Power Lists

The 2023 Upstate Power 100

The leaders who have the region on the up and up.

City & State presents the 2023 Upstate Power 100.

City & State presents the 2023 Upstate Power 100. fdastudillo, iStock / Getty Images Plus

Ask anyone from upstate for their thoughts on who’s powerful here, and a reminder that Gov. Kathy Hochul is from Buffalo is the first thing you’ll hear. The first governor from upstate in a century (excluding borderline cases FDR and George Pataki), Hochul is leading an upstate renaissance that would make former President Grover Cleveland envious. Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Elise Stefanik, the most powerful Republican woman on Capitol Hill, are also upstaters. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tours upstate so much, he might as well pick up a second home in East Amherst or Camillus.

Upstate is also enjoying an economic renaissance, with Micron building a new plant outside Syracuse. Binghamton University is revitalizing its namesake city and the broader region. The bioscience industry is in full swing in Buffalo, with a new downtown medical campus anchoring the city’s economic growth. And let’s not forget the new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. A Buffalonian as governor or not, meet the people who are making this upstate’s time to shine.

1. Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul / NYS Governor's Office

The first governor from upstate New York since Cortland’s Nathan Miller left office a century ago, Gov. Kathy Hochul has been making a mark on upstate since her days as an anti-toll crusading town council member in suburban Buffalo. While Hochul is in New York City a good deal, she hasn’t forgotten her regional roots, with her accomplishments including a new football stadium deal for hometown favorite Buffalo Bills, tackling work permits for asylum-seekers upstate and spurring economic development. Hochul hasn’t left toll issues behind, as she has championed congestion pricing in Manhattan.

2. Chuck Schumer & Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senate Majority Leader; U.S. Senator
Chuck Schumer & Kirsten Gillibrand / U.S. Senate; The Office of Senator Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a native upstater who has spent almost two decades in Washington, D.C., addressing agriculture, rural affairs and national security issues. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is a native Brooklynite whose annual 62-county tours make him as familiar with Vestal Parkway in Broome County as he is with Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. The CHIPS and Science Act that Schumer ushered into law has led to Micron announcing a new facility outside Syracuse, and Schumer isn’t stopping there. He recently announced the nation’s first career opportunity hub for the semiconductor industry to be based at Albany NanoTech. Schumer also announced a Medicare formula change recently that will open up $1 billion in funding for upstate hospitals. Gillibrand has spent her time in the House and Senate on the agriculture committees, where she has played a key role in hashing out numerous farm bills. Gillibrand has championed such issues as federal funding for the Upstate Ice Plex in the Mohawk Valley, positioning Syracuse University to lead in creating STEM jobs for underserved populations and expanding North Country broadband access.

3. Crystal Peoples-Stokes

Assembly Majority Leader
Crystal Peoples-Stokes / Assembly

The most powerful upstate legislator in the state Capitol, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes’ impact is felt in all corners of the state. The author of the state’s cannabis legalization law has been working to monitor implementation of the program. She is also pushing for more home construction in the state and celebrating passage of the Clean Slate Act, which will be up to the governor to sign. She also brought Smithsonian officials to Buffalo this year to discuss the new National Women’s History Museum and to learn about Buffalo’s Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and to discuss museum programming ideas with the women of Buffalo.

4. Elise Stefanik

Member of Congress
Elise Stefanik / House Creative Services

The most powerful upstate New Yorker in the U.S. House of Representatives is Rep. Elise Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, which seized a narrow majority last fall. Stefanik ranks fourth in the House GOP leadership and is the most powerful Republican woman on Capitol Hill. A noted ally of former President Donald Trump, Stefanik has undergone a transformation from a relative moderate to a potential running mate for Trump in 2024. Breitbart News said she has “invigorated” House Republicans by increasing online engagement.

5. Mark Poloncarz, Adam Bello, Ryan McMahon & Daniel McCoy

County Executives, Erie County; Monroe County; Onondaga County; Albany County

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the president of the New York State County Executives Association, is trying to make history this year by becoming the first Erie County executive to win a fourth term. Poloncarz had a tough August, though, with his ex-girlfriend filing a police report accusing him of physical abuse and filing an ethics complaint, and abuse allegations surfacing against asylum-seekers in the county. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, like Poloncarz a Democrat, has been outspoken in calling on the federal government to do a better job coordinating asylum-seeker issues and supporting county and local governments across New York, including with expedited work permits. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, a Republican who’s up for reelection, has been celebrating the semiconductor plant that Micron is opening in the county. McMahon has also been focused on increasing security at the Destiny USA mall, revitalizing village downtowns and proposing a new public marina. Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, a former president of County Executives of America, has been focused on trying to support the asylum-seekers in his county. Under the Democrat’s leadership, the county has welcomed one of the highest numbers of asylum-seekers of any county outside New York City.

6. Ray Halbritter

Oneida Indian Nation Representative and CEO of Turning Stone Enterprises
Ray Halbritter / Oneida Indian Nation

Ray Halbritter is a key leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, running its business enterprises, including Turning Stone Resort Casino. In February, Halbritter worked with Cornell University to repatriate to the Nation the remains of Oneida ancestors that the university had held in its archives for almost six decades. Over the summer, Halbritter announced a $370 million expansion to Turning Stone, including a 77,000-square-foot conference center. Halbritter also announced a $1 million donation from the Oneida Indian Nation to Utica Wynn Hospital.

7. Byron Brown, Malik Evans, Kathy Sheehan & Ben Walsh

Mayors, Buffalo; Rochester; Albany; Syracuse
Byron Brown, Malik Evans, Kathy Sheehan & Ben Walsh / Yves-Richard Blanc; City of Rochester; Sabrina Flores; City of Syracuse

The mayors of upstate’s four largest cities have been focused on an array of issues, including economic development, crime and transportation. Buffalo’s longest-serving mayor, Byron Brown is facing questions on how much longer he’ll stay amid speculation that he was interested in the presidency of SUNY Buffalo State University. Brown said he intends to stay in City Hall, but he didn’t rule anything out. Brown’s budget included proposals for park renovations, new fire equipment and restoring the African American Cultural Center. Rochester Mayor Malik Evans unveiled the city’s new guaranteed basic income program, which will provide $500 a month to 351 qualifying city residents for a year. The program is funded by federal dollars and Rochester philanthropist Linda Philips. Evans extended Rochester’s gun violence state of emergency and outlined a focus on such issues as violence, poverty and homelessness. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan took over as president of the New York Conference of Mayors this year, becoming a top advocate for the state’s 575 city and village mayors. Back home in Albany, Sheehan announced a restoration project of Lark Street. In the spring, Sheehan welcomed asylum-seekers from New York City to Albany. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has one of the state’s most-watched transportation projects occurring in his city: the dismantling of the Interstate 81 viaduct and creation of a new boulevard. Walsh proposed a law to limit the amount of tobacco stores in the city. He also announced a new gun violence prevention proposal that includes paying gang members $100 a week to not break the law.

8. Mario Cilento

President, New York State AFL-CIO
Mario Cilento / El-Wise Noisette

A longtime labor leader, Mario Cliento leads one of the most powerful labor organizations in the state, representing some 3,000 unions across the state. Cilento’s reach can be felt across upstate and in issues outside of what one would typically associate with organized labor. He was a key figure in the overwhelming defeat of the last statewide constitutional convention referendum. Cliento has much to celebrate with this year’s legislative session, with a minimum wage hike and increased worker protections passing a pro-labor state Legislature.

9. Tim Kennedy, Michelle Hinchey, Rachel May, Neil Breslin, John Mannion, Jeremy Cooney, Samra Brouk & Sean Ryan

State Senators
Tim Kennedy, Michelle Hinchey, Rachel May, Neil Breslin, John Mannion, Jeremy Cooney, Samra Brouk & Sean Ryan / Gerri Hernandez; NYS Senate Photography

As chair of the Transportation Committee, state Sen. Tim Kennedy has been focused on such issues as freight rail safety and the capping of the Kensington Expressway on Buffalo’s East Side. Kennedy, a top fundraiser, is viewed as a likely future candidate for Buffalo mayor. State Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Michelle Hinchey is pushing for the federal government to use the upcoming farm bill to bring whole milk back to schools, reversing an Obama-era school lunch mandate. She also passed a bill to create a statewide short-term rental registry. State Sen. Rachel May leads panels focused on upstate cities and rural affairs, making her a key upstate advocate. May recently completed a tour of the state’s fiber trail and opened an office in Auburn. The longtime Insurance Committee chair, Neil Breslin added the ethics committee chair to his portfolio this year. Breslin is a former president of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. State Sen. Jeremy Cooney of Rochester has been pushing for more oversight of state cannabis regulators and said more regulation was likely needed in New York City than upstate. State Senate Mental Health Committee Chair Samra Brouk recently released a report on maternal and doula care in the state, including a call for increased doula care for Black and brown women, saying it would increase maternal health care in this population. She is also calling for the passage of Daniel’s Law to update mental health care. State Sen. Sean Ryan saw his district redrawn to take in the Buffalo suburbs of Amherst, Grand Island, Tonawanda and Kenmore. The leader of the Senate commerce panel, Ryan argues that county industrial development agency tax breaks are not always key to economic growth. State Senate Disabilities Committee Chair John Mannion is pivoting from a narrow 10-vote victory for reelection last year, to a run next year for the Democratic nod to oppose Rep. Brandon Williams in one of the nation’s most competitive congressional districts. Mannion, whose district will be home to Micron’s new plant, has proposed the creation of the Oswego River Basin Authority to address flooding issues in Central New York.

10. Rickey Armstrong Sr. & Kevin Nephew

President; President and CEO, Seneca Nation of Indians; Seneca Gaming Corp.
Rickey Armstrong Sr. & Kevin Nephew / Seneca Media & Communications Center; Seneca Gaming Corporation

The Seneca Nation has been locked in a seemingly endless round of negotiations with state officials over a new gaming compact after the Assembly declined to ratify a new pact. At issue is a provision that would allow the Seneca Nation to build a new casino in Rochester. Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said that while negotiations are ongoing, the current terms presented by the state were inadequate. Seneca Gaming Corp. President and CEO Kevin Nephew has said the Senecas’ casinos are back at pre-coronavirus levels. Armstrong has criticized Gov. Kathy Hochul for vetoing legislation to protect unmarked Indigenous burial sites.

11. Melinda Person

President, New York State United Teachers
Melinda Person / ElWise Noisette

Melinda Person took over the presidency of New York State United Teachers from Andy Pallotta earlier this year, and she is no stranger to the union or to education. A longtime NYSUT staffer and education advocate, Person has been focused on such issues as the state’s Foundation Aid for schools. Person’s vision for NYSUT includes expanding the union’s membership and clout, working to create productive learning environments in schools and making teaching an enticing profession, including by addressing pension issues.

12. Martha Pollack

President, Cornell University
Martha Pollack / Cornell University

Martha Pollack’s power and influence is not limited to the gorges of Ithaca but encompasses the hustle and bustle of Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island and Upper East Side as well. The leader of Cornell University, Pollack is in the middle of a $5 billion fundraising campaign, with the aim to increase financial aid for students and to grow the diversity of the Ivy League institution’s student body. Pollack has announced free expression as the theme for the current academic year at Cornell.

13. Heather Briccetti Mulligan

President and CEO, The Business Council of New York State
Heather Briccetti Mulligan / Joan Heffler Photography

Business is a driver of New York, and Heather Briccetti Mulligan works to make sure Albany is aware of the needs of the state’s business community. She was critical of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to sign legislation putting a two-year moratorium on new cryptocurrency mining in the state. Mulligan was also a key advocate to get the state to approve funding for the renovation of Belmont Park on Long Island, stressing that the horse racing industry is a key economic driver for both upstate and downstate.

14. Didi Barrett, Harry Bronson, Patricia Fahy, Pamela Hunter, Donna Lupardo, William Magnarelli, John T. McDonald III & Jonathan Rivera

Assembly Members
Didi Barrett, Harry Bronson, Patricia Fahy, Pamela Hunter, Donna Lupardo, William Magnarelli, John T. McDonald III & Jonathan Rivera / Assembly Photography; State Senate; John Nilsen Office of the Governor; Christopher D. Johnson, Mariana Tosca; Wendy Colucci; Quishara Williams

Assembly Member John T. McDonald III is an influential player in Albany, having spent a decade in the chamber following his tenure as Cohoes mayor. Since the lobbying effort to defeat Hector LaSalle’s nomination for state chief judge, the Governmental Operations Committee chair has been focused on legislation to regulate lobbying on judicial and commissioner nominations. His brother, James McDonald, was recently confirmed as state health commissioner. As the new Energy Committee chair, Assembly Member Didi Barrett has been pushing a number of clean energy issues, including the recently passed Build Public Renewables Act. She also delivered $150,000 to assist Dutchess Community College students with housing and food. Assembly Transportation Committee Chair William Magnarelli is pushing a number of transportation issues, including addressing vehicles striking low bridges, an issue brought to light by Onondaga Lake Parkway in his district. Agriculture Committee Chair Donna Lupardo teamed up with her committee’s top Republican, Christopher Tague, to press Congress to restore whole milk to schools in the new farm bill. She is also introducing legislation to open up industrial hemp in New York. In the aftermath of several high-profile bank collapses in the spring – including New York’s Signature Bank – Banks Committee Chair Pamela Hunter worked to assure New Yorkers that banks are safe. Economic Development Committee Chair Harry Bronson worked to postpone Assembly passage of the new Seneca Nation gaming compact due to concerns over a new casino in Rochester. Taking over as Higher Education Committee chair this year, Assembly Member Patricia Fahy’s focus hasn’t been just SUNY and CUNY – she has also sought to obtain state funding for a project to overhaul Interstate 787. Assembly Member Jonathan Rivera, the chamber’s only upstate Latino representative, played a role in securing votes for the Clean Slate Act and legal services for immigrants. The Regional Tourism Development Subcommittee chair has also been delivering funding for Buffalo institutions.

15. Douglas Jemal

Founder and President, Douglas Development Corp.
Douglas Jemal / Nick Ciavarella

Washingtonian Douglas Jemal is conquering Buffalo. Jemal recently purchased a downtown parking lot to develop new apartments and parking next to Seneca One, Buffalo’s tallest building, which he owns. Jemal is in the process of renovating a former hotel on the site of a historic mental hospital just north of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village. He recently purchased the iconic Butler Mansion at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and North Street from the University at Buffalo Foundation as a potential hotel. Jemal said he bought the mansion due to its connection to Delaware North, which got its name from the intersection, and the family of its Chair Jeremy Jacobs.

16. Terry Pegula & Kim Pegula

Owners, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres
Kim Pegula / Timothy T. Ludwig, Getty Images

Buffalo is a sports town and nothing drives Buffaloian passions more than the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. Team owners Terry and Kim Pegula command attention from Buffalo to the halls of power in Albany, obtaining $650 million from the state and $200 million from Erie County to build a new football stadium in Orchard Park. In August, the couple dissolved the holding company for the two teams and announced they would operate independently, with Terry Pegula assuming the presidency of both the Bills and the Sabres.

17. René F. Jones

Chair and CEO, M&T Bank

One of the few Black CEOs whose financial institutions are ranked in the Fortune 500, René F. Jones is at the helm of M&T Bank, a major banking company across upstate and beyond. Jones deftly navigated issues with the bank’s merger with Connecticut-based People’s United Bank, meeting with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to address customer issues and come to resolutions. Jones serves on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as vice chair of the Bank Policy Institute.

18. Nick Langworthy, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Claudia Tenney & Brandon Williams

Members of Congress
Nick Langworthy, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Claudia Tenney & Brandon Williams / NYGOP; Randy Monceaux; Dutchess County Executive's Office; House of Representatives

This group of five Republican members of Congress include three of the most endangered in the country and two of the safest. Rep. Claudia Tenney, the longest-serving of the group, went from representing the Utica area to a new district spanning the Finger Lakes, Watertown and the Niagara Falls suburbs. She has criticized President Joe Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s response to the asylum-seeker crisis, claimed former President Donald Trump was indicted to help Biden and promoted hunting and archery classes in schools. A onetime House aide to Tom Reynolds, first-term Rep. Nick Langworthy secured a seat on the powerful Rules Committee like Reynolds did in his first term and joined the leadership of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, which Reynolds once chaired. Rep. Mike Lawler may be one of the most vulnerable first-term Republicans in the country. The Hudson Valley lawmaker is omnipresent, showing up in the media almost daily and to everything in his district short of the opening of an envelope. Rep. Marc Molinaro is another first-term swing district representative, and he’s maintaining a hyperlocal focus. He undertook an action-packed August district tour with multiple daily stops in Oneonta, Coxsackie and Owego. Rep. Brandon Williams’ Central New York district is another swing district, and the first-term representative has passed amendments to ban federal funding of research in China, promote aviation safety and backed a bipartisan bill to preserve dams.

19. Satish Tripathi

President, University at Buffalo
Satish Tripathi / Douglas Levere

The University at Buffalo has always wanted to stand apart in the SUNY system, a holdover from being the private University of Buffalo. Satish Tripathi has gone above and beyond previous efforts to stand apart, with UB being designated one of SUNY’s two flagship campuses by Gov. Kathy Hochul and receiving $100 million in capital funding in this year’s state budget. The school received $10 million in state funding this year for a new James Joyce Museum on its South Campus. The university houses the world’s largest James Joyce collection.

20. Carla Freedman & Trini Ross

U.S. Attorneys, Northern District of New York; Western District of New York
Carla Freedman & Trini Ross / Eli Alford, Department of Justice

Upstate’s top federal prosecutors have both carved out agendas to approach the individual needs of their districts. Trini Ross, the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in New York’s Western District, chairs U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s advisory subcommittee on law enforcement coordination, victim assistance and community relations. This year, she hosted her subcommittee in Buffalo, where members toured the site of last year’s deadly shooting at a Tops supermarket and met with Buffalo community leaders. Carla Freedman, the first woman confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead New York’s Northern District, has outlined an agenda that includes a focus on reducing gun violence and working closely with state and county law enforcement in her sprawling district.

21. Brian Higgins, Joe Morelle, Pat Ryan & Paul Tonko

Members of Congress
Brian Higgins, Joe Morelle, Pat Ryan & Paul Tonko / House Creative Services; Office of Congressman Paul D. Tonko

Upstate’s four Democratic members of Congress include three veteran safe district members and a first-term member from a swing district. Rep. Brian Higgins, the longest-serving member of the group, has sought to make Buffalo an upstate hub for technology, science and engineering. He is pushing for the Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse corridor to become a federally recognized tech hub and announced federal funding for a new STEM education program at the University at Buffalo. Rochester’s Rep. Joe Morelle has taken on the ranking minority member post on the House Administration Committee, putting him in the middle of debates over post-Jan. 6 security on Capitol Hill, election administration and more mundane matters like congressional parking and office supplies. Rep. Paul Tonko has proposed legislation, currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to ban online sports betting commercials. In the spring, he worked with his fellow Electrification Caucus co-chairs to host an electric truck showcase on Capitol Hill. Rep. Pat Ryan, a first-term swing district lawmaker from the Hudson Valley, is touting getting $7 million for constituents through his casework in his district office. He also pushed disaster relief following this summer’s Hudson Valley floods.

22. Jeremy Jacobs

Chair, Delaware North

Jeremy Jacobs’ influence can be felt everywhere from downtown Buffalo to Boston. Jacobs leads family-owned Delaware North, owns the Boston Bruins, chairs the NHL board of governors and the University at Buffalo Council. Jacobs presides over a company with a foothold in food service, venue management, casinos and hospitality. Delaware North – where the governor’s husband worked as general counsel for nearly a decade – provides concessions at over 200 venues nationwide but has lost its longtime contract with the Buffalo Bills ahead of the new Bills stadium opening in 2026.

23. Antonio Delgado

Lieutenant Governor
Antonio Delgado / Delgado For Congress

A former member of Congress in an upstate swing seat, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado is now half of the first all-upstate ticket to win a gubernatorial election in over a century. Delgado focuses on regional economic development and chairs the newly created Hate and Bias Prevention Unit. Currently 17 governors around the country, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, are former lieutenant governors. Could Delgado join the National Governors Association one day? Six of Delgado’s predecessors in the past century later moved to the Executive Mansion.

24. Jack O’Donnell

Managing Partner, O’Donnell & Associates
Jack O’Donnell / O’Donnell & Associates

Jack O’Donnell is a top lobbyist who knows how to get stuff done in Albany and has a reach across the state. His clients include Alstom Transportation, Rise Light & Power, the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, Delaware North and such venerable Western New York institutions as the University at Buffalo, Niagara University and the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, formerly known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. O’Donnell is the author of “Bitten by the Tiger,” a book about former Gov. William Sulzer, the only New York governor to be impeached.

25. Darius Pridgen

President, Buffalo Common Council
Darius Pridgen / Yves-Richard Blanc

The longtime president of the Buffalo Common Council and influential bishop and senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church is retiring this year as the Common Council member representing the city’s Ellicott District. While Pridgen will be yielding his leadership perch atop Buffalo’s legislative branch, he will remain a powerful voice through True Bethel, where he established himself as one of Buffalo’s most powerful faith leaders. Pridgen has become embroiled in a bizarre lawsuit, in which he was accused of sexual assault by a woman who has since said it has not happened and claims that she never asked an attorney to file a lawsuit. Pridgen is seeking to have the case dismissed.

26. John Koelmel, Joseph Kessler & Daniella Piper

Chair; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; Chief Transformation Officer, New York Power Authority
John Koelmel, Joseph Kessler & Daniella Piper / Phillip Kamrass, New York Power Authority

The New York Power Authority has a statewide reach, which will be growing with the state’s new public renewable energy law. But no place is the New York Power Authority more impactful locally than Western New York, which is home to the Niagara Power Project, NYPA’s largest hydroelectric plant that’s located on the Niagara River in Lewiston. John Koelmel, the former chair and CEO of First Niagara Financial Group, is NYPA’s longtime chair, while Joseph Kessler is the authority’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, bringing a background in electrical engineering to the role. Daniella Piper holds the dual roles of chief transformation officer for the authority and regional manager for Western New York.

27. Gavin Donohue

President and CEO, Independent Power Producers of New York
Gavin Donohue / IPPNY

Gavin Donohue thinks the state’s goal to transition to more all-electric buildings in the next few years isn’t realistic. He has said the state hasn’t identified the power sources to provide the electricity needed to fulfill this goal. He also feels the new state law to give the New York Power Authority new renewable energy duties wasn’t needed since, he said, the private sector was stepping up on the issue and was better prepared to do so than NYPA.

28. Stephen Acquario

Executive Director and General Counsel, New York State Association of Counties; New York State County Executives Association
Stephen Acquario / Tom Oldfather

Stephen Acquario has found himself put front and center in one of the state’s biggest debates: how to help asylum-seekers. Acquario has been speaking out on behalf of the state’s county governments pushing President Joe Biden to release additional funds to the state and county governments to better address the growing number of migrants in New York. Among the issues county governments have cited are social services costs, housing issues and employment. The New York State Association of Counties has been focused on coordinating services between the state’s counties to address the issue.

29. Mindy Rich

Chair, Rich Holdings Inc.

Last year, Mindy Rich became the chair of Rich Holdings Inc., the holding company for family owned Rich Products. Rich presides over a Buffalo-based food services company that produces everything from cheesecakes and donuts to SeaPak seafood, along with operating food services for colleges, schools and hospitals. The privately held company has $4.5 billion in annual revenues. In February, the company announced a $100 million expansion of a plant in Brownsville, Texas, that makes many of their frozen appetizers.

30. Havidán Rodríguez

President, University at Albany
Havidán Rodríguez / University at Albany

The first Hispanic president of a four-year SUNY school, Havidán Rodríguez is now advising President Joe Biden about issues impacting the Hispanic community. Biden selected Rodríguez as a member of the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Education Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. In Albany, Rodríguez has been focused on STEM education and economic growth, announcing the return of the College of Nanotechnology, Science and Engineering and has won state support for artificial intelligence research at the university.

31. Beth Finkel

State Director, AARP New York
Beth Finkel / Johann Gamez, Alerta! Creative

Beth Finkel will do everything to remind New Yorkers of the rights of older Americans in the state. When she’s not pressing Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers to pass legislation to make Medicare prescription drug prices more transparent, she is pushing to make nursing homes across the state safer with more oversight in place. Finkel even lit up New York City, recently unveiling a lighted display on Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island to celebrate Social Security’s 88th birthday.

32. Mary Wilson

Board Chair and Life Trustee, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

The widow of the late Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Mary Wilson now presides over the $2.4 billion foundation that Wilson created. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation was a driving force behind the new 28,000-square-foot Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Welcome Center at Niagara Falls State Park that opened this year and is working with Buffalo officials to convert LaSalle Park along the Niagara River into Ralph Wilson Park. Last year, the foundation created a $10 million endowment for a trail maintenance fund in Western New York.

33. April Baskin

Chair, Erie County Legislature
April Baskin / Yves-Richard Blanc

With New York state and Erie County taxpayers paying $850 million to construct a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin wants to make sure the NFL team and contractors keep their end of the deal – namely that 36% of construction contracts go to certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises and disabled veteran-owned business. This summer, Baskin led lawmakers in directing county officials to study the contracts and pledged vigorous legislative oversight.

34. Helen Hudson

President, Syracuse Common Council
Helen Hudson / CNYLabor

A longtime gun violence prevention advocate, Helen Hudson now leads Syracuse’s legislative branch. The co-founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence, Hudson has continued to speak out on her signature issue but is stepping up to lead on a number of other issues in Syracuse and statewide. Hudson was a supporter of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s housing proposals earlier this year, saying the state needed to focus on housing. A Democrat, Hudson crossed party lines to endorse independent Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh for reelection in 2021.

35. Casey Seiler

Editor, Times Union
Casey Seiler / Will Waldron, Times Union

Casey Seiler has used his various perches at the Times Union to grow into a power in Albany for years, from his days as Capitol Bureau chief to the editorship. His past post as the paper’s entertainment editor gave him grounding for the world of politics. Seiler, who previously wrote for newspapers in Wyoming and Vermont, uses his column to opine on a number of statewide issues, including judicial ethics in Chenango County and the legacy of former Lt. Gov. Dick Ravitch.

36. Clint Halftown

Representative, Cayuga Nation
Clint Halftown / Missy Barringer

The Cayuga Nation settled an almost two-decade-old land dispute this year with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s top Indian affairs official approving its application to move 101 acres of land the nation owns in Cayuga County into a trust. Clint Halftown, the Nation’s federally recognized representative, said the approval upholds the Nation’s sovereignty and rights under the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. In August, Halftown announced a partnership between the nation and Ludovico Sculpture Trail to beautify Seneca Falls.

37. Dennis McKenna

President and CEO, Albany Med Health System
Dennis McKenna / Albany Medical Center

Albany Med Health System is one of the Capital Region’s largest private sector employers, and the health giant’s leader, Dr. Dennis McKenna has become a key health care advocate in the state. McKenna is part of a group of health care leaders pressing the federal government to change Medicare reimbursement formulas, which he said would bring Albany region hospitals an additional $192 million a year. McKenna launched a new rebranding effort of the health system’s hospitals to bring a common brand to the region.

38. Howard Zemsky

Owner, Larkin Development Group
Howard Zemsky / Empire State Development

A hometown ally of Gov. Kathy Hochul, Howard Zemsky, a former president and CEO of Empire State Development, has been a key player in the redevelopment of Buffalo for years. Zemsky’s Larkin Development Group has been the driving force behind the redevelopment of the Larkinville neighborhood near downtown Buffalo. Larkin Development Group has a footprint in downtown Buffalo’s main business district, developing office buildings along Main Street and adjacent Chippewa Street.

39. Colleen Wegman

CEO, Wegmans

No supermarket has a more loyal fan base than Wegmans, and Colleen Wegman leads this family business. Wegman, whose empire stretches from Rochester to Northern Virginia, wants to help Americans eat healthier. Wegmans announced that it will discontinue its private label W soda (or, as Western New Yorkers say, pop), saying that its products will not contain artificial ingredients. The Wegmans Family Foundation donated $1.5 million to Niagara University this year to endow a directorship to lead the university’s food industry and supply chain centers for excellence.

40. David O’Rourke

President and CEO, New York Racing Association
David O’Rourke / Adam Coglianese, NYRA

While much of the focus on David O’Rourke has been his work to advocate for state funding for Belmont Park on Long Island, the racing association chief has been just as focused on upstate. O’Rourke has been touting the economic benefits that horse racing brings to the Saratoga Springs region annually, including 60% of the region’s more than $600 million annual tourism economy. O’Rourke has also been outlining the impact of computerized robotic wagering on the racing industry and how the New York Racing Association addresses the issue.

41. Sarah Mangelsdorf

President, University of Rochester
Sarah Mangelsdorf / Adam Fenster, University of Rochester

Sarah Mangelsdorf wants the University of Rochester to be a good neighbor and great place to work in Monroe County. Mangelsdorf, who wants the university to be known as a global research university of the future, has raised the minimum wage for university employees to $15 an hour and elevated human resources oversight to the university’s top leadership. She has also led the creation of a new vice presidency for community partnerships to better connect the university and community, and a new Department of Black Studies.

42. Harvey Stenger

President, Binghamton University
Harvey Stenger / Jonathan Cohen, Binghamton University

Harvey Stenger is focused on economic and educational growth in Binghamton. As Binghamton University’s president, Stenger presided over the creation of the university’s new Health Sciences Building in the former Endicott-Johnson Shoe Co. factory in nearby Johnson City, a move that has spurred economic growth in the village’s downtown. Stenger is exploring a merger between the university and Broome Community College, and accepted a $37 million anonymous donation. Stenger also brings a sense of humor, announcing a new foosball team as an April Fools’ Day prank.

43. Mike Elmendorf

President and CEO, Associated General Contractors of New York State
Mike Elmendorf / JP Elario

Mike Elmendorf really hates potholes, and he makes sure that Gov. Kathy Hochul, legislative leaders and everyone else in Albany knows it. The influential Associated General Contractors of New York State chief is pressing for more investment in roads and bridges, citing statistics that rank New York low in states for road conditions. Elmendorf has spent the year focused on pushing for more state funding for road projects, noting that while increased federal funds have come in, inflation has driven up costs.

44. Tom King

President, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association

While many elected officials in New York City and its suburbs pride themselves on pushing gun prevention measures and embrace the endorsement of former Rep. Gabby Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety, things are different upstate, where National Rifle Association endorsements are essential to many rural voters. Tom King, the leader of New York’s pro-Second Amendment community, led the charge for the U.S. Supreme Court case to overturn a state law that had required a license to carry a gun. King teamed with Rep. Elise Stefanik to lead a pro-Second Amendment rally in the North Country late last year.

45. Sheila Rayam

Executive Editor, The Buffalo News
Sheila Rayam / Derek Gee, The Buffalo News

The first Black journalist to lead The Buffalo News, Sheila Rayam comes to the state’s second-largest city with a wealth of experience covering upstate. Prior to moving to Buffalo last year, Rayam was the executive editor of the Observer-Dispatch – also the first Black journalist to lead that newspaper – and had a storied career at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Rayam takes the helm of The Buffalo News as New York is led by the first governor from Buffalo in over a century.

46. Frederick Kowal

President, United University Professions
Frederick Kowal / UUP Communications Director Mike Lisi

For a decade, Frederick Kowal has been the state’s leading advocate for SUNY faculty, a role that he’ll continue in for at least the next three years. Reelected this past spring, Kowal shows no signs of slowing down his advocacy for SUNY’s faculty, continuing his push for Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders to put SUNY at the forefront of budget negotiations. Kowal led UUP in a new contract with SUNY, which was overwhelmingly ratified by members in August.

47. David Munson

President, Rochester Institute of Technology
David Munson / Rochester Institute of Technology

Don’t say that the Rochester Institute of Technology and its president, David Munson, don’t know how to have fun. Munson has made student approachability a hallmark of his presidency, including an annual comedic video that he and his wife, Nancy, do to welcome back students. Munson’s recent accomplishments include raising over $1 billion in a new capital campaign and renaming a dorm after Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry, a granddaughter of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Student leaders showed their appreciation for him by naming a sandwich after Munson – pastrami, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing on grilled pumpernickel.

48. Donald Boyd

President and CEO, Kaleida Health

Donald Boyd took over the top spot at Kaleida Health last year, but he wasn’t a stranger. Boyd arrived in the corner office at Western New York’s largest health care system after 25 years moving up the ranks, including several years in the No. 2 spot. Early in his career, he led the system’s Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, on the border of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village and leafy Delaware Avenue, where he oversaw creation of the hospital’s well-known vascular institute.

49. Thomas Quatroche Jr.

President and CEO, Erie County Medical Center
Thomas Quatroche Jr. / Erie Country Medical Center

Thomas Quatroche Jr. is presiding over a remake of the physical campus and image of Erie County Medical Center as the Buffalo-based public hospital becomes an integral player in the city’s growing medical and bioscience field. A longtime ECMC executive, Quatroche is on the front lines of the economic development that the multifaceted medical campus in downtown Buffalo has spurred in the region. Quatroche’s influence extends beyond the walls of ECMC – he is a member of numerous regional groups and once served as a member of the Hamburg Town Board alongside Gov. Kathy Hochul.

50. Harold Iselin & Hank Greenberg

Albany Office Managing Shareholder; Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Harold Iselin & Hank Greenberg / Greenberg Traurig; Timothy Rabb

Harold Iselin and Hank Greenberg are two attorneys you need to know in Albany. Iselin and Greenberg bring extensive knowledge of state government to their work with Greenberg Traurig. Iselin, the managing shareholder of the firm’s Albany office, is a top health care regulatory attorney. Greenberg, a veteran of the state attorney general’s office, lieutenant governor’s office and state Department of Health, had a role in some of the most contentious fights in Albany this year as counsel to the state Commission on Judicial Nomination, which first proposed Hector LaSalle as a candidate for state chief judge. He is a past president of the New York State Bar Association.

51. Melissa Autilio Fleischut

President and CEO, New York State Restaurant Association
Melissa Autilio Fleischut / Beth Mickalonis Photography

Melissa Autilio Fleischut has had a busy few years as the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened and transformed the state’s restaurant industry. As the state moves past the pandemic, she has been focused on a number of issues to help the industry recover. She is supportive of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposals to make the state Liquor Authority more efficient. She has also backed a new initiative from the state health and agriculture departments to promote awareness of food allergies.

52. Robert Ortt & William Barclay

Minority Leaders, State Senate; Assembly
Robert Ortt & William Barclay / Senate; New York State Assembly

Rob Ortt and William Barclay may lead Republican caucuses that seem like permanent minorities – and superminorities at that – but they still make their voices heard. Ortt led his caucus in forcing a full state Senate vote on Hector LaSalle’s failed nomination for state chief judge. Barclay is celebrating the completion of Oswego’s downtown redevelopment. Ortt and Barclay make appointments to a number of state panels, including the Carpet Stewardship Advisory Board, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute board of directors in Buffalo and the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. They also are legally required to receive numerous briefing reports on such issues as state audits, housing loans, nighttime road work and hearing aid regulations, along with serving on the state land acquisition advisory council.

53. Jeremy Zellner

Chair, Erie County Democratic Committee
Jeremy Zellner / Nancy Parisi

Jeremy Zellner is able to say something that almost all of his predecessors as Erie County’s Democratic leader could not: He’s the home county party chair for the governor of New York. Don’t let Zellner’s status as one of the state’s youngest Democratic leaders fool you. He has led Buffalo-area Democrats for over a decade and is the second-longest-serving Democratic chair in Erie County history. Zellner also serves as the Democratic commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections.

54. Mantosh Dewan

President, Upstate Medical University
Mantosh Dewan / Upstate Foundation

Since becoming president of Upstate Medical University in 2020, Dr. Mantosh Dewan has been looking to expand the medical center’s scope. This year, Dewan inked an agreement with Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science to increase research collaborations between the two institutions, which are an hour’s drive from each other. Dewan led an effort to bring Crouse Health’s hospitals into the university’s hospital portfolio, but the plan was dropped after officials said it was not the right time.

55. Ashley Ranslow

New York State Director, National Federation of Independent Business
Ashley Ranslow / Melissa Stankovich

Ashley Ranslow wants Albany to know that she means business. Small business, that is. The state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, Ranslow is a top advocate for small businesses across the state. She is pressing an agenda that is heavily focused on job creation, creating a regulatory environment that is business-friendly, addressing unemployment insurance and filling current job openings in small businesses. Ranslow also says that New York is suffering from an affordability crisis that is hurting small businesses.

56. Paul Ciminelli

President and CEO, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.

A leading Buffalo developer, Paul Ciminelli wants to be a good neighbor in the “City of Good Neighbors.” In July, Ciminelli pledged $500,000, contingent on Buffalo officials contributing $560,000, to the Braymiller Market in Buffalo, which Ciminelli helped develop. Ciminelli praised the nearby Niagara County city of North Tonawanda and suburban Erie County villages for creating walkable event-filled downtowns. He said Buffalo officials should be working to bring more residential living and events to downtown.

57. Elizabeth Dribusch

CEO, New York Farm Bureau
Elizabeth Dribusch / Brooks Brown

Elizabeth Dribusch wants everyone to remember that farmers are a vital part of the state’s economic landscape. Dribusch celebrated several wins in the state budget, including the refundable investment tax credit, which the Farm Bureau pushed for to help farmers looking to expand. The bureau supports Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push for expedited federal work visas for migrants. The bureau is calling on Hochul to veto a neonicotinoid pesticide ban, saying it will require farming practices that release more carbon in the soil.

58. Alexander Betke

Attorney, Brown & Weinraub
Alexander Betke / Timothy H. Raab, Northern Photo

Alexander Betke has created a niche for himself at the top state lobbying firm Brown & Weinraub, as both a lobbyist and an attorney focused on municipal law. A former Coxsackie supervisor, Betke brings his background in local government to his municipal law work, which has included serving as general counsel to the villages of Catskill and Saugerties. As a lobbyist, he has worked with corporate and association clients to advance their interests in Albany. Betke is engaged in civic work centered around economic growth in the Hudson Valley.

59. Kathleen Achibar, Justin Berhaupt & Samara Daly

Senior Associate; Senior Vice President; Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Kathleen Achibar, Justin Berhaupt & Samara Daly / Richard Blanc; Natalie Cartz; Helena Palazzi

Kathleen Achibar, Justin Berhaupt and Samara Daly are key members of the team at powerhouse lobbying firm Bolton-St Johns. Achibar has a background in Buffalo-area politics, including working for Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer. She is also the western vice president of the New York State Young Democrats. Justin Berhaupt has established himself in Albany, particularly in the areas of legal and business policy. A former policy adviser in the state attorney general’s office, Berhaupt has worked on such issues as the opioid epidemic and reforming the state’s nonprofit corporation law. Daly brings experience to the firm in such areas as public-private partnerships and working with nonprofits and developers. Daly is also a co-founder of DalyGonzalez, a boutique MWBE firm.

61. Barbara Van Epps

Executive Director, New York Conference of Mayors
Barbara Van Epps / Joann Hoose

On Aug. 18, Barbara Van Epps stepped up to be the top advocate for the state’s 575 city and village mayors by becoming the new executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors. Van Epps, previously the conference’s deputy executive director, succeeded longtime executive director Peter Baynes, who retired. This year, the Conference of Mayors has been pressing state lawmakers on a number of issues, including housing.

62. Sanjay Mehrotra

President and CEO, Micron
Sanjay Mehrotra / Mike Groll, Office of Rochester

No economic development project is more talked about upstate than Micron’s new semiconductor plant in the Syracuse suburb of Clay. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra has pledged that the company will invest $100 billion over 20 years in Central New York and create 9,000 jobs directly and 50,000 jobs total. The Micron project includes a new community engagement strategy, part of a plan by the company to conduct outreach to local stakeholders and bolster the region.

63. Melanie Littlejohn

Vice President for New York Customer and Community Management, National Grid
Melanie Littlejohn / Ana Gil Taylor

Melanie Littlejohn is a veteran business and civic leader in Central New York. She currently leads National Grid’s stakeholder engagement strategy across New York, making sure the energy company is delivering for customers across the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul selected Littlejohn to co-chair the new Micron Community Engagement Committee, which will advise the semiconductor company on its community investment and engagement strategy with the opening of its new Syracuse-area facility.

64. Paul DerOhannesian II

Member, DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian
Paul DerOhannesian II / Jeff Foley Photography

Paul DerOhannesian II has centered himself as a go-to attorney in fields of criminal law and election law. DerOhannesian’s clients include an Ossining police officer who was accused of faking harassment against her, a case that DerOhannesian said was “riddled with mystery and confusion.” DerOhannesian was Rep. Claudia Tenney’s attorney in her 2020 congressional recount victory and represented former state Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton in getting his corruption conviction vacated.

65. Evan Sullivan & Andrew Kennedy

Executive Vice President; Senior Vice President, Ostroff Associates
Evan Sullivan & Andrew Kennedy / Ostroff Associates; Joan Heffler Photography

Evan Sullivan and Andrew Kennedy bring deep experience in government to their lobbying roles at Ostroff Associates. Sullivan joined Ostroff following a stint as director of legislation and senior adviser for the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference, where he was involved in legislative and budget negotiations on a number of critical issues. Kennedy came to Ostroff after serving as president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, where he worked on economic development projects in the Albany region. Kennedy has also served as deputy director of state operations.

66. Lisa Marrello

Partner and Managing Director, Park Strategies
Lisa Marrello / Rich Pagano, Print Connections

Lisa Marrello is a key member of the team at Park Strategies, the powerhouse lobbying firm founded by former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato. A former top housing policy staffer in the Assembly, Marrello works with clients on housing, transportation, health care, racing, casinos, economic development and higher education issues. She serves on a number of business and community boards in the Capital Region and is a former legislative staffer in the New York City mayor’s office.

67. Michael Keroullé

President and CEO, Alstom Americas
Michael Keroullé / Alstom

Next time you board a train in Philadelphia or Chicago – or a new Acela – good chance it was made in the Southern Tier community of Hornell. Alstom Americas, led by President and CEO Michael Keroullé, is Hornell’s major employer and holds contracts with Amtrak, SEPTA in Philadelphia and Metra in Chicago for new rail cars. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer toured Alstom earlier this year to say the new federal infrastructure law will continue to have Hornell keep America moving.

68. Hamdi Ulukaya

Founder and CEO, Chobani
Hamdi Ulukaya / Chobani

The founder of Norwich-based Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya has cultivated a yogurt brand that’s on store shelves across the country. Ulukaya is outlining a vision for the business community to focus not just on making profits but on making a difference in the world. Earlier this year when an earthquake hit Syria and Turkey, Ulukaya donated $2 million of his own money and urged other business leaders, the federal government and the World Bank to jump into action to help.

69. Keith Kimball

Chair, Northeast Dairy Producers Association
Keith Kimball / Katie Becker Photography

Dairy in New York is more than the butter sculpture at the state fair – it’s big business, accounting for half of the state’s agricultural income, with 15.5 billion pounds of milk produced annually in New York. Keith Kimball, the owner of a 900-cow dairy farm in the Livingston County town of Groveland, is a top advocate for New York’s dairy industry. The Northeast Dairy Producers Association is a network of family dairy farmers large and small all across the state.

69. Wendell Weeks

Chair and CEO, Corning

The leader of one of the Southern Tier’s most storied companies, Wendell Weeks’ outlook is global in scope. This summer, Weeks toured China, meeting with Chinese officials on new business opportunities between the two countries. This year, President Joe Biden named Weeks to the U.S. Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, where he provides his expertise to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the nation’s trade policy.

70. Thomas Caulfield

President and CEO, GlobalFoundries
Thomas Caulfield / Submitted

Thomas Caulfield is upbeat about the future of GlobalFoundries, the Saratoga County-based semiconductor manufacturer that he leads. Caulfield told analysts earlier this year that the company sees growth opportunities in the defense and auto industries. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Caulfield and Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet this summer to announce a “strategic collaboration” between GlobalFoundries and the defense giant. Caulfield said artificial intelligence will refresh his industry.

71. Michael Backus

President and CEO, Oswego Health
Michael Backus / Kay Lavonier

Michael Backus isn’t even 40, and he’s already a force to be reckoned with in Central New York. Backus ascended to the top job at Oswego Health earlier this year after two years in the health system’s No. 2 spot. Backus, New York’s youngest county clerk when he became Oswego County clerk in 2012 at the age of 29, has outlined a vision for the 1,000 employee health system to focus on growth to meet new economic growth in Central New York.

72. Michael Powers

President, New York State Correctional Officers Police Benevolent Association

Michael Powers wants safer state prisons. The president of the state’s corrections officers union argues that the HALT Act, which reduces the duration of solitary confinement, has led to an increase in prison assaults. He has ended up in a public feud with state Senate Crime and Correction Committee Chair Julia Salazar, who has said the union needed to do more to implement the law to reduce assaults – which Powers calls a lie. Powers also serves on the City Council in Ogdensburg.

73. Oliver Kardos & Michael McMahon

National Head of BB Payments, SBA and Virtual RM Channels; Commercial Banking Executive for Upstate New York and Buffalo Market President, KeyBank
Oliver Kardos & Michael McMahon / KeyBank; Tom Wolf Imaging

Oliver Kardos and Michael McMahon are key leaders for KeyBank across upstate. The Albany-based Kardos heads up sales operations for the bank in the broader Northeast region. McMahon, the bank’s Buffalo market president, has taken on expanded duties as the bank’s commercial banking executive for upstate. McMahon remains the bank’s point person for the Buffalo region. KeyBank executives play key roles in a number of economic development groups upstate, including the Upstate Capital Association of New York.

74. Christopher Jagel

CEO, Harris Beach
Christopher Jagel / Harris Beach PLLC

Christopher Jagel leads a Rochester-based law firm with a statewide reach. As Harris Beach’s CEO, he has led the firm’s 165th anniversary celebration, involved associates more in firm management and created new practices centered around the state’s growing cannabis industry and anti-money laundering. The powerhouse law firm’s attorney roster includes former U.S. Attorney Terrance Flynn, former state Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo and state Sen. Jack Martins.

75. Morgan Hook

Managing Director, Albany Office, SKDK
Morgan Hook / Elario Photography

A longtime Albany communications hand, Morgan Hook now leads the Albany office for one of the state’s leading political relations and communications firms. Hook, a former communications director for then-Gov. David Paterson and a top SUNY spokesperson, has been central in leading SKDK’s efforts in the state Capitol. SKDK clients have included the New York Racing Association, NRG Energy, New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, the Greater New York Hospital Association and New Yorkers United for Justice.

76. Christopher Duryea

Managing Partner, Statewide Public Affairs
Christopher Duryea / Lucy Schultz

Is working in New York politics easier or harder than operating a U.S. Navy submarine? Christopher Duryea could tell you, having gone from diving to the depths of the ocean in a sub to navigating the legislative arcana of Albany. Duryea, a Central New York political veteran, is the managing partner of Statewide Public Affairs. Statewide’s clients in recent years have included such corporate and nonprofit heavyweights as National Grid, the Special Olympics, Home Depot Inc., the New York State Restaurant Association, Volkswagen and Coca-Cola.

77. Caron O’Brien Crummey & Wendy Saunders

Directors, Hinman Straub
Caron O’Brien Crummey & Wendy Saunders / Hinman Straub; Castle Photography Inc

Caron O’Brien Crummey and Wendy Saunders bring deep experience in New York health care matters to their clients at Hinman Straub. Crummer joined the firm after 27 years in the state Senate majority office, where she rose to be the chief adviser on health care matters. Saunders’ background is largely in the state’s executive branch, where she was deputy secretary for health under then-Gov. David Paterson and executive deputy health commissioner under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Saunders’ government affairs work has included working to mitigate reporting requirements for nursing homes, securing new funding streams for reproductive health providers and new funding for school health programs. Crummey has worked to secure new funding for long-term care providers, directed statewide advocacy campaigns and focused on assisting startup companies navigate New York’s regulatory landscape.

78. Tod Martin & Andrew Mangini

Chair and CEO; Vice President – Public Affairs, The Martin Group
Tod Martin & Andrew Mangini / Luke Copping; Kris Qua

Tod Martin and Andrew Mangini are names you want to know if you are pursuing any kind of public affairs campaign upstate. The Martin Group, a Buffalo-based firm, has been a key contact for public affairs campaigns and has been growing in recent years with the firm’s 2021 acquisition of Gramercy Communications to expand its Albany-area practice. Martin leads the firm and is active in a number of Buffalo area civic organizations. A state legislative staff veteran, Mangini leads public affairs work for the firm.

79. Lola W. Brabham

President, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities
Lola W. Brabham / Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

Lola W. Brabham’s impact on New York’s higher education system and workforce development continues to grow. Brabham helped shepherd into place a new definition of universities in New York, allowing many of the state’s independent colleges and universities – along with SUNY campuses – to adopt the moniker. Brabham was also a key advocate behind a law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul to allow nursing students to complete a third of their clinical training through simulations, a measure that will address New York’s nursing shortage.

80. Miguel Meléndez Jr.

President, Rochester City Council

Miguel Meléndez Jr. first joined the Rochester City Council in September 2020 when he was appointed to fill a vacant seat. He was then elected to his first full term in 2021 and stepped into the president’s role last year. When Meléndez is not leading Rochester’s legislative branch, he serves as the chief community engagement officer of the Ibero-American Action League. Last year, he presided over the City Council as the body unanimously voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

81. Connie Cahill

Managing Partner, Barclay Damon
Connie Cahill / Cindy Bell Photography

Connie Cahill knows bonds. Cahill has focused her legal career on public finance, gaining expertise on New York’s public finance laws to provide valued counsel to state and local government entities, including school districts on bond issues. She is bond counsel to more than 100 municipalities and school districts and has worked on projects funded through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, the state Environmental Facilities Corp. and the state Municipal Bond Bank Agency.

82. Joyce Markiewicz

President and CEO, Catholic Health

Joyce Markiewicz took over on Sept. 1 as the new president and CEO of Catholic Health, succeeding the longtime Catholic Health leader Mark Sullivan, who retired. Markiewicz, a registered nurse, has been with the Western New York health care system since 2005, leading its home care operations and becoming executive vice president and chief business development officer in 2019. Catholic Health operates five hospitals in Buffalo, Kenmore and Lewiston along with a home- and community-based care program.

83. John Flynn

President, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York
John Flynn / Erie County DA's Office

Even though he’s the Erie County district attorney, John Flynn’s influence as a prosecutor does not end there. This summer, Flynn became the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, just as he was concluding as president of the National District Attorneys Association. Flynn’s rise to the presidency of the state association came at the same meeting as DAASNY recognized a team of prosecutors from Flynn’s office who prosecuted the racist mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo last year.

84. Jennifer Pyle

Executive Director, Conference of Big 5 School Districts
Jennifer Pyle / D. Pyle

A top advocate for the state’s urban school districts, Jennifer Pyle has been supportive of Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers agreeing to fully fund Foundation Aid, but she is not stopping there. The Conference of Big 5 School Districts’ legislative agenda this year included maintaining a commitment to phase in the Foundation Aid full funding. This year, the conference also pushed addressing the digital divide in education technology, increased school health services and expanded pre-kindergarten funding in high-need districts.

85. Kevin Hogan

Managing Partner, Phillips Lytle
Kevin Hogan / KC Kratt Photography

The leader of one of Buffalo’s top law firms, Kevin Hogan wants to grow the footprint of Phillips Lytle along the Great Lakes. This has included launching a Chicago office and working to bring in talent from top national law firm’s Midwest offices. Hogan has been working to create an open culture at Phillips Lytle to enable staff members to speak up if they think they have been treated inappropriately. An environmental attorney, Hogan has been active on a number of civic boards in Buffalo.

86. Robert Schneider

Executive Director, New York State School Boards Association
Robert Schneider / New York State School Boards Association

The top advocate for New York’s school boards, Robert Schneider is saying this year’s legislative session was a success for students and teachers. Schneider pointed to issues such as the state budget fully funding Foundation Aid, a directive to state energy officials to develop new charging stations for electric vehicles, including school buses, technical changes to the property tax cap and a state constitutional amendment being placed on the ballot to address debt limits on smaller school districts.

87. Sean Hennessey

Director, Great New York State Fair
Sean Hennessey / Submitted

Who doesn’t love butter sculptures, the midway, halls filled with exhibits, live music, sampling New York agriculture and – of course – sausage sandwiches? Sean Hennessey runs all of that at the Great New York State Fair, the annual late summer staple outside Syracuse. Hennessey, who started as interim director last year, became the director in August, with Gov. Kathy Hochul calling him “innovative” and state Agriculture and Markets Department Commissioner Richard Ball saying he brings “energy, excitement and bold ideas.”

88. David Little

Executive Director, Rural Schools Association of New York State
David Little / Submitted

David Little has a clear message for Gov. Kathy Hochul and Albany: Don’t ignore rural New York. A longtime advocate for the state’s rural schools, Little has been holding forums in rural communities from Long Island to the North Country. Little is calling for the state to invest more in rural schools and to assist rural school districts with the cost of switching to electric buses. Little also wants Hochul and lawmakers to focus more on rural communities outside of education.

89. Rodney Capel

Vice President of Government Affairs, Charter Communications
Rodney Capel / Submitted

Rodney Capel leads government relations for Charter Communications in New York. A former executive director of the state Democratic Committee, Capel has been a top adviser to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Charter is promoting its upstate rural broadband work, a project that was first a condition state regulators imposed to approve its acquisition of Time Warner Cable, but what Charter’s CEO says has led to a profitable rural broadband business.

90. Benjamin M. Zuffranieri Jr.

Managing Partner, Hodgson Russ

The leader of Buffalo’s largest law firm, Benjamin M. Zuffranieri Jr. is focused on continuing Hodgson Russ’ focus on good client relationships and serving the communities where the firm is located. A litigator by background, Zuffranieri was leader of the firm’s litigation practice prior to taking the top job last year. An almost 200-year-old firm, Hodgson Russ is involved in a number of community service programs including funding over 250 organizations, along with encouraging the firm’s attorneys to be engaged in charitable work.

91. Stephen Turkovich

President, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital
Stephen Turkovich / Joe Cascio

Dr. Stephen Turkovich took over as president of John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo in November. Turkovich has a long relationship with the hospital, one of only 43 free-standing children’s hospitals in the country, having volunteered there during high school, doing rotations during medical school and now working there. Turkovich is focused on growing relationships in the community, in particular to address health equity issues.

92. Tonja Williams

Superintendent, Buffalo Public Schools
Tonja Williams / Buffalo Public Schools

A year into her leadership of Buffalo’s public schools, Tonja Williams is basking in praise. The Buffalo Board of Education gave high marks to Williams’ first year, including her citywide listening tour and how used the tour to craft her three-year strategic plan. One board member called her community relations strategy “particularly effective to create change.” Board President Sharon Belton-Cottman said Williams has changed the school system’s culture and created “a bright light that has not shined in our district for a long time.”

93. Mark Blue

President, Buffalo NAACP
Mark Blue / Blue Image Photos

The Rev. Mark Blue is a prominent religious, civil rights and civic leader in Western New York. The pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna, Blue is the longtime leader of the Buffalo NAACP. Blue has helped lead Buffalo through the aftermath of the 2022 racist mass shooting at a Tops supermarket on Buffalo’s East Side. Blue has been chosen by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to lead a commission to develop a memorial to the shooting victims.

94. Henry Wojtaszek

President and CEO, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
Henry Wojtaszek / Tim Synor

There are people who will help Henry Wojtaszek outmaneuver his opponents. Wojtaszek, the head of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. and Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel, looked like he was on his way out when the state budget contained a provision overhauling the OTB board to move away from a pro-Wojtaszek majority. Among the outgoing board’s final actions – awarding Wojtaszek, a former Niagara County Republican Party chair, a new contract, with a salary higher than Gov. Kathy Hochul. Wojtaszek’s wife, brother and sister all hold judgeships in Western New York.

95. Craig Apple

President, New York State Sheriffs’ Association

Much of the policing in towns across upstate is provided by the county sheriff, and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple leads the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. The association works on legislative advocacy along with providing training for sheriffs in their varied duties including local policing, road patrol and running the county jail. During this year’s legislative session, the association’s agenda included changes to the state’s civil service laws to expand applicant pools, a 20-year retirement program for jail corrections officers and training exemptions.

96. Peter Gannon

President and CEO, United Way of the Greater Capital Region
Peter Gannon / Sabrina Flores

A top nonprofit leader in the Albany area, Peter Gannon was brought into the United Way several years ago in order to provide new blood to the venerable charity. Gannon has outlined a vision that includes serving every person in the region. He has been leading an expansion of the charity into the Amsterdam area, with the acquisition of the United Way in Montgomery County. He has been growing the United Way’s annual 518 day of service to celebrate Albany’s area code on May 18.

97. Carm Basile

CEO, Capital District Transportation Authority
Carm Basile / Capital District Transportation Authority

In over four decades with the Capital District Transportation Authority, Carm Basile has not only worked his way to being the authority’s CEO, he’s worked to expand the authority’s focus. Under Basile’s leadership, the Albany region transit system has expanded into areas such as a regional short-term bicycle rental system and an electric vehicle rental program, along with expansion into Montgomery County and a planned expansion into Warren County. Basile’s personal transportation mode of choice? Jeeps.

98. Justin Wilcox

Executive Director, Upstate United
Justin Wilcox / Nicole Stachnick. at Corning Place Communications

A former Monroe County legislator, Justin Wilcox has emerged as a top advocate for the upstate business community. The executive director of Upstate United, Wilcox has been pressing an agenda in Albany that includes addressing the decreasing upstate population, tax relief, new workforce development programs and energy affordability. Wilcox’s post-session agenda includes expanded upstate broadband, addressing retail crime and reforming unemployment insurance. Upstate United’s board includes Chamber of Commerce leaders from Binghamton, Rochester and the North Country.

99. Bonnie Kane Lockwood

Western New York Regional Director, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office
Bonnie Kane Lockwood / Nancy J. Parisi

The first governor from Buffalo in over a century has a new point person for Western New York. Bonnie Kane Lockwood came out of retirement this summer to become Hochul’s top Western New York representative. Prior to her two-year retirement, Lockwood was a longtime district staff member for Rep. Brian Higgins. A former member of the Buffalo Common Council, Lockwood has hit the ground running, joining an announcement of $10 million for the new James Joyce Museum at the University at Buffalo.

100. Pamela Jacobs Vogt

Chair, Lawrence D. Jacobs MD Memorial Foundation

Pamela Jacobs Vogt should not be defined as a member of one of Buffalo’s most powerful families; she is a force of nature in her own right. Jacobs Vogt chairs a foundation established in memory of her late husband, noted multiple sclerosis researcher Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs, which has focused on funding health projects in a region with a growing medical science industry. Jacobs Vogt, a former teacher, has been a key member of numerous college boards, including Niagara University, Canisius University, Daemen University and the State University of New York.