Desert Companion
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MARCH 2015
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Take 5
FEB. 27, 7P Small shares his four decades of insights in making African spirituality relevant and useful today. Co-sponsored by Truth Seekers...   
This Spanish-language version of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues has been presented by V-Day LV En Espanol for the last eight years as a...   
FEB. 28, 2P. A wide-ranging repertoire that embraces all styles of music, from classical to contemporary. Free. Charleston Heights Arts Center,...   

Elaine WynnElaine Wynn
Businesswoman, education official

While she has the influence you'd expect of No. 296 on last year's Forbes 400, Wynn is of interest to us here as president of the state Board of Education. Because it's that broken system, perennially among the nation's worst, that will challenge her ability to drive change. Wynn's stances don't seem rotely ideological — she told the Chamber of Commerce that, "conceptually," schools need more funding, but has also endorsed reform-movement darlings such as school choice. Can her power and personality make a difference? "There are a lot of steps that have to get taken," she told in July, "before I feel I'll have had an impact."

Pat Skorkowsky

Pat Skorkowsky
School district superintendent

The superintendent of the Clark County School District had better have influence — the challenges facing him are too daunting for a lightweight. Bottom-ranking test scores and rates of graduation. A tightfisted Legislature. A less-than-supportive community (recall the failed 2012 school bond), aging facilities. Skorkowsky inherits a certain amount of power with the position, but so did previous supes, not many of whom are fondly remembered. Having come up through the ranks — he began as a teacher — Skorkowsky enjoys broad rank-and-file support, which may help. Perhaps his real test will be whether he’s worthy of being on this list after the 2015 Legislature. 


Michael & Jennifer Cornthwaite
Downtown entrepreneurs

This couple's mark is all over downtown — from the Downtown Cocktail Room to The Beat and the Emergency Arts building to the Pork & Beans restaurant at the new Container Park to the effort to save the Huntridge. In the macro view, Tony Hsieh has credited Michael with the idea to move Zappos downtown. And the couple often facilitates connections, for example hooking up chef Natalie Young with the investors who made Eat a reality. They draw frequent criticism, most often for driving gentrification. But as the Sun's downtown columnist Joe Schoenmann notes, "One main way you can tell they're synonymous with downtown is the level of gossip about them."


Michael RobersonMichael Roberson
State senator
, minority leader

Being in the minority in the Nevada Senate can be a frustrating experience: The majority leader controls the flow of legislation, and thus the minority is  always on defense. But Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, has proven himself a deft offensive player nonetheless. After feckless Democrats seemed poised to drop a plan to repeal a mining industry tax cap, it was Roberson who twisted arms and supplied Republican votes and momentum to put it before the voters. Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, had barely uttered the final syllable of “payroll tax” in the 2013 session before Roberson declared it dead, and Denis swiftly declared defeat. Rules or not, it’s usually Roberson setting the tone in the state Senate. — Steve Sebelius


Julie MurrayJulie Murray
President & CEO, the Moonridge Group

Her name is current now as part of the brain trust working on the Modern Comtemporary Museum of Art. But she's been a visible presence in the world of Vegas philanthropy for years. She developed Three Square into the large and effective hunger-relief agency it's become; before that, she was a key player in Andre Agassi's philanthropic machine. Now, she runs her own firm of philanthropic advisors. "Her knowledge, experience, and guidance have been priceless," says Brett Sperry of the Modern Contemporary.


RehanRehan Choudhry, Life is Beautiful organizer

"It worked, man. It just worked." That was Choudhry's verdict, delivered to the Las Vegas Weekly, in the immediate aftermath of October's massive Life Is Beautiful Festival. Because of its audacious scope and potential logistical pitfalls — for example, imagine the parking needed to accommodate 30,000 people a day! — the festival could easily have not worked. But, overwhelmingly, it did. (Including the parking.) Choudhry said area bars and restaurants saw a big bump in business immediately preceding the event, and the murals left behind by LiB's visual arts program have (with one controversial exception) enlivened the look of the neighborhood. Choudhry, the festival's top organizer, told the Weekly LiB will return in 2014. It's years too early to start the South by Southwest comparisons, but LiB's success certainly puts Choudhry in the position to give the redeveloping downtown a transformative signature event.



Jim Murren
CEO, MGM Resorts International

A gaming mogul who has done much to promote local education. MGM leads the industry in mentoring aspiring business executives, particularly in tandem with the Las Vegas Business Academy. Murren is also fresh off being named one of five CEOs of the Year by Corporate Responsibility magazine, for bringing greater numbers of women and minorities into MGM’s managerial ranks. — David McKee


RalstonJon Ralston
Political journalist

Even his competitors would grudgingly concede Ralston's sway in the realms of politics and media. When the outside world wants insight into Silver State politics, Ralston, host of the "Ralston Reports" TV show and website, is the commentator they call. This affords him a lot of say over our political narratives. He certainly has the ear of the establishment: As a fellow journalist notes, his Sunday website newsletter is literally the voice of the establishment, allowing consultants, lobbyists and lawyers to anonymously comment on the events of the day.



Marilyn Kirkpatrick
Assemblywoman, speaker

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, wasn’t supposed to be speaker. But she outmaneuvered William Horne, D-Las Vegas, and grabbed the job, the second woman to hold the post. Regarded in Carson City as a plainspoken policy wonk who’s not above scouring a bill line-by-line to bring its defects to light, Kirkpatrick has been known to commandeer committee hearings even when somebody else is in charge. And she’s got a notorious stubborn streak: Despite reams of ridicule in the 2013 session, she stuck by her entertainment tax proposal because she thought it was good policy. She’s not as polished as former Speaker Barbara Buckley, not as much a good old boy as former Speakers Richard Perkins or John Oceguera, and not as meek as Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis. But as the one who decides which bills get to the floor and which die, she is — if only temporarily — one of Nevada’s most powerful women. — Steve Sebelius


Don SnyderDon Snyder
Executive dean, strategic development, UNLV

Snyder has a resume you could build a stadium on: leadership roles in banking (First Interstate Bank of Nevada), gaming (Boyd Gaming), development (Fremont Street Experience), academia (UNLV's hotel school) and culture (The Smith Center). Now he's spearheading UNLV's stadium effort. What do you do with that much accumulated influence? "Make the community a better place," Snyder says. "There is much to be done. One person can make a difference." Smith Center CEO Myron Martin agrees. "Don Snyder is the most polished, most effective leader I have ever known. There would be no Smith Center without his extraordinary leadership."


Jim RogersJim Rogers
Owner, KVBC Channel 3

It's a curious mix of influences Rogers has. He's got a TV station, for one. He's a powerhouse philanthropist, too: The $10 million he recently gave the Black Mountain Institute will boost that literary nonprofit to a higher national profile. And he once served as interim chancellor of higher ed. But he also has the power of unrestrained, cantankerous honesty — on any number of issues (education, journalism, politics) he's an early call for many a journalist in need of a grabby quote, so his voice is helping shape many of our issues.


Jeremy AgueroJeremy Aguero
Principal analyst, Applied Analysis

Every year, Aguero delivers an economic forecast at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Preview event. Forecast? More like prophecy by PowerPoint. Minus any of that boosterish, uplifty pixie dust you tend to get at chamber events, Aguero soberly sketches out the economic possibilities and perils of the coming year. But his influence adds up beyond that. He’s also a go-to media source who doesn’t flinch at articulating the often-unpleasant economic realities facing Nevada, whether it has to do with visitor volume trends or public employee pay. Aguero’s power lies not in a wonky mastery of statistics, but in turning numbers into compelling narrative. And when Aguero tells a story, government, industry and business listen. — Andrew Kiraly



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