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Power Issue 2012

Updated: February 13, 2013 - 3:02 pm

Posted: April 13, 2012

By Ed Power, publisher

The currents of power in Hampton Roads continue to ebb and flow freely as business community elders take a step into the backdrop and the young turks find their own places on the stage of leadership and influence. We at Inside Business put a lot of time and careful consideration into gauging these changes and charting them in our 2012 "Power List." We hope you find our rankings worthy of study for what they say about the myriad ways that people are helping build our community in Hampton Roads.

No doubt this year’s list will, like last year’s, create some debate in the business community, some heartburn in certain executive suites, and some private satisfaction for those who saw their fortunes rise.

With the revelation of some who made the cut in the top 10, we hope we'll whet your appetite for  the entire list which appears in Inside Business on
Monday May 7.


**Return here daily to learn more of who made the list and watch for the full report in the May 7 issue of Inside Business.

15. Bruce Thompson
Coming in at No. 15, Bruce Thompson climbed up our power list from 18th last year. Thompson, the CEO of Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts in Virginia Beach, has led a number of developments at the beach, including two mixed-used developments currently burgeoning along the Oceanfront.

14. John R. Broderick
John R. Broderick, the president of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, is the hand that guides the university’s six colleges – a responsibility that means overseeing a $526 million operating budget and more than 2,500 faculty and staff at the school.

13. Scott Rigell
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, is founder and chairman of Freedom Automotive in Virginia Beach. He and his wife Teri own automobile dealerships in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake, employing more than 240 people. Rigell was invited to meet with financier Warren Buffet in Omaha, Buffet’s base, to discuss a bi-partisan approach to congressional reform and debt reduction.

12. Alan Witt
Alan Witt, co-founder and CEO of regional accounting firm Witt Mares, isn’t content to sit in his office and crunch numbers. He’s in the community, directing, organizing and leading. A graduate of Christopher Newport University with a degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting, Witt is a humanitarian, supporter of education and health care for the community. 

11. Helen Dragas
When Helen Dragas isn’t knee deep in developing one of her company’s portfolio of residential developments, she may be herding three of her own adolescents to school or dealing with issues as Rector of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Dragas is president of The Dragas Cos., which her father, George, began more than 40 years ago, and which has been a fixture on the regional landscape in commercial and residential real estate.

10. Ramon W. Breeden Jr.
Ramon W. Breeden Jr. is a driven man. He was driven to start his own business, The Breeden Companies, out of the trunk of his Pontiac convertible 45 years ago. He was driven to build a portfolio of apartment communities, homes and shopping centers – now in two states, Virginia and North Carolina, and the Hampton Roads, Richmond and Fayetteville, N.C., regions. He was driven to support education at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, and at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Beach Education Foundation, Old Dominion University and Norfolk Academy. He supports the arts and animal welfare and other philanthropic pursuits.

9. Gary McCollum
Up from number No. 14 last year, Gary McCollum lands at No. 9 on our list, having steered Cox Communications Virginia through some major changes in recent years. McCollum, the senior vice president and general manager for Cox Communications’ Virginia system, handles the day-to-day operations of the company’s Hampton Roads, Roanoke, Fairfax County and Fredericksburg operations, which includes more than 2,300 employees serving more than 700,000 households. Over the past 16 months, Cox Virginia has opened several new Cox Solutions retail stores and created the Cox Charities program, which began in Hampton Roads, has awarded grants to 19 local organizations, and an additional 13 throughout Virginia.
8. Maurice Jones
Maurice Jones, hailed as the first black publisher of a large daily newspaper in the country, is now working inside the Beltway as the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, shaking up the bureaucrats with notions on how to improve the bottom line and helping Americans with their housing needs during one of the first housing crises this country has ever faced. While he was here, Jones made an impression on the community. He sat on a dozen boards of philanthropic and business organizations, such as Eastern Virginia Medical School, Physicians for Peace and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

7. Paul Fraim 
Paul Fraim began his political career on the Norfolk City Council in 1986. In 1994, he was appointed mayor and won the seat in 2006, when Norfolk began having mayoral elections. As the mayor of what many consider the business, political and cultural center of Hampton Roads, Fraim, along with members of the city council, oversees a budget of more than $1 billion.

6. Will Sessoms
After serving on Virginia Beach City Council for 14 years, Will Sessoms took a five-year break before running for the mayor’s seat in 2008. When he was elected, he promised that he would work to bring light rail to Virginia Beach. Since then, The Tide has started rolling in Norfolk, and Sessoms increased his efforts earlier this year, when he called for a referendum to allow Virginia Beach residents to vote on the issue. He got his way. And he’s moved up from No. 11 on the Power List.

5. Charles "Wick" Moorman
Congratulations, Wick Moorman. You presided over the best year Norfolk Southern Corp. ever reported, with an annual profit of $1.89 billion, up 28 percent from 2010 and 85 percent from 2009. You have presided over a $22 billion corporation whose roots are deep in the 19th century, and yet this relic of the past has survived the onslaught of technology and regulations. You’ve also maintained your power position of No. 5 in 2011.

4. Frank Batten Jr.
Frank Batten Jr. is rarely seen but his presence is certainly felt not only in Norfolk but in other Hampton Roads cities. If you’re lucky, you might catch him having a modest lunch in a modest restaurant alone, papers and files within reach, somewhere in downtown Norfolk.Batten’s successes are legendary. His investment in Red Hat, a software company, is usually the one everyone remembers and points to as the product of Batten’s talent and genius.

3. John O. "Dubby" Wynne
After spending his career building Landmark Communications, a company he and others turned into a media giant, John O. “Dubby” Wynne is tackling the region’s economy with its disparate economic, social and political personae. Wynne, the former CEO of Landmark Communications, now known as Landmark Media Enterprises LLC, was chosen as the chairman of the board of directors of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and will assume the post in June.

 2. Vince Mastracco

Not much has changed since last year.Vince Mastracco, an attorney, is still one of the leading power brokers in Hampton Roads, retaining the No. 2 position. He is firmly entrenched in the power structure of the region and no list of power brokers could exclude him.Everyone knows him. But no one knows him.Mastracco, a partner in the law firm of Kaufman & Canoles, is a deal-maker.But he shuns the podium.He shuns the television cameras and publicity.He sits with the audience instead.He’s elusive, but you can feel his pervasive and personal influence in many big deals in the region.

1. Gov. Bob McDonnell

Gov. Bob McDonnell's influence, as well as his popularity, has ebbed and flowed over the past year. But he has stuck to his conservative Republican principles, to the delight of his base, while angering Democrats and the feft for some of his more controversial legislation. Despite the criticism, Virginia’s 71st governor takes the top slot on this year’s Power list.


 Flip through the print version below:


- This information was compiled through research and interviews by members of the Inside Business staff. Involved in the effort were Publisher Ed Power, Editor Carol Lichti, Senior Staff Writer Philip Newswanger and staff writers Bill Cresenzo, Danielle Walker, Lakeshia Artis and Mary Flachsenhaar.