The eighth annual Long Island Press Power List underscores a tenuous time for Long Island. The Madoff effect poured salt in the wound of a deepening recession, the heroin epidemic gained a tighter grip on our children and voter anger challenged the certainty of incumbency. In other respects, such as the homogeneous complexion of our leadership, the status quo prevailed.
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A spot on the list can, at times, be a dubious honor, providing an unwanted dose of notoriety. More often, however, it reflects the culmination of one’s positive accomplishments. Whatever the reason an individual is selected as one of the 50 “Power Listers,” the amalgamation of their personalities and positions offers insight into the inner workings and interconnectedness of this peculiar place we call home. Because the Island is a patchwork of disparate communities without a true geographic or economic center, it is our leaders who stitch everything together and determine the pattern and hue of our sea-hugged quilt. This is the essence of the list: to examine the ties that bind us, so we may better comprehend the whole picture of who we are.
Questions arise every year as to how the list is compiled and what the determinants of power are. The vagaries of power are difficult to capture in a snapshot. Some in a position of power may find it an ephemeral possession depending upon his or her willingness or ability to exercise it, thereby resulting in a transient appearance on the list. On the other hand, those who possess inner power tend to find themselves in the position to continuously wield influence over their surroundings, thereby maintaining a more enduring place on the list regardless of title or station in life.
The most important ingredient in determining so-called “power” is a person’s influence. A person’s wealth, the office he or she holds, or a particular accomplishment may be the catalyst for Power List consideration, but it is the extent to which those elements are used to influence the candidate’s surroundings (i.e., Long Island as a whole) that is taken into the greatest consideration. Long Island is home to several men and women of wealth and notoriety who are able to claim influence on a larger scale than just Long Island, but it is the specific actions of those who influence our daily lives as Long Islanders that interest us.
There are names of people familiar to most of us who do not appear on the list, as they have entered the Power List Hall of Fame. To enter the Hall, an honoree must appear five times on the list, at which point they are immortalized with a caricature likeness and the promise of never being scrutinized for the list again (except, of course, in our updates section, where we look at what they have done since being inducted). This year we honor the following perennial Power List designees:
• Jeff Frayler, president, Suffolk County PBA
• Evelyn Ain, publisher, Spectrum Magazine
• David Mejias, partner, Mejias Milgrim and Alvarado
• Kevin Law, president/CEO, Long Island Power Authority
• Jay Jacobs, chairman, New York State Democratic Party
• Richard Kessel, president/CEO, New York Power Authority
• U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington)
• Robert Zimmerman, co-founder and partner, Zimmerman Edelson
Without further ado, we present the eighth annual Long Island Press Power List.
1. Kathleen Rice
Nassau County District Attorney
After unseating longtime Republican predecessor Denis Dillon in 2005, Rice debuted on this list the following year as No. 24. In her sophomore year, having kept her campaign promise to wage war on drunk drivers, she jumped to No. 6 and since then has slowly inched her way up the Top 10. To make it to No. 1 status three years after her Suffolk County counterpart did the same was not only for consistency in keeping the pressure on DWI offenders, gang violence and the heroin epidemic, but the fact that this district attorney has gained enough support to launch a run for New York State Attorney General—which shows she’s got gusto both here on LI and far beyond. Whether she’ll win is anyone’s guess. Either way, we know she’ll be working for us.