50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.

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31. Tom Wolf
Governor, Pennsylvania

Almost a year after being elected, the impact of the Guv in western Pennsylvania remains light. Despite trouncing former Gov. Tom Corbett by nearly 10 points, Wolf has struggled to find common ground — or even to pass a budget! — with the Republican-controlled legislature. Still, this summer, his approval rating of 47 percent was floating high above that of the legislature (a sad 28 percent), and he has two power cards in his pocket: He maintains he has the muscle to force a much-needed UPMC and Highmark reconciliation, and he is positioned to determine the future of liquor sales in Pennsylvania.  ◆

32. Jeff Broadhurst
President and CEO, President and CEO, Eat'n Park Hospitality Group

The head of the Broadhurst family business has not been content with coasting on Eat’n Park’s success. In recent years, the company has expanded to include highly visible restaurants such as The Porch at Schenley and Six Penn Kitchen and younger-skewing concepts such as Hello Bistro and downtown’s Delicious Raw Juice Bar. Add to that the company’s senior living and hospital services (through the Cura Hospitality brand, acquired in 1999) and work in corporate and college kitchens (through its own Parkhurst Dining brand), and there may be no one in the region who feeds more people on a daily basis than Broadhurst. That success brings the freedom to foster initiatives such as the FarmSource program, which annually purchases millions of dollars worth of goods from local farms — making Eat’n Park Hospitality a sustaining force for many local growers.  ◆

33. DennIs Yablonsky
CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Yablonsky’s role as a regional influencer stems from his ties to the region’s economy. Having started in tech, he founded the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse (now the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse) and was among the first to promote the region as a flourishing hub for technology. His New Economy perspective intrigued then-Gov. Ed Rendell who hired him as secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development in 2003, giving him a back door to power players at the state level. While some observers say the Allegheny Conference’s influence has ebbed in recent years, Yablonsky has had wins, including the 2013 passage of Act 89, a major transportation funding bill which sets billions aside for infrastructure improvements in the region — $238 million for 86 local projects in 2014 alone. In the coming year, observers predict the conference will gain momentum, thanks to strong board leadership and a focus on attracting and retaining STEM talent in the region.  ◆

34. Gregg Behr
Executive Director, Grable Foundation

There are few young philanthropic leaders in the city as respected as Behr, who joined the education-focused Grable Foundation in 2006 following a four-year tenure as the president of the Forbes Fund. He’s one of the main forces behind the Pittsburgh Public School’s STEAM efforts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), Kidsburgh (an online resource for all things children) and the Remake Learning Network (a partnership of 200 schools, museums, nonprofits and businesses that provides new learning opportunities for kids). Another sign of his growing reputation: West Virginia University’s College of Education and Human Services selected him to deliver its commencement speech this past May.  ◆

35. Jesse Schell
Founder & CEO, Schell Games

When he talks, the gaming industry listens. Schell is a former director at Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, and now serves as a professor at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, as well as heading a world-class gaming company based in an expansive, cool waterfront space in Station Square. Schell is leading the charge in educational gaming, betting on the potential of virtual and augmented reality gaming. “If we had more people like Jesse Schell, Pittsburgh would be the next Silicon Valley,” says one local tech investor.  ◆

36. Paul Hennigan
President, Point Park University

Despite being a world-class city for education, downtown Pittsburgh never had much of a higher-ed reputation until Hennigan took over at Point Park in 2006. The city’s former chief financial officer has doubled down on the university as an urban campus and, in turn, leveraged government funding to rebuild a previously moribund stretch of downtown on the Boulevard of Allies.  ◆


37. Karen Wolk Feinstein
President & CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation

For the last 25 years, Feinstein has been at the forefront of a major social movement to reform health care in Pittsburgh and beyond through the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, Health Careers Future and Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Her role (and trips to Washington, D.C.) helped to sway leaders all the way to the top to embrace national health care reform, and PRHI’s prescription for better care, payment and delivery of service lives on in the Affordable Care Act.  ◆

38. Saleem Ghubril
Executive Director, The Pittsburgh Promise

Since The Pittsburgh Promise was founded in 2008, Ghubril has been guiding the program, which provides scholarships of up to $30,000 over four years for Pittsburgh public school and charter students who maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 while attending Pennsylvania colleges. The Promise has drawn criticism of late for failing to reach enough minority students — many of those students, unfortunately, have GPAs that do not hit the mark required for the program — but blaming Ghubril’s organization for a lack of student achievement is unfair. Few organizations are having a larger impact on the lives of young people, and the Promise helps to differentiate both the city and region.  ◆


39. Leo Gerard & Gabe Morgan
International President, United Steelworkers of America / Vice President; Pittsburgh Director, State Employees International Union 32BJ

In a city that once stood on the front lines of the national labor movement, Gerard and Morgan represent the old and the new of local unions as workers’ rights are once again a topic of public debate. Gerard, a member of the AFL-CIO’s executive committee who has been active in that organization for years, is wired nationally and locally, with tight ties to players such as Jim Rohr (No. 15), David Malone (No. 19) and David Morehouse (No. 21), while Morgan has been actively growing his union — no small task in today’s labor-unfriendly environment — by organizing janitors before moving onto security guards.  ◆

40. Bill Fuller
Corporate Chef, big Burrito Restaurant Group

The road to Pittsburgh’s booming, vibrant restaurant scene runs directly through big Burrito. That’s largely due to Fuller, who has served as the company’s corporate chef since 1997. The company’s five single-location restaurants — Casbah, Eleven, Kaya, Soba and Umi — are perennial favorites and fixtures on local best restaurant lists, while the company’s flagship, Mad Mex, packs customers into 13 locations from Columbus to Philadelphia. Numerous chefs who since have opened their own hit spots — Justin Severino, Chad Townsend and Kevin Sousa among them — cut their teeth under Fuller. And Fuller’s regular trips to explore foodie scenes in other cities provide a pipeline for new flavors and techniques to hit town.  ◆

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #41-50

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