Once upon a time, naming the most powerful people in Cincinnati was as easy as printing the names of the Cincinnati Business Committee. They were the alpha males (mostly) who called the shots. They set the priorities in business, philanthropy and policy.

These days, it’s not so simple. Cincinnati’s most powerful leaders no longer meet together regularly behind closed doors to help guide and support our region. They are more diverse in every way. But the Cincinnatus tradition of service without self-interest is still strong.

The top 10 in our Power 100 are dominated by some of the city’s biggest businesses (Procter & Gamble and American Financial just to name two); Cincinnati’s beloved sports teams (the Reds and Bengals); the church (new Archbishop Dennis Schnurr); regional players (including Northern Kentucky, Butler County, Clermont County and Warren County), media and politicians.

Leaders in education, philanthropy and the arts are not far behind.

And the top spot is taken by someone who is a very traditional Cincinnati leader, Bob Castellini — a homegrown successful businessman who now leads the Reds and still finds time to serve the community by pitching in to help make The Banks project on the riverfront a reality.

Some names are gone — people who have stepped aside or left Cincinnati. Others have moved up or down on the list. But for the most part, the Power 100 shows how Cincinnati has been blessed by people who often put the needs of the community first, who genuinely care about the future of our city and region.

1 Robert Castellini
Chairman, Castellini Co.

He is an unquestionable success in business circles and one of the community’s most effective leaders. But what do Cincinnatians really want from Castellini? Why, a winning baseball team, of course. The Reds’ record has improved each of the last three years. Still, they have won only eight more games in Castellini’s four years as majority owner than in the previous four years under Carl Lindner’s watch. Year five awaits, but Castellini has already hit a home run by landing a potential pitching superstar.

2 Bob McDonald
President and CEO, Procter & Gamble

In 2006, Fortune Magazine called McDonald a “rising star” who defined the word “relentless.” Good call. On July 1, he replaced A.G. Lafley as president and CEO of the company that defines Cincinnati and reaches into the farthest corners of the world with consumer products. The West Pointer (13th in his class) believes hard work pays off.

3 John Barrett
Chairman of the Board, Western & Southern

Barrett is the driving force behind the Great American Tower at Queen City Square, which is scheduled to open in 2011 and become the city’s tallest building. The structure now rising from the ground is already making a dramatic change in Cincinnati’s skyline.

4 Lindner Family
American Financial group

It’s fitting that the name of the Lindners’ flagship company will be on the city’s newest and tallest skyscraper. Their influence in business, philanthropy, politics and education has left an even bigger silhouette on the landscape. Carl Lindner Jr. celebrated his 90th birthday in 2009 and is still active, with help from sons Carl III, Craig and Keith.
 
5 Mark Mallory
Mayor, City of Cincinnati
 
He held off surprising newcomer Brad Wenstrup in November to win a second term as mayor. Mallory’s grand prize? Getting to work with the fractured and sometimes juvenile city council. Aside from that, he now has four more years to show this town substance over style.
 
6 Rev. Dennis Schnurr
Archbishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
 
Taking over in December for Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Schnurr becomes the 10th presiding bishop for the 19-county Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, dating back to when it was founded in 1821. One of his goals is to increase the number of priests in the region, as he did as bishop of Duluth, Minn.
 
7 Mike Brown
Owner, Cincinnati Bengals
 
“Mike Brown, Most Improved Player.”
 
Go ahead and say it, Cincinnati. It’s a lot easier than uttering the words, “Swept by Pittsburgh” or “Lost to Cleveland.”
 
Let’s be honest. In spite of the playoff disappointment, Brown’s Bengals were a happy surprise. Nobody this side of Brian Kelly did more to lift our city’s sagging spirits and make Cincinnati feel good about itself, and Kelly tore out the last page of the Bearcats’ “happily ever after” fairy tale by eloping with Notre Dame.
 
So ... Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown as one of Cincinnati’s best comeback stories? Sure he is.
 
But it was Brown’s public comments on Chris Henry’s death that showed grace and compassion — making Cincinnati reconsider its sometimes harsh opinions of the Bengals owner.
“Winning does that,” Brown says. “It’s nicer to bask in the glory of praise instead of the pain of condemnation.” And there’s no question that Cincinnati was all aboard the “Who Dey” bus while the team was winning the AFC North Division.
 
Brown took plenty of late hits and unnecessary roughness during the bad times. He noticed the difference. “People write, send e-mails, stop and talk to me,” he says. “It’s very, very exciting. We need some good things, some positive things to happen in this city.”
 
But he also keeps it all in perspective. “We’ve been healthier than we’ve been in the past. We won a lot of close games,” he says. A few bad bounces, a few more injuries, and 2009 could have been a lot more like 2008, he adds.
 
Winning is a tonic. Cincinnati is a different city when the home team is on a roll. Potholes seem shallower. Gray skies seem brighter. Even Pittsburgh is forgiven. Almost.

8 Bill Butler
Chairman, Corporex Cos.

He remains the go-to developer and leader in Northern Kentucky, where the skyline that faces Cincinnati is mostly in his signature.

9 John Boehner
Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

Boehner is not just the biggest political player in West Chester — he’s the voice of the opposition in the House, giving him the biggest national profile from our region.

10 Bill Cunningham
Talk show host, WLW-AM

In 2009, “Willie” won a second Marconi award from the National Association of Broadcasters as the Large Market Personality of the Year, and had a biography written about him by local attorney and on-air stunt-double Eric Deters. Cunningham started 2010 with a TV debate against Jerry Springer. Which only leads us to ask what listeners often wonder: What next?

11 Joe Deters
Prosecutor, Hamilton County
 
Deters has gone from county government to statewide office and back to the county again, but remains one of the most popular stars in the local Republican Party. His no-nonsense style speaks for many in Cincinnati who are fed up with crime.
 
12 Gregory H. Williams
President, University of Cincinnati
 
UC’s new president arrives from the City College of New York with a compelling personal story and a wealth of professional experience. We’ll be interested to see if he becomes as involved in the community as his predecessor, Nancy Zimpher, and how he handles the academic and athletic challenges on campus.
 
13 Otto Budig Jr.
CEO and Arts Patron, president of the Budco Group
 
As if his foundation’s work and tireless efforts in the community are not enough, Budig is one of the convening co-chairs of the University of Cincinnati’s $1 billion Proudly Cincinnati campaign, the largest fundraising effort in school history. Budig is also one of the most generous alumni supporters of UC.

14 Roxanne Qualls
Council Member, City of Cincinnati

Seems like old times with Qualls again playing a major role at city hall. The former mayor (1993-99) became Mark Mallory’s hand-picked vice mayor less than a month after she was the top vote-getter in the November election of city council candidates.

15 Stan Chesley
Attorney

In addition to being a nationally famous class-action litigator, Chesley was appointed to the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for the second time. Oh, did we mention he ponied up a $50,000 donation for President Obama’s inauguration, and is the unofficial godfather of the local Democratic Party?

16 Rachel Hutzel
Prosecutor, Warren County

She made headlines during the trial of Ryan Widmer, who was accused of drowning his wife, Sarah, in a bathtub in their Warren County home. Widmer was found guilty of aggravated murder in April, but in July, a judge ordered a new trial because of juror misconduct. The self-described “farm girl” Hutzel has a bright future in Republican politics, locally, regionally and statewide.

17 James Schwab
President, U.S. Bank

Wherever things are happening, Schwab is usually there. In banking, the arts, education and health care, he has served the community on numerous boards.
 
18 Pete Strange
Chairman of Messer Construction, Board Chair, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
 
Strange contributes a solid regional approach to the chamber, as he leads one of the region’s top contruction companies.
 
19 Margaret Buchanan
Publisher, Enquirer Media
 
Layoffs and furloughs aside, under Buchanan’s leadership the Enquirer has become more than a newspaper, offering niche publications and web sites that connect advertisers to target audiences. Buchanan is trying to navigate a challenging time for all news organizations.

20 Steve Stevens
President, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Stevens leads one of the largest business groups in a dynamic region. He keeps Northern Kentucky’s interests front-and-center among lawmakers in Frankfort. He’s one of the smart leaders who have helped Northern Kentucky collaborate across boundaries for solid economic growth. (Are you listening Cincinnati?)
 
21 Mark Policinski
Executive Director, OKI
 
Everyone talks about regionalism. Policinski and OKI actually do something about it, especially in transportation planning, which is critical to growth and jobs.
 
22 Doug McDonald
CEO, Cincinnati Museum Center
 
In a major Election Day victory, McDonald and his team won a tax levy that will help with operations, maintenance and capital repair for the iconic Union Terminal building, which houses the Cincinnati Museum Center, one of the region’s most successful museums.

23 James Votruba
President, Northern Kentucky University

Not just a player in Northern Kentucky, Votruba has made NKU a key player in Kentucky politics.

24 Thomas Cody
Vice Chair, Macy’s

Among his numerous roles in civic service, Cody is lately on the advisory council for Agenda 360, a high-powered group working for jobs and economic development.

25 Bortz Family
Towne Properties

From politics (former mayor Arn Bortz) to Towne Properties development (his brother Neil) and back to politics again (Neil’s son, Cincinnati Councilman Chris Bortz), this family is all about Cincinnati and the Cincinnatus tradition.

2009’s top ten:
1. John Barrett
2. James Anderson
3. Nancy Zimpher
4. Robert Castellini
5. A.G. Lafley
6. James Votruba
7. The Lindner Family
8. John Boehner
9. S. Kay Geiger
10. Milton Dohoney Jr.
2008’s top ten:
1. Robert Castellini
2. A.G. Lafley
3. Nancy Zimpher
4. James Anderson
5. The Lindner Family
6. Mark Mallory
7. Bill Butler
8. James Votruba
9. John Barrett
10. John Pepper
2007’s top ten:
1. Robert Castellini
2. A.G. Lafley
3. The Lindner Family
4. Charlotte Otto
5. James Anderson
6. Bill Butler
7. John Pepper
8. George Schaefer
9. Mark Mallory
10. Nancy Zimpher
2006’s top ten:
1. Charlotte Otto
2. Robert Castellini
3. A.G. Lafley
4. John Boehner
5. Mark Mallory
6. John Pepper
7. Carl Lindner III
8. Bill Cunningham
9. Bill Butler
10. Nancy Zimpher
2005’s top ten:
1. Bill Butler
2. A.G. Lafley
3. Nancy Zimpher
4. Terry Lundgren
5. Kenneth Lowe
6. James Anderson
7. Carl Lindner
8. Dick & Lois Rosenthal
9. David Daberko
10. George Schaefer
 
 
 

More Power Players in the Tristate