THE WORD “INFLUENTIAL” means many things. In Portland, the adjective could apply to elected politicians, radio talk-show hosts, and political consultants—all of whom we chose not to name here.
What matters for a city figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up (or if it wants to grow up) isn’t influence alone, but how the influential meld their sway with other qualities. Vision. Clout. Judgment. Taste. Connection. Principle. Grit. Gravitas. And—in a time in which another key element, power, can be so fleeting (ask the mayor and the president)—momentum.
Change is at hand. Portland soon will restock city council with fresh faces. The city’s old economy continues to sputter, but tech start-ups and small businesses are percolating. Our population is diversifying, as are the markets for everything from our lumber (which China can’t get enough of) to our indie rock bands. Huge institutions are redefining themselves for the new era that other, more nimble and youthful enterprises have already begun to create.
With all of this in mind, here are 50 people (including a few groups) we think possess the spark and will to craft Portland’s future. (Add your own choices in our ballot form to the left.) We hope you’ll agree that this eclectic roster harnesses enough raw energy to influence any city—whatever influence may mean right now.