25 to Watch

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2006

This issue highlights 25 extraordinary men and women who are changing the way this region does business. It's the first time we've selected what will be an annual line-up of People to Watch, and the process left us impressed with the leaders and innovators our region is attracting. We agreed that a decade ago, before the boom in population and the new opportunities such growth presents, we would not have found such a deep pool of talent.

Choosing just 25 out of that pool wasn't easy. We started the process in early spring when we included a nomination form in our March issue. We also solicited names from a cross-section of community leaders.

Then came the fun part-fun, that is, if you relish crossing worthy people off a list. We received so many interesting and admirable nominations! Our editorial staff spent long hours discussing, evaluating and even arguing over the list. When it came down to the final selection, I thought of the judges at figure-skating or gymnastic competitions, where evaluations are based on subjective standards rather than the cut-and-dry measurement of a stop watch. How do you choose between excellent and superior? Ultimately, the people you'll meet on our pages rose to the top.

They represent a wide range of professions, including real estate, law, retail, technology and the nonprofit world. Some of them-like young Sarasota News & Books owners Meghan and Andrew Foley-grew up here; others, like EdgeTech founder Christine Watler, who found a niche in document shredding and imaging, are brand-new residents. But if there's a common denominator among these rising stars, it is their restless drive to move forward, create and improve.

You can feel that energy when they walk into a room-or even talking to them over the phone. My bet is that these people would shake up any work environment or region they happened to walk into. The status quo simply does not satisfy them. After interviewing them, our editors regaled the rest of us with stories about their passion and ability to engage-and change-their world. Real estate broker Mark Riley told editor David Higgins that he had so much curiosity and energy as a kid that he would stick knives into sockets (we should thank Riley's parents for their constant vigilance and patience).

Gregarious, larger-than-life entrepreneur Henry Rodriguez, whose developments are reinventing south Sarasota, told me he tried retiring in his 40s but soon felt dead in the water. "My speedboat doesn't want to stop," he concluded.

With such engines of progress and change driving our region, we're in for an exhilarating ride.

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