our region this year.
Today's newsletter is 977 words, a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Meet our city's 2022 power players
From a midterm election to economic uncertainty, the Twin Cities has been through another roller coaster year.
- Behind the biggest decisions and news events of 2022 are local people shaping life in the metro.
Why it matters: You'll recognize some of these names from their roles in the public spotlight. Others work behind the scenes. But all these individuals are leaving a mark on our communities.
Methodology: We compiled this unscientific list using our own expertise and reporting, along with reader feedback.
- The list, which is not meant to be comprehensive, is not influenced by advertising in any way and those included were not notified of their selection ahead of time.
1. Andrew Luger
Andrew Luger, who served as the top federal prosecutor for Minnesota during the Obama era, returned to the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota post with a bang.
Biggest move of 2022: Six months after his U.S. Senate confirmation, Luger rocked the Twin Cities by detailing the country's biggest pandemic fraud case to date.
- The Feeding Our Future allegations sparked intense scrutiny of state and local officials just weeks before the election.
What we're watching: Luger said in September that the dozens of indictments were just the first step in an ongoing criminal investigation.
2. Dayna Frank
The pandemic halted hundreds of local shows and live events, but the First Avenue empire returned in full force this year under Dayna Frank's leadership as president and CEO.
Biggest move of 2022: The finalization of First Avenue's 8,000-person amphitheater at the Upper Harbor Terminal project in North Minneapolis. It's set to break ground next spring.
What we're watching: Members of the National Independent Venues Association, which Frank helms, are going to Congress in February to address deceptive ticketing practices and antitrust legislation in the industry, Frank said at NIVA's conference this July.
3. Brian Cornell
Brian Cornell has been CEO of Minneapolis-based Target for eight years and will stay on for three more, the company announced recently.
Biggest move of 2022: Cornell adopted a permanent hybrid work model in which his corporate employees in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park are not required to come into the office full-time.
What we're watching: Target is the straw that stirs downtown's drink. So whether Cornell will call back workers to spend more time in the office could have a big impact on the local economy.
Zoom in: Before the pandemic, Target was the city's largest employer, with 8,500 workers who dined and shopped downtown.
- Its corporate headquarters attracts companies that do business with the retailer, as well as corporate travelers who fill downtown hotel rooms.
Yes, but: Cornell has to balance downtown's needs with the realities of a tight labor market in which workers are resistant to returning to the office.
4. Mary Moriarty
Former Hennepin County chief public defender Mary Moriarty cruised to victory as Hennepin County attorney in the November election, defeating former Judge Martha Holton Dimick by nearly 16 points.
Biggest move of 2022: Moriarty won on a platform of criminal justice reform and pursuing alternatives to prison.
What we're watching: What changes Moriarty makes in terms of prosecuting criminals and holding police accountable, while also dealing with concerns about crime rates in Minneapolis and beyond.
5. Melvin Carter
Biggest move of 2022: Carter helped broker a deal to add exemptions to the strict rent control cap approved by voters last year, opening the door for some — but not all — stalled development to restart.
What we're watching: The rent control changes might not be enough to get the full Highland Bridge development back up and running.
- And the city continues to grapple with concerns about crime and the health of downtown post-pandemic.
6. Sheletta Brundidge
You'll probably hear Sheletta Brundidge before you see her. She's all over the airwaves on WCCO and her podcast network, mixing humor with activism on a range of issues.
Biggest move of 2022: Brundidge pressured some of Twin Cities' biggest corporations to increase their media and advertising spending with Black-owned businesses, holding them accountable to promises they made following the murder of George Floyd.
- Target, which along with General Mills sponsored Brundidge's podcast network, announced a new $25 million media fund that will be spent with diverse-owned and founded brands by 2025.
What we're watching: Will she keep up the pressure? And will local corporations continue to respond?
7. The women of the state Senate DFL
A leadership team largely led by Democratic women from the metro was behind one of Minnesota’s most surprising and consequential midterm outcomes.
Biggest move of 2022: Defying the odds to win a narrow 34-33 majority in the chamber, sealing a DFL trifecta at the State Capitol.
Zoom in: Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, campaign chair Erin Murphy and fundraising chair Kari Dzeidzic — the incoming majority leader — played key roles.
- Megan Hondl, a 27-year-old strategist and Lakeville native who returned to Minnesota after helping flip the Virginia House of Delegates in 2019, served as the campaign director.
What we’re watching: Dzeidzic, along with House Speaker Melissa Hortman, will have to bridge geographic and ideological divides within the DFL caucuses to deliver wins in the Legislature.
8. The workers
Biggest moves of 2022: Minneapolis teachers went on strike in March for the first time in over 50 years, shuttering classrooms for nearly three weeks.
- And Minnesota nurses' three-day strike in September was believed to be the largest private-sector nurses' strike in history. They secured 18% raises and changes to staffing policies.
Yes, and: The tight labor market pushed public and private employers to increase pay and perks in hopes of attracting and retaining in-demand workers.
What we're watching: A recession could tip the scales back in employers' favor.
📬 This list is far from complete — it's simply a snapshot of some of the influential people on our collective radars this year.
- Reply to this email with your own power player nomination and a brief explanation behind the pick. We might include some submissions in a future edition.