The Power Fifty 2009

What This List Is: Our ranking of the most influential Philadelphians. What This List Isn’t: A rehash of the usual suspects

16. Michael Nutter, institutional
Mayor of Philadelphia
2005: 20 :: 2000: Not on list

Since ’05, when he was a councilman, Nutter’s moved up only four notches on our list, and the rise is mostly due to his new job title. Though he dodged a bullet with the latest budget crisis (Plan C averted), the 52-year-old mayor could have been a hero with his first budget address, before the recession hit — but he ignored the city’s already fiscally perilous situation and raised spending. He’s got a rep for micromanaging, and with no clear second banana in his administration, folks are trying to claw past each other for the job. While he deserves credit for hiring police commish Ramsey, he’s got turnover issues, too. Some of his biggest hires — Wendell Pritchett (research and planning) Andy Altman (Commerce) and Mark Alan Hughes (sustainability) — spent a year or so going unnoticed before punching “Eject.” But we’re not giving up on him. That he’s this high on the list reflects just how much more we think Nutter could accomplish if he started behaving like the man we voted for.

17. Jane Golden, willpower
Executive Director, Mural Arts Program
New to list

If “Yes we can” is our country’s new motto, then community organizers are the new power crowd. Chief among them: Golden, 56, founder and leader of an internationally heralded part-public, part-private nonprofit whose mission is to transform our city one schoolkid, prisoner, neighborhood block — one art project — at a time. She wrests grants from misers, navigates City Hall with unprecedented grace, partners with graffiti writers and world-renowned painters, mentors 2,000 youths a year, and has created 3,000 public displays of art, earning groundbreaking stimulus money for Mural Arts, worldwide recognition for Philadelphia, and our vote, should she ever choose to run for mayor.

18. William Sasso, influencer
Chairman, Stradley Ronon
New to list

In a town of Democrats, this Republican still gets respect and is sought out by both parties. At 62, he runs a quiet but powerful law firm and often operates behind the scenes, making deals and dispensing legal and strategic advice to boldface names. The Cardinal Dougherty grad was Chamber of Commerce chair from 2003 to 2004, and still chairs Chamber committees. Stradley Ronon might not be one of the bigger firms in Philadelphia, but you wouldn’t know it, because of Sasso’s civic boosterism. He has his hand in major regional issues like Catholic education, the Free Library and health care.

19. Rebecca Rimel, institutional
President and CEO, the Pew Charitable Trusts
2005: 1 :: 2000: 6

The elegant, silver-haired Rimel, 58, topped our list in 2005 because she controlled arguably the most preeminent charitable philanthropy in the nation. Her power manifested itself all over town, most notably in her successful battle to move the Barnes to the Parkway. Alas, she’s now more likely to be found clinking her champagne flute on Capitol Hill than in Chestnut Hill; in December, Pew added a large presence in the nation’s capital to focus its attention — and considerable cash — on more national, politically sexy endeavors: climate change and early childhood education. Which makes writing a check to save The Gross Clinic seem a tad wan in comparison.

20. Constantine Papadakis, transformational
President, Drexel University, 1995 to 2009
2005: Not on list :: 2000: 57

We’ve never listed anyone who had passed away, but Drexel president Constantine “Taki” Papadakis warrants an exception. His school has become a case study in entrepreneurship, excellence and growth. He led the acquisition of a money-losing med school and turned it around; started a new law school; grew the enrollment; built up the campus; and started to chisel away at the “commuter school” culture. If that was all, it would be solid. But Papadakis was a community and business leader. His interpretation of what it meant to be a university president became the gold standard. Drs. Gutmann and Hart, take notes.