50 Most Influential People in Seattle Right Now

Game-changing Seattleites thrust the city into its next phase—in politics, the arts, technology, food, sports, and more.

By Kathryn Robinson, Matthew Halverson, James Ross Gardner, Laura Cassidy, Christopher Werner, Laura Dannen, Allison Williams, Allecia Vermillion, Amanda Zurita, Seth Sommerfeld, Erica C. Barnett, Bess Lovejoy, and Josh Feit March 18, 2013 Published in the April 2013 issue of Seattle Met

New York has its Wall Street titans. Its media elite. LA traffics in good looks and charisma. Seattle is a different matter altogether. Here the juice that puts things in motion is harder to define. The closest word is ideas. But it’s never the idea siloed in the head of one person. It’s the big idea, wet and ill formed, that leaks from one mind to another, the idea upon which entire communities feast before rising onto the national stage. (And if those metaphors are too zombie for you, consider our city once held the international record for the biggest zombie gathering.) But those who live here, where egos are by unwritten law kept monastically in check, know the most lauded Seattleites emerged, and continue to emerge, from communities in which ideas swirl. Think music, of course, but also advances in gaming, global health, multimedia museum displays, and clothing design. The 50 people here are those we believe will thrust the city into its next phase—in politics, the arts, tech, food, sports, and more. They aren’t the same 50 people you would have chosen. It’s a list meant to push the conversation. Let’s call it an idea. We hope it will start something.


Maria Semple
Novelist, Age 48
Like other smash Seattle hits before it, Semple’s 2012 New York Times best-seller, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, was written with self-loathing. The title character could have delivered half of Cobain’s angsty lines in “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When Semple, a wickedly funny TV writer (Ellen, Mad About You), moved here in 2008 with her partner, the wickedly funny TV writer George Meyer (The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live), she hated it. So much so that she couldn’t write—until realizing she could pass her predicament on to Bernadette, a similarly crippled creative type in emotional Gore-Tex. Seattle became what Semple calls a “trippy bounty” of characters, quips, and scenes about every blinking parking meter and uncontrolled five-way intersection. “I used Seattle to show something about Bernadette, not the other way around,” says Semple who tells us she now loves it here and is never leaving. Aside from luring the literary establishment’s fickle gaze back on the Emerald City, her novel shows us how easily we let small-city self-doubt swallow us whole, and the scrappy pluck with which we manage to bail ourselves out.

NEXT MOVE A film adaptation of Bernadette is in development.


James Keblas
Director, Seattle Office of Film and Music, Age 40
When your TV screen frames, say, a seagull’s-eye shot of the Seattle skyline, chances are the film crew had dealings with Keblas, who for the past eight years has sold Seattle to Hollywood—an effort that adds some $470 million to the city’s economy a year. Recent successes include Top Chef Seattle, for which the city paid producers an undisclosed sum, and the B-roll for AMC’s Seattle-set The Killing, for which the city was cast as, apparently, the site of an endless torrential downpour. A cofounder of the youth-run music-arts center the Vera Project, Keblas is also instrumental in the advance-ment of the city’s forever-evolving music scene (a boon of $480 million a year), recently bringing the voices of Sir Mix-a-Lot and Eddie Vedder to the Sea-Tac airport for a series of PSAs.

NEXT MOVE He helped secure local shooting for Lucky Them, starring Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, and Seattleite Lynn Shelton, to be released in 2014.


Nin Truong
Creative Director, Age 40 
Over the last two decades Truong has held the titles of landscape architect, UW lecturer, Cafe Weekend co-owner, founder of Blk Pine Workshop, and similar positions at Manik Skateboard, Goods, and Stussy. His work at Maiden Noir—coats, shoes, hats—has a global cult following, with customers from Tokyo to Los Angeles donning this former skateboarder’s crisp, slim-cut streetwear. “All you can do as a designer,” he says, “is create something meaningful and let it take its course.”

NEXT MOVE He’s finalizing his spring 2014 collections and bringing his Seattle-inspired design to the East Coast as the artist in residence at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia beginning in June.


C. R. Douglas
Political Analyst Q13 Fox, Age 46
He’s the city’s best-informed, most aggressive TV reporter. And nowhere has his work been more on display than at recent state Republican majority caucus press conferences, where he wouldn’t let legislators who claimed they’re focused on the budget off the hook, pressing them on their positions on abortion and other social issues. But he’s just as rough with Democrats, forcing them to give actual answers rather than talking points. The Seattle Channel’s longtime host has also upped the profile of his new employers, turning the Fox TV affiliate into a highly respected news source.

NEXT MOVE Douglas will continue to challenge civic leaders on the public forum and debate circuit and will help define the 2013 mayoral debate. 

Ed Murray
State Senate Democratic Minority Leader, Age 57
The state senator from Capitol Hill—and 2013 Seattle mayoral candidate—leads the defensive effort against the Republican coup in Olympia. The expert political tactician ushered a series of gay rights laws through the state legislature, culminating last year with the gay marriage bill and the only successful tax increase in the last decade (a gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure, which like the gay marriage law was also affirmed by a public vote). Watch for Murray to not only trip up the GOP agenda but to maneuver some more liberal items through the legislature as well.

NEXT MOVE He’s pushing for a capital gains tax. And his run for mayor will elevate the debate from picayune neighborhood squabbling to bigger issues of governance.


Most people just call him ET, but Tanaka is also the naming inspiration for one of T-Doug's upcoming eateries.

Eric Tanaka
Restaurant Whisperer, Age 47
Tom Douglas’s brain generates restaurant ideas with exceptional frequency. But somebody had to translate that interest in Greek food into the actual menu at Lola, sit in on endless design meetings for Vulcan-located projects like Cuoco and Brave Horse Tavern, and be in the kitchen every night for Serious Pie’s first few months. That somebody was Tanaka, whose early work as an urban planner comes in handy when building the infrastructure for the biggest restaurant company in town. Tanaka, known as ET since high school, became business partners with Douglas in 1997, cooked at the original Dahlia Lounge, helped open Etta’s, and has helmed every opening since, winning a James Beard Award of his own in 2004—all while wearing shorts, no matter the weather.

NEXT MOVE This year he’ll steer the opening of the eponymous Tanaka-san, an Asian-American fusion restaurant that’s part of the company’s massive new project in the Via6 complex.


Image: Young Lee

Linda Derschang
Nabe Changer, Age 55
Few people have shaped a neighborhood like Linda Derschang has Capitol Hill. Take a look at the discography of Derschang’s CH bar and restaurant hits.
Linda’s Tavern (1994) To this day her taxidermy-filled bar—one of the first bars in the Pike/Pine corridor—remains a blueprint for countless other hipster havens. 
Smith (2007) She changed an entire block with this foray into a once-sleepy stretch of 15th Avenue, piling on the neighborly gesture with the communal table, a novel concept—believe it or not—back in aught-seven. 
Oddfellows (2008) Cafe by day, bar and restaurant by night, it’s called Capitol Hill’s living room and helped usher in a new, more retail-focused and daytime-oriented Pike/Pine. 
Bait Shop (2012) The north end of Broadway got a much-needed -drinking destination in the form of a seafaring bar. Foot traffic (and number of beards) increased noticeably. 

NEXT MOVE Derschang will continue her tradition of knitting food and booze at Tallulah’s, named after her daughter, on 19th Avenue in the fall of 2013.

Sally Jewell
Nominee, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Age 57
She’s led REI for the past eight years—championing the value of outdoor recreation like no one else—but we have even more hope for Jewell as she tackles land use issues for the Obama administration. And in this case, we’re glad she was appointed rather than elected. “My whole being is around creating great teams,” she told us. “As an elected official, I’m not kidding, I’d be a Jimmy Carter! Very honest and straightforward doesn’t seem to work.”

NEXT MOVE If confirmed, she’ll apply her unique background as both a former oil company executive and an outspoken outdoor recreation advocate to cool tensions between conservationists and those who want to drill on public lands, and she’ll carve out solutions more palatable to both sides than either could accomplish on their own.


Andrew Russell
Artistic Director, Intiman Theatre, Age 30
Intiman’s story could’ve been its own tragedy. In Act I, the Tony-winning regional theater, a Seattle institution for 40 years, faces financial ruin. But by Act II we meet artistic director Andrew Russell, mentored by former AD Kate Whoriskey, with a fresh vision for keeping Intiman alive: Condense the season to a four-play summer festival, spend only what they can raise (in this case, a little over $1 million), and recruit local talent to reimagine classics.

NEXT MOVE Act III. Russell faces the equally daunting challenge of enticing Seattleites indoors for a second summer festival with a lineup including comedies that revolve around race, sex, politics, and money. “There’s no suicides this season,” Russell says. In short: tragedy averted.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Hip-Hop Hitmakers, Age 29 and 25
On the strength of the no. 1 hit “Thrift Shop,” the duo put Seattle hip-hop back on the national radar at a level not seen since Sir Mix-a-Lot spat rhymes about his devotion to derrieres. More importantly, they’ve laid out a game plan for how independent artists can thrive in the modern musical climate with a core team of only four people—Macklemore (aka Ben Haggerty), his fiancee, Lewis, and their manager (plus a few others brought on to handle merch)—at a level that entire corporations often only fantasize about. They aren’t on a record label because they don’t need a label. Macklemore and Lewis have defied conventions and become local music heroes. In the words of their hit single, “This is fucking awesome.” 

NEXT MOVE They’ll perfect the game plan for how local independent artists can penetrate the mainstream—influencing other musicians bound to follow in their footsteps—and prove Seattle is more than just that grunge town.


David Fleming
Director, King County Health Department, Age 58
As no. 2 at the CDC he steered a terrified nation through 9/11 and the anthrax scare. At the Gates Foundation he spearheaded a project that sped vaccines to developing countries—saving an estimated seven million lives. So hiring Fleming represented an extraordinary coup for King County—proved during the swine flu panic of 2009 when, drawing on his fabled collaborative style, the epidemiological whiz calmly developed protocols the CDC would later adopt for the nation.

NEXT  MOVE As part of the Global to Local initiative, he’ll tap Seattle’s astonishing global health brain trust to address local issues arising from economic disparity: tobacco use, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity. 


Alison Holcomb
Drug Policy Director, ACLU OF WASHINGTON, Age 44
If you supported last year’s Initiative 502, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in the state, you have Holcomb to thank. The ACLU attorney and longtime drug-reform advocate put a mainstream, professional face on pot legalization and navigated a frequently ugly internecine debate between various camps in the legalization community over a DUI provision in the bill.

NEXT MOVE Her name’s come up as a potential candidate for city council—or mayor. While those rumors may prove false this year, it’s hard to imagine that Holcomb doesn’t have a political future that goes well beyond her signature issue.

Steve Litzow 
State Senator, 41st District, Age 51
He’s a pro-choice, pro–gay marriage fiscal conservative who could be the answer to the GOP’s identity crisis. He is not only twenty-first-century friendly (as opposed to most of his party), but he’s at the forefront of Washington’s big issue, education reform. Litzow, who now chairs the state senate’s education committee, is a Seattle-area Republican who actually matters.

NEXT MOVE He’ll likely jockey with Rob McKenna for the right to challenge Senator Patty Murray in 2016. 


Mitch Levy
Host, Sports Radio KJR, Age 46
“Heard today that the Mariners decided to bring the fences in at Safeco Field. Big Mistake. Big.” So tweeted Mitch Levy, Sports Radio KJR’s longtime morning show host, last October. Fans believed that the ballpark’s cavernous outfield was where home runs went to die. Now, finally, the team was acknowledging the problem by bringing in the fences as much as 17 feet in some spots. And here was Levy, that braying Negative Nelly, dumping on the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak season. But the perpetually sarcastic Levy was clowning; there hasn’t been a louder proponent of making Safeco a more hitter-friendly ballpark. And last summer, he hammered the point especially hard. Even local beat reporters picked up the story, quizzing manager Eric Wedge about it and eliciting a terse “I don’t want to hear anything about the fences” that Levy’s producers replayed all season for comedic effect. It’d be silly to say the M’s altered the park strictly because of his crusade, but it be naive to deny his part. Like any good sports yakker, Levy knows how to stir the turd; but unlike most, he knows what he’s talking about when he does.

NEXT MOVE Levy seems to have well-placed sources in Sonics resurrector Chris Hansen’s camp; expect him to lobby hard for the team’s return.


Julie Larson-Green
Vice President of Program Management, Microsoft, Age 51
The experience has eluded Microsoft—that moment, like the one Apple had with the iPhone in 2007, when a piece of technology comes down to us seemingly from the heavens and turns us rapturous and awestruck like so many apes jumping and shrieking around a monolith. When such a product does come out of Redmond, though, Larson-Green will have much to do with it. With the software giant since 1993, she helmed design teams for multiple Office iterations, issued the first design brief for Windows 8, and is the newly minted head of development for Windows—a program used by 1.3 billion humans.

NEXT MOVE She has stepped into the shoes unceremoniously emptied by Steven Sinofsky, whose rocky six-year reign resulted in the as-yet-unloved Surface tablet and stung the egos of many a ’Softie. Insiders say Larson-Green’s management style is far more collaborative, and for that we’ll jump and shriek on general principle.

Jill Wenger
Founder, Creative director, Totokaelo, Age 36
It’s not often that a Seattle boutique holds sway over New York fashionistas, but since launching -Totokaelo’s online store in 2008, nearly 70 percent of Wenger’s customers are based in Manhattan, catching the attention of The New York Times and New York Magazine. Her new minimalistic Capitol Hill shop houses a hand-selected gallery of flattering, feminine women’s clothing (a menswear collection will premiere later this year) and alluring home goods. Wenger has an eye for avant-garde pieces and, unlike Nordstrom and Neiman’s, she buys only the portions of larger collections that she really loves. With that, and unparalleled customer experience that’s both educational and personal, Wenger is helping pull the city away from its unstylish stereotype and creating a well-dressed populace of Seattle trendsetters. 

NEXT MOVE Men in Seattle will get a turn expanding their wardrobes and minds as Wenger reveals her first-ever menswear edit for spring 2013. 

Chris Hansen
Arena Builder, Sonics Savior, Age 45
The Seattle native stunned his hometown when he unfolded his considerably plump wallet in 2012—he’s a billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager—to purchase land in SoDo for a new NBA arena. But Sonics fans, still agonizing over the flight of their beloved team to Oklahoma City five years ago, were gobsmacked anew when Hansen and new pal Steve Ballmer purchased a $341 million controlling share of the Sacramento Kings. 

NEXT MOVE If all goes according to Hansen’s plan, we could be watching the new Seattle SuperSonics play in KeyArena—the team’s proposed home until the SoDo arena is complete—in the fall of 2013.


Toby Crittenden
Executive Director, The Washington Bus, Age 30
The new guy behind the wheel at the Washington Bus, a progressive, energetic get-out-the-vote organization that local politicians spend plenty of time kissing up to, inherited the influential group from the tireless Thomas Goldstein, who built it up from scratch. Big shoes to fill, but in his previous position as Washington Bus program director Crittenden helped score decisive wins among young voters for progressive candidates. More of a phase two director (organized, connected, on boards), he’s poised to bring the group—and himself—into a leading mainstream voice in regional politics.

NEXT MOVE Expect Crittenden to moderate a Washington Bus–sponsored debate that helps decide who our next mayor will be.


Matthew Inman
Cartoonist, 'The Oatmeal', Age 30 
Last summer the Fremont-based illustrator—whose crazy-pants web comic is populated by Gatling-gun-toting cats, unholy rabbit-velociraptor hybrids, and sriracha-hot-sauce-loving bears—launched Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum, a crowdfunded effort to help buy the Wardenclyffe tower in upstate New York, where Nikola Tesla tried and failed to bring wireless power to the world. His fundraising goal: $850,000. What contributors donated: $1.37 million. It was just the latest testament to Inman’s popularity ( racks up about seven million page views per month). One month prior, when a rival website threatened to sue him for defamation, Inman’s army of supporters donated more than $200,000—which he promptly donated to charity. (The suit was later dropped.) Few other local entrepreneurs have done more to prove to the world that not all Seattle innovators are computer nerds. And so far he’s used his power over the Internet hordes for good. Pray to the hot sauce gods he never uses it for evil.

NEXT MOVE As of early March, Inman’s latest book of comics, How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You, had spent 18 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. And he’s already working on another.

Suzan DelBene
U.S. Representative, 1st Congressional District, Age 51 
The understated former Microsoft exec and online entrepreneur delivered for the Democrats by winning in the toughest swing district in the nation, the newly drawn 1st Congressional District that stretches from the Microsoft suburbs north through Skagit and Whatcom counties to the Canadian border. Now she’s poised to make Seattle-style liberal values translate into successful policy for the suburbs and exurbs—delivering a long-overdue natural constituency to the Democrats.

NEXT MOVE Expect DelBene to lock down the district for an even more convincing 2014 win.

Erik Blood
Producer, Musician, Age 36
While he’s best known for his mixing for experimental Sub Pop hip-hop acts Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction, or producing records showcasing the beloved rock of Moondoggies or the wicked electronic grime of Crypts, Blood has also proven equally apt at creating his own music. His 2012 album Touch Screens, a sinfully sleek rock record that pays tribute to vintage pornography, was one of the best releases of the year. “I want to see Seattle get more of a permanent status of being a real-deal music city,” he says “and less of the ‘It’s hype right now!’ ”

NEXT  MOVE He’s working on a followup to Touch Screens, (hopefully) a Shabazz Palaces record, and a slew of local albums in his constant effort to further the reach of the diversified Seattle sound. 

Lynn Shelton
Filmmaker, Director, Actor, Age 47
As the tide rises for the director of Humpday and Touchy Feely—and episodes of Mad Men and The New Girl—so goes the Seattle film community. 

Next move You’ll hear her voice in the upcoming Paul Rudd/Emile Hirsh vehicle Prince Avalanche; and she has a part in Megan Griffiths’s Seattle-shot Lucky Them, now in production. 

Peter Hahn
Director, Seattle Department of Transportation, Age 68
This decade’s transportation overhaul will rival the viaduct of the 1950s and the I-5 of the 1960s. By the end of the 2010s, Seattle will have new light rail routes, new streetcars, and a new Alaskan Way after the state deep-bores its Deep Bore Tunnel. Last November, the Seattle Department of Transportation got 77 percent of Seattle to vote in favor of spending $290 million on the Elliott Bay Seawall. The buck on these plans stops at Peter Hahn, whose Municipal Tower–office view is a panoply of Northwest conveyance: I-5 crossing I-90, cargo ships steaming into the bay, a train hauling 737 fuselages to Boeing’s Renton factory. But he may be proudest of his benchmarks in public safety—his department brought transportation fatalities down by half from five years ago.

NEXT MOVE His biggest test yet will come as construction zones grow and encroach on local businesses. “We want to get to the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says, “and still be in a good economic position.” 

Craig Engelking
Lobbyist, City of Seattle, Age 43
Seattle’s lead lobbyist in Olympia is a Zenlike operative who patiently navigates the pathological anti-Seattle sentiment in the state capital to execute and defend the city’s liberal agenda. With impeccable radar for when trouble is on the horizon, but also for opportunities—and with unparalleled political chops—the deft Engel-king is the man you want on the front lines fighting for transit funding and protecting the city’s right to mandate paid sick leave.

NEXT MOVE He’ll be the most vocal—and most effective—defender of the city when it comes to making sure Seattle doesn’t get shortchanged in the state’s $10 billion transportation bill.


Eric Hentz
Founder, Mallet, Age 44 
If you’ve dined out in Seattle in the past 15 years, chances are you’ve spied the work of Hentz, whose company, Mallet, has dreamed up some of the coolest, most atmospheric spots in the city. Cascina Spinasse, Cafe Presse, and the Saint, as well as Ace Hotel and Rudy’s Barbershops. Hentz and his 30-person team often create spaces within existing buildings, making the original construction work for the current project’s needs. But what really sets Mallet apart is that it has integrated design and construction into one business, which allows for accurate budget assurances and gets jobs completed on time. Considering only one single project has shut its doors since Mallet launched in 1997, we’d say Hentz’s methods are working.

NEXT MOVE Hentz and crew will continue to shape the way Seattle dining looks as they complete Tallulah’s (the newest restaurant from Linda Derschang) and Percy’s (an apothecary-inspired cocktail bar in Ballard).


Russell Wilson
Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks, Age 24

New Message
To: Russell Wilson
Subject: About what I said on Twitter… 

You know when I tweeted that you were too short to play quarterback in the NFL and that you’d better wear extra pads in case your linemen step on you? Didn’t come from me. My account got hacked. 

Okay, that’s not true. But the Seahawks had just spent all that money to sign Matt Flynn and the next thing I know Coach Pete is naming you the starter, and I was like, WTF? You were just a third-round draft pick. But dude, you totally won me over. I remember the minute it happened: when you launched that 46-yard bomb to cap the 24-23 comeback against the Patriots in Week Six. And the playoffs! Oh man, you were thisclose to beating the Falcons and taking us to the NFC Championship game. You gave me hope that the Seahawks could be great again. What I’m trying to say is, last season was awesome. And I’m sorry I ever doubted you. And…can you hook me up with a couple tickets to next year’s Super Bowl?

Every Seahawks fan, ever

NEXT MOVE Assuming his penchant for scrambling out of the pocket doesn’t get him hurt, Wilson
and the Seahawks are poised for a deep run in next season’s playoffs.

Andrea Weatherhead
Interactive exhibit designer, MOHAI and EMP, Age 52
Her multimedia exhibits for MOHAI and EMP allow visitors to touch, see, hear, and physically interact with the past and present. On a recent visit to MOHAI, boys hammered in railroad spikes at one exhibit while, in another, a couple role-played as participants in the 1948 Canwell hearings centering around the Communist influence on Washington state. MOHAI executive director Leonard Garfield says Weatherhead’s work has helped launch “MOHAI 2.0,” an era in which technology is used creatively to “help people become engaged with this community, understand our history, and share our passion for Seattle.” He’s not the only one to notice: The Weatherhead Experience Design Group has won, among other accolades, a Webby and five American Alliance of Museums “Muse” awards.

NEXT MOVE Weatherhead is creating films for Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage museum, about four World War II battles in which several of the planes—and one tank—at the museum played a pivotal role.


Cuong Vu
Jazz Trumpeter and Associate Professor, UW, Age 43
Seattle has a storied jazz past, from the genre’s infancy in the early twentieth century, when Jackson Street was the West Coast’s premier jazz scene, to our nationally ranked high school jazz programs. But trumpeter Cuong Vu may transform the city into a beacon for jazz’s future. The Saigon native grew up in Bellevue before studying music in the Northeast, where he developed a style all his own, one that recalls Baroque classics but can quickly turn into a loop machine–aided rock trip. He toured and recorded with the Pat Metheny Group and others before joining the UW faculty in 2007. He recently became an associate professor and chair of the jazz studies program, where he strives to push Seattle’s musical boundaries without pushing anyone away. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, if you’re not avant-garde or you’re not doing the weirdest shit possible, then you’re worthless,’ ” says Vu. “It’s about just being free and trying things out to see where you can go.”

NEXT MOVE While still experimenting on new projects with musicians like School of Music director Richard Karpen, he’ll train his focus on making UW a serious player in the national collegiate music landscape.


Sierra Stinson
Curator, Vignettes, Age 28
Every couple weeks she slides her furniture to the side and invites 50 or so strangers into her Capitol Hill apartment for a one-night gallery opening Stinson calls Vignettes. The shows, more performance than exhibit, have starred delicate glass sculptures, bright fabric paintings, and an installation involving oven mitts affixed to the wall. She handles each locally made collection—the arranging, the promoting, the wine pouring—without pocketing a cent of the ticket sales. (To cover bills she juggles multiple jobs and contract work.) The payoff is that Stinson is quietly helping build what is becoming the Seattle art movement of the decade: selfless acts of collaboration.

NEXT MOVE Provocative black-and-white self-portrait photographer Erin Frost moves in on April 18, pushing Stinson’s neighbors and maybe the whole city out of their guarded modesty. 

David Rolf
President, Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775NW, Age 43
At the helm of the most powerful union in the state, Rolf is the de facto leader of what political insiders call the “allies,” an informal group of lefty interest groups, politicians, and activists who give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the yearly political agenda of liberals in Seattle. Rolf, who threw the union’s weight toward electing a Democratic governor last fall, isn’t only charismatic, but SEIU 775NW, with 43,000 members in the state, has the money to accomplish its goals.

NEXT MOVE He’ll be writing a big check to fend off the next voter initiative to roll back taxes.

Jennifer Cast
Bold Emailer, Age 51
On a Sunday night last July, Cast emailed her old boss to ask for money—around $100,000—for the fight for marriage equality. Her old job had been at a startup called Amazon, so that ex-boss was billionaire Jeff Bezos, who responded, “We’re in for $2.5 million.” The news prompted $270,000 more in donations to Washington United for Marriage within 24 hours, and by Election Day the marriage equality camp had raised $12.5 million to the opponents’ $2.8 million. Referendum 74 passed with 54 percent of the vote. Of course, Cast’s activism didn’t begin with that email, or her previous work with Lambda Legal, or her Yale and Stanford degrees. It started when she came out as a lesbian after growing up in conservative Indiana, an act she calls the single most important contribution anyone can make for LGBT causes. Since ponying up the cash, Bezos and his heretofore apolitical company have shown unparalleled support for the cause, including a pro–gay marriage Kindle ad.

NEXT MOVE Cast will marry her partner of 23 years in July. And she just joined the board of Freedom to Marry, where she will take the fight for marriage equality to other states.


Scott Woodward
Athletic Director, University of Washington, Age 50
Six. That’s the number of times, between 2005 and 2010, the state legislature tried unsuccessfully to pass a tax to fund a proposed $300 million renovation of the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium. So Woodward started flipping couch cushions throughout Puget Sound. Fundraising is never easy, but his task was especially tall. He took the AD job in September 2008 only to watch the Husky football program go 0-12; it was the first team in conference history to do so. But after revising the proposal down to a slightly more manageable $250 million, Woodward won boosters over, in large part by replacing foundering coach Tyrone Willingham with up-and-comer Steve Sarkisian—who’s since taken the team to three bowl games. The money rolled in, construction crews broke ground in November 2011, and by summer 2012 Woodward had met his goal of $50 million in contributions. (Another $200 million came from bonds to be repaid with stadium revenues.)

NEXT MOVE The reborn football facility opens in August, and though it’ll bear the moniker of an as-yet unnamed corporate sponsor, fans will know who got it built.

Gabe Newell
Founder, Valve, Age 50
His Bellevue-based video game studio, Valve, isn’t the biggest in the industry, but its franchises—Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead—are some the most critically acclaimed in the land. Portal 2, released in 2011, for example, garnered top game of the year nods from Time, the Associated Press, and numerous other outlets, and won Best Narrative, Best Audio, and Best Game Design from the Game Developers Choice Awards. And Newell orbits some of the biggest stars in the geek universe—working next to Bill Gates at Microsoft in the 1980s and sword fighting with Seattle sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson.

NEXT MOVE Newell is collaborating with Lost creator and Star Trek director J. J. Abrams for a series of game--inspired movies.

Matt Dillon
Restaurateur, Age 39
Last fall, Dillon announced that he was planning to open Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square. Suddenly aspiring and experienced restaurateurs were racing to plant flags in Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, long ago ceded to sports bars and late-night clubbers. When he opened Sitka and Spruce in 2006—and the Corson Building two years later—Dillon hooked locals on his freewheeling, farmed-and-foraged vision. In his new neighborhood the chef is reversing course once again. He says Bar Sajor will be all about attentive service and guest satisfaction. Please oh please may this become a trend, too.

NEXT MOVE He’s opening London Plane, a cafe and workspace down the street from Bar Sajor, with fellow Melrose Marketeer Katherine Anderson of Marigold and Mint early this summer. 


Hal Griffith
Great Wheel Ambassador, Age 75
That Ferris wheel didn’t appear on the Seattle skyline all by itself. Griffith tried to erect the carnival ride on public waterfront parks twice before he gave up on the red tape and looked to his own Miners Landing on Pier 57. A private project, he says, meant much less paperwork. Less than a year after the attraction opened its doors, the millionth visitor will take the three-revolution ride, perhaps even in the glass-bottomed, leather-seated VIP car. Thanks in part to the Great Wheel, notes the Downtown Seattle Association, 2012 saw a 187 percent increase in foot traffic in the area over 2011.

NEXT MOVE Griffith wants to build gondolas to take pedestrians from downtown to the waterfront.

Thom Jones

Cofounder, Semigood Design, Age 34
Each piece of furniture that Jones handcrafts in his Capitol Hill basement studio is built to last so long that he hopes your grandchildren will fight over it someday. His Danish-inspired designs—which include tables, chairs, ceramics—have caught the eye of the likes of Conan O’Brien’s late-night TV show and Dwell magazine, both of which have collaborated with Semigood works. 

NEXT MOVE He’ll show off his Seattle-hatched designs at the Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles in June.


Shayn Bjornholm
Examination Director, Court of Master Sommeliers, Age 43
Like many struggling actors in New York City, Bjornholm waited tables to stay afloat. The experience didn’t do much for his acting career, but it did expose him to wine and sparked an undying interest. Upon relocating to Seattle in 1997, Bjornholm decided to make a career of it. Today he holds one of the most prestigious positions in the international wine community. The court administers a rigorous beverage-service accreditation process—only 197 people worldwide, Bjornholm included, have reached master status—and it’s Bjornholm’s job to determine what this examination process looks like. For those of us on the receiving end, that means Bjornholm is shaping the way future sommeliers learn and think about wine.

NEXT MOVE He and the Court of Master Sommeliers are opening new markets in Asia, Australia, and South Africa.


Stefano Catalani
Director of Art, Craft, and Design, Bellevue Arts Museum, Age 45
Gone are the florid French impressionists and quirky Spanish cubists. The main event at BAM these days are the works championed by Catalani—works that resonate in our age of locavorism and artisan culture. Recent exhibits include African American quilts, delicate hand-forged jewelry, and unexpected pieces made from ordinary currency. In Seattle, we just like that the Italy-born curator has given us reason enough to pay the 520 bridge toll to get to the new arts destination across the water.

NEXT MOVE BAM will feature “Zoom. Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo” through June 16. 


Reuven Carlyle
State Representative, 36th District, Age 47
An iconoclastic Democrat—he uses business-speak like “Return on Investment” to sell progressive values—this Queen Anne state rep has gone from a back bencher in Olympia to the head of the House Finance Committee, where he’s waging a war on tax breaks and “rural socialism” (his term for Seattle’s status as a net contributor to the state’s general fund, which Eastern Washingtonians benefit from the most). Carlyle is the point man on reforming how we (don’t) fund education and the tax system as a whole.

NEXT MOVE In his position as finance chair in the House, he’ll be the loudest voice pushing for comprehensive tax reform—insisting the east side of the state pays as much as the west—in the education funding debate. 


Lane Czaplinski
Artistic Director, On the Boards, Age 43 
In 2012 contemporary-performance space On the Boards won a national award for innovative programming, but we know that Czaplinski’s been doing things right for over a decade. This season has been particularly notable, featuring risk-taking Northwest choreographers (Crystal Pite, KT Niehoff), puppeteers (Kyle Loven), international theater companies (Young Jean Lee), and a special Mark Morris Dance Group performance with Mikhail Baryshnikov. New additions like video art on demand (also known as OTBtv) and preshow Studio Suppers catered by local chefs have appealed to hipsters and hippies alike. “With new performance, there’s a tendency to think of it being for a hip, avant-garde audience, but in fact, we try to cultivate an intelligent audience,” Czaplinski once told us. “We want it to be a place where people who’ve been coming for 25 years feel just as comfortable as kids from Cornish.”

NEXT MOVE Czaplinski will challenge audiences with performances by local artists: KT Niehoff’s dance “immersion” in April and Saint Genet’s “nothing is sacred” Paradisiacal Rites in May.


Charlie Schuck
Curator and Owner, Object Gallery, Age 35
In 2010, Schuck, a commercial photographer by trade, brought together his favorite local designers, stylists, architects, and artisans for a collaborative popup shop and stylish bash in his studio loft that led to more such parties and, soon enough, Object, his Belltown brick-and-mortar retail store and gallery space. He curates a collection of Northwest objects alongside items from places like Japan, which has influenced local sensibilities. “I want to bring awareness to Northwest design talent,” he says, “and make people think more about why they like things and how they choose to consume.”

NEXT MOVE For further proof of his collaborative spirit, look for Schuck’s reconceived museum store, featuring the work of 50 Seattle artists, at the Frye Art Museum.


Rachel Marshall
Entrepreneur, Age 32
Yes, Rachel’s Ginger Beer pours in restaurants all over town, but its creator has quietly become a formidable incubator, connector, and supporter of small-scale chefs and food artisans. Nowhere is that more on display than Capitol Hill. 

At divey Montana, on Olive Way, Rachel Marshall and two co-owners became the first in town to serve cocktails on tap. (Not a week goes by without someone asking them for advice on how to do this.) And Marshall inspired the guys at Analog Coffee around the corner to keg their cold brew—the first local example of a practice found in Portland and Brooklyn. Then she and her partners bought a building just a few doors up from Montana so fellow Broadway Farmers Market vendor Kedai Makan could have a kitchen—and feed Montana’s customers.

NEXT MOVE Montana just doubled its size to accommodate the crush of cocktail-ordering customers, and Rachel’s Ginger Beer will soon be on the doorsteps of Amazon Fresh customers around the city.


Chris Young
Culinary Scientist, Age 36
His old boss Nathan Myhrvold is the face of Modernist Cuisine the book, but this coauthor is the guy disseminating the practice to home cooks and chefs who don’t have access to the whizbang gadgetry. In a Pike Place Market office, Young and his partners run an online cooking school,, to preach better cooking through science. Their course on sous vide cooking is packed with videos and techniques, and the school’s online forum has already become a lively international hub for pressing modernist issues like sharpening knives (use a water stone). 

NEXT MOVE Young is applying his brain to issues impacting the developing world, such as discovering culinary uses for a new vegetable-based egg substitute. 


Timothy Harris
Founder, Real Change, Age 47
Tim Harris is an unlikely kingmaker. The Real Change director and homeless advocate rocks a long gray ponytail and big, unfashionable glasses, and is more likely to be seen in a ball cap and camo jacket than a suit and tie. But unlike many advocates for the downtrodden, who complain about cuts to human services but struggle to turn their outrage into action, Harris gets things done. (That’s in addition, of course, to running Seattle’s influential homeless newspaper, Real Change, which has a circulation of over 18,000.) He keeps homelessness issues in the public eye through a combination of agitprop stunts (after the recent One-Night Count of King County’s unsheltered homeless population, he set up a gong on the steps of city hall and rang it once for each of the 2,736 people counted) and more traditional activism (Real Change’s opposition was critical to the defeat of a controversial bill banning “aggressive panhandling” in 2011). 

NEXT MOVE He endorsed mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck, but as the race tightens other candidates will likely court Harris—and his homeless-rights agenda—hard and heavy. 


Brennon Leighton
Winemaker, Charles Smith Wines, Age 44
In the ’90s, Leighton was just another impressively tatted punk musician living in the Central District—until a server gig at the Brooklyn turned him on to wine. After studying at UC Davis, Leighton made white wine at Chateau Ste. Michelle, then became head winemaker at the fledging Efeste. Six years later it’s hardly fledgling, thanks to Leighton-created vintages like the 2009 Lola Chardonnay, whose 96-point Wine Enthusiast score is the highest in Washington chardonnay history. Last year he joined big-name, big-hair winemaker Charles Smith to create a new label, one dedicated to complex chardonnay with grapes that retain their acidity and yield gentler alcohol levels, sure to recalibrate the Washington’s taste for vino. The key: scouring the state for older vineyards that mimic the conditions in Burgundy—higher elevations, cooler climates, limestone-rich soil. 

NEXT MOVE The first bottling of the Burgundy-inspired chardonnay will be released in fall of 2014, recasting one of Washington’s most prolific grapes, usually more of a couch wine, into something that brings national—and international—acclaim.


Jen Graves
Art Critic, The StrangerAge 37
Has The Stranger cloned her? We see the newspaper’s affable art critic at multiple gallery openings in one day, her iPhone camera at the ready. We see her at the Frye, greeting Seattle artists and complimenting curator Scott Lawrimore on his suit. Or at Benaroya for a symphony premiere, chatting about the merits of the ondes Martenot. Graves lives Seattle arts, exposing and shaping the scene with a passion worn as cherry red lipstick. “My definition of newsworthy is not so unlike a crime reporter’s definition of newsworthy,” she says. “Is the art (the crime) unusual? Is the art (the crime) a big deal—does it involve or affect a lot of people? Is it something people need to know about; is it good for the city to know about it for one reason or another?” All of which, really, describe Graves herself.

NEXT MOVE You can always count on Graves to be the first to identify surprising, unheralded art, like her current obsession: the work of octogenarian David Byrd whose some 400 paintings hadn’t seen the light of day for decades but will debut at Greg Kucera Gallery this month. 


Ludovic Morlot
Music Director, Seattle Symphony, Age 39 
His 2011–12 debut season as music director reinvigorated the city’s classical music scene—and our orchestra—with world premieres inspired by Seattle rock and late-night chamber music performances in Benaroya’s lobby attended by hip young things and national reporters who aren’t afraid to call Morlot “sexy.” Perhaps what inspires us most, though, is his love of music—the kind of glee that drives him up onto the tips of his toes as he waves his baton. 

NEXT MOVE He commissioned three world premieres for the symphony’s April 26 late-night lobby concert. 


Kurt Beattie
Artistic Director, A Contemporary Theatre, Age 65
Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi
A Contemporary Theatre, 
Age 58
Those dark days of 2003 when a cash-flow crisis nearly shuttered A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) seem a distant memory. Under the leadership of Beattie and Scandiuzzi, the downtown theater has gone from bust to brilliant with an innovative business model. It started after Beattie, promoted from associate artistic director in 2003, conceived of the Central Heating Lab, an incubator for rising talent and new work, be it cabaret, film, or spoken word, to supplement the main-stage theater season. Scandiuzzi, an actor and film producer with an eye for the avant-garde, was hired to put the lab into action in 2007 and never left. Things got bolder from there. A Harold Pinter summer festival. A three-hour stage adaptation of a Southeast Asian epic. In 2009 came ACTPass—a subscription plan akin to a gym membership—and pay-what-you-can ticket prices became available for every show. Revenue has increased. “We exist for the same reason that there is public education and public health,” says Beattie. “To support and raise the quality of life in our civilization.”

NEXT MOVE The Beattie-directed Grey Gardens runs through June 2.


Justin Carder
Publisher, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Age 38
The man behind the city’s most in-tune neighborhood blog is an acquired taste. Yes, on Twitter (@jseattle) he bawls over the injustices of an asymmetrical media landscape, his targets ranging from truly big media like KOMO to relatively small, locally run ops like The Stranger. But read the blog and discover that Carder combines all the best instincts of Seattle entrepreneurship: CHS is constantly evolving and it’s intimately integrated into his community. Few journalists work harder. And no other local site has, in the span of just a few years, become the go-to source for, say, finding out both why the power just went out and what those gunshots were all about last night.

NEXT MOVE He’s redesigning CHS for better mobile access and an improved commenting platform so that the conversation on the Hill continues to be a two-way street.


Stewart Chung
Food Truck Fleet Commander, Age 52
You could call him the unofficial overlord of Seattle’s fledgling street food community. When not jetting to China for his architecture business or running his own food truck, Buns, Chung consults the mayor’s office on fostering a more four-wheeled-restaurant-friendly city. In 2012 he helped form Seattle Food Truck Alliance, the first of its kind. He’s launched a much-needed online forum where the nearly 150 members post on everything from refrigerator repairs to health department codes. There’s also an instructional web page for newcomers looking to enter the business. Then there are the food truck pods, 10 of which Chung has organized. Some have flopped while others have flourished, but either way the clusters—which feature up to eight trucks—encourage a vibrant street culture. They’ve also proved something of a godsend for mobile merchants, many of whom are first-time business owners and struggle to secure a parking spot on their own. 

NEXT MOVE He’s bringing new pods to Georgetown, SoDo, and downtown Seattle.

Published: April 2013

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