NJ Biz has released its latest Power 100 list, and once again, Gov. Chris Christie is considered the most powerful in the state. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with magazine’s editor Sharon Waters and its managing editor Joe St. Arney about the Power 100.
Christie’s continued reign at the top comes as a surprise to no one, considering the year he had which culminated with his widely-praised response to Hurricane Sandy.
“He’s had such a huge agenda in the past year — everything from the business friendly agenda that he continues to push right up to what he did to reorganizing Rutgers University and then, of course, Hurricane Sandy,” said Arney. “The image of Seaside Heights and the roller coaster being underwater of course was only second to Christie in the fleece yelling into the camera while battling a cold.”
Christie wasn’t the only one that Sandy helped put on the list. Arney said the superstorm played a huge part on the list as a whole.
Coming in second is power broker George Norcross III. Often referred to as a kingmaker, Norcross’s name is frequently bandied around among political insiders. But last year, in particular, put him squarely in the public spotlight.
“He obviously is a political powerhouse, but he also has a huge influence with his insurance business that he runs, with Camden and Cooper University Hospital, and then also he bought a newspaper last year,” said Waters. “The other big win he had last year was he was a huge influence on the realignment of Rutgers and Rowan and UMDNJ and that power will just continue.”
Third on the list is real estate executive Jon Hanson, who was tapped by Christie to lead the Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission more than two years ago. One of his tasks is to get the tortured Meadowlands development American Dream become a reality. “If American Dream is going to succeed, if Atlantic City is going to succeed, he’s the guy who’s really stirring the drink of all those big projects,” said Arney.
Last November, Gov. Christie announced that Marc Ferzan of Lawrenceville would lead the hurricane recovery effort. Waters said, Hanson “vaults onto our list at number four because of his role in Sandy. As we put in our write up, everybody’s going to try to get through to him. They all want to be in his Rolodex.”
At number five, Rutgers University’s new president Robert Barchi is a newcomer to the list. “Probably nobody could have told you who he was last year but Rutgers had a year of huge headlines,” said Arney. “You talk to anybody who’s involved and Barchi’s the catalyst, [he] really just brings these people together and has this vision and wants the best for the school and has the background to get it done.”
Coming in at number six is Honeywell executive David Cote who Waters says “has a lot of political juice in [Washington] D.C. with Democrats and also with Republicans.” Arney adds that Cote “was a big player in the fiscal cliff negotiations.”
At number eight, Raphael Ghermezian, is another power player involved with the American Dream project. “We’re told now that Raphael Garmezian is the main day to day negotiator for everything that’s going on with American Dream,” said Waters. “He’s the one that Jon Hanson has to help rein in and get that project off the ground.”
Eighth on the list is not one individual but a collection of individuals tied to Revel Resorts’ debt. Last year, Revel’s CEO Kevin DeSanctis made the list. But that was then. And this year, its Revel’s creditors who make the list. “Of course, the story out of Revel has been a frustrating one for a lot of the stakeholders,” said Arney. “A lot of people are now who should be backing [DeSanctis] and who should be in his corner are saying, ‘hey, there’s got to be somebody who can make this work.’ So it’s gonna be up to the creditors to figure out how they’re gonna do that.”
Coming in at number nine Lopa Kolluri, deputy chief of staff for operations and strategy for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She’ll play a key role in the disbursement of federal housing dollars post-Sandy.
Finishing off the top ten, and ten is PSEG Chairman & CEO Ralph Izzo. Unlike JCP&L, PSE&G was spared the worst criticism by local leaders and customers left without power after Sandy for days and for some, weeks. As Chair of Rutgers Board of Governors, Izzo was actively engaged in the Rutgers merger.