Power List 2017: Hall Of Fame
Once you’re named the most influential, you deserve a special place. Rishy Studer will join this group of movers and shakers, who’ve each earned the number one spot on the Inweekly Power List over the past decade.
Fred Levin (2007)
The University of Florida law school is named after the flamboyant Pensacola trial attorney. His biggest achievement was helping rewrite legislation in 1993 that led to a $13.2 billion settlement by the tobacco industry with the state of Florida. He has received more than 30 jury verdicts in excess of $1,000,000, six of which were in excess of $10 million.
Quote: “I think my image is a helluva lot stronger than reality. But I consider myself to be just a regular old guy who has a couple of drinks every night with my friends.”
J. Collier Merrill (2008)
This developer and restaurateur has worked behind the scenes for the maritime park, downtown improvement and political candidates. He has chaired the UWF Board of Trustees, the UWF Historic Trust, CMPA Board, Greater Pensacola Chamber, Visit Pensacola, Home Builders Association of Northwest Florida and dozens of boards. Collier has been named an Art Education Hero by the Florida Cultural Alliance, Community Leader of the Year by the Greater Pensacola Chamber, and Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the National Society of Fund Raising Volunteers.
Quote: “M.J. Menge said a long time ago that it’s much better to be the kingmaker than the king.”
Lewis Bear, Jr. (2009)
The cornerstones of influence in Pensacola are business success, commitment to improving the area and stubbornness to persevere regardless of how monumental the task may seem. Lewis has done a masterful job on all three of these fronts. He has been the driving force behind the area’s economic development efforts for a more than a decade, particularly working with Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to help Northwest Florida recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Quote: “My father taught me long ago that we needed to give back to the community. I’m fortunate that I am able to do that.”
Quint Studer (2010)
The founder of Studer Group has led the charge to revitalize downtown Pensacola. He championed the Maritime Park. Southtowne, his $55-million apartment project, is set to open later this year. The apartments are across the street from the new $16-million Bear Levin Studer Family YMCA, and his mixed-use office building that will house the Clark Partington law firm. He has partnered with the University of Chicago to pilot the Thirty Million Words initiative in Pensacola.
Quote: “You have a minority of people in the community, about 25 percent, that would be against anything. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Ashton Hayward (2011)
In 2010, the Pensacola native was elected mayor. In his first term, Ashton oversaw the completion of the Community Maritime Park and Admiral Mason Park. He built the Theophalis May and Woodland Heights Resource Centers. He convinced the police and general employee unions to close their pension plans. In 2014, the mayor signed an agreement with VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering to establish a facility at the airport.
Quote: “We truly have the opportunity in this decade to be the number one city in Northwest Florida. We don’t need to be outshone by Walton, Bay or Okaloosa counties.”
Dr. Judy Bense (2012)
The founder of the UWF program of Anthropology/Archaeology became the fifth president of the university on July 1, 2008, after serving the school for 28 years. This past December, she stepped down as president, but will still stay connected to the institution. The UWF board of trustees cemented her legacy by naming her president emeritus. Earlier this year, the Greater Pensacola Chamber awarded Judy its Pioneer Award for her contributions to the community.
Quote: “I’ve always had the ‘Lucille Ball’ approach to life: don’t mess with success, stick with what you’re good at.”
David Morgan (2013)
His defeat of the well-financed, two-term incumbent Ron McNesby in 2008 is still considered one of the biggest upsets in Escambia County politics. And many of the good old boys have never forgiven him but failed to defeat him during the re-election campaigns of 2012 and 2016. He has dealt with a Department of Justice investigation of the jail and long-standing civil rights violations under his predecessor, budget reductions, K-9 incidents and the Billings murders which captured international media attention.
Quote: “It’s hell dealing with an honest man. Make sure you’re that honest man.”
Mike Papantonio (2014)
Considered the nation’s top trial attorney, Mike is a regular commentator on national news networks, author and jazz musician. In Feb., he reached an agreement with DuPont, making them pay $670 million to 3,000 clients exposed to the chemical C8. He has been awarded the Perry Nichols Award, Defender of Justice Award by the American Association for Justice and Temple University Beasley School of Law’s inaugural Award for Social Justice. His legal thriller “Law and Disorder” debuted last fall.
Quote: “You have to believe in something. When you’re driven like that, it creates an energy that is a power.”
Stan Connally (2015)
The President and CEO of Gulf Power worked his way up the ladder of the company with steps at all its subsidiaries. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Florida, Pensacola Chamber Foundation and Gulf Coast Kid’s House. Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., which will distribute the $1.5 billion settlement for economic damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Quote: “We don’t need to go to Louisiana to find the talent; we don’t need to go to Atlanta or Birmingham. Let’s grow it right here.”
Bentina Terry (2016)
Earlier this year, Pensacola lost Bentina when she was promoted to be the senior vice president of the Metro Atlanta Region for Georgia Power. However, her decade of living and working here had a profound impact on the community. She was the highest ranking black woman at Gulf Power, with more than 330 employees under her supervision. She served on the Community Maritime Park Associates and the University of West Florida boards and chaired the Florida Chamber Foundation. She also worked to make the multi-cultural Voices of Pensacola a reality.
Quote: “We’ll never grow as a community unless we improve the quality of our education.”