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Power surges

Every year for the past four, James O'Connor (managing editor of the Sun and my boss) has put together what he calls a Power List of people in Westman who "get their phone calls returned."

He was sparked to do this out of spite, I think, when the Winnipeg Free Press made up a list of the province's most-powerful people and neglected to include very many Westman names.

This year's version of the Power List ran in Saturday's edition of the Brandon Sun, and you can also read it online here.

I thought, in my slow moments at work, that I would dig up his old lists and see if I could ascertain any trends or draw a few comparisons between previous years and this year.

I thought that this wouldn't take me very long, and if I needed to, I could skip a few coffee breaks or something.

Boy, was I wrong.

First, it took me a rather long time to dig up all four lists. That's because my boss, in all his wisdom, didn't archive the computer text file that contained the first list, but instead fiddled with it to create the second list (I eventually found it on a pdf).

Then, I attempted to trace peoples' names from year to year, as they moved up or down. That sounds easy, but I ended up with a pile of tangled spaghetti. Thanks, James, for deciding not to stop at just 10 or 20 or 30 names, and instead going for 50 names.

And then, after I thought I was all done, at the last minute, he shuffled this year's list.


Anyway, here's what I came up with:

I apologize for the small size of the type -- you can click on the image to see it larger.

Now, although I've been on a real data analysis kick lately (see also my takes on electoral geography and gasoline prices) I'm not really looking at "data" to analyze here -- rather, I'm mapping out one man's idiosyncratic impressions.

That said, they are impressions that are published in our city's daily paper of record, and they're certainly backed up by some solid thinking. And, they're going to get people talking.

So if you take a look at the tangled mess of names that James has listed over the past four years, you can see that there is a fair bit of movement on that list.

I think that's a good thing -- if the Top-5 power brokers in this town were always the same people, it would be: a) depressing; and b) demotivating to all the people lower down the list who would hope one day to move up. The fact that there's a lot of churn means that there's a chance that, with some hard work, you, too, could be one of the Powerful.

The chart is colour-coded. I used green arrows when people moved up on the list, and red arrows when they moved down (I thought about doing it Snakes and Ladders style, but that was WAY too ambitious). Yellow arrows are for people who have the same position on the list from year to year.

You'll also notice a few dashed blue lines. I had to connect some names who disappeared from the list one year and then re-appeared. I also connected departing BU President Lou Vistentin with his replacement, Deborah Poff.

Only the top 30 names are in an exact numbered order; James includes a bundle of 10 names in his "If it were the Top 40" and "If it were the Top 50" lists, so I've included them here in the order in which he presented them. They may not be speficially ordered on purpose, but I like to think we're tapping into something subconcious there.

You'll notice that there is an awful lot of green between 2008-09, and then a lot of red between 2009-10. That shows a lot of people taking big leaps up, and then a lot of people taking big falls (although there is some of both in each of those years). Sometimes, those are the same people.

Undoubtedly, you'll find interesting tidbits of your own -- please share them in the comments, below -- but here are the Top 10 things that I noticed, from the Power List:

  • 1. Staying power

Only one person manages to snag a place in the Top 10 every single year -- Bob Mazer. And, he's never dropped below No. 2. If there really is an Old Boys' Club in Brandon, I guess he's the only member.

  • 2. Now you see 'em, now you don't

Both Jeff Fawcett and Ken Chalmers were cited among the Top-15 Most Powerful in 2008, but both disappeared from the list in 2009. They didn't even make the Top 50! Now, in 2010, they're back (both of them) but substantially down from where they were two years ago.

  • 3. Fall from glory

Joel Ward was second banana only to Bob Mazer in 2008, but dropped from the list entirely the next year. Of course, he left Brandon, so that's understandable. The biggest drop by someone who managed to hang on to a spot on the list is former mayor Dave Burgess. He was happily near the top of the list for the first three years, but is currently in Top-40 purgatory while he ponders his post-mayoral life. Ron Ball took a tumble, too. He managed to be No. 21 on the list last year, but only squeaked into the Top-50 this year.

  • 4. New star

Ted Snure makes his first appearance on the list in 2010 -- where he's touted as No. 5 material. That's the highest appearance for a rookie ever. Leo Collins is also a newbie this year, at No. 7. Two years ago, Derry Decter also made his inaugural appearance at No. 7, but has since dropped to No. 12 (I guess there's a better Decter to talk to these days). The biggest jump ever by someone who was already on the list is Dan Robertson, this year, who jumped to the No. 10 slot from the Top-50 group, where he had lingered for the past three years.

  • 5. Downward trend

Some people get a little less powerful year after year but haven't actually been kicked off the list yet. Among them are Jack Jacobson, who has drifted steadily down from No. 3 in 2007 to No. 24 this year. Also on the down elevator are Paul Crane (No. 5 in 2007, No. 25 this year) and Errol Black (No 13 in 2007, Top-50 this year) ,

  • 6. On the ups

On the other hand, some people just keep ascending. New mayor Shari Decter Hirst sits atop this year's list, but she wasn't even on the radar in 2007. The next year, she first appeared at No. 29, and she was No. 15 last year. Other people in positive territory are Merv Tweed (No. 30 in 2007, up-up-up to No. 4 this year) and P.J. Crane, who steadily bumped his way to the top of the Top 50 crowd for three years before leaping to No. 22 this year.

  • 7. Steady as she goes

For all the ups and downs, there are also people who continually toil at about the same level -- never falling dramatically or rising too far too fast. I've already mentioned top power broker Bob Mazer, for example, but there are also people like: Drew Caldwell (hovering between Nos. 4-11); Wayne McLeod (Nos. 8-17); Ewan Pow (Nos. 8-11); Kerry Auriat (Nos. 14-21); and Keith Atkinson (Nos. 13-20).

  • 8. Low and slow

It probably takes a special kind of effort to be moderately powerful and yet remain only moderately powerful year after year. You're there, and you're known in the community, and you are never quite forgotten about, but you're not doing anything dramatic or world-changing. There are two people who have made the Top 50 in all four years -- they've never been higher, and yet they've never missed the cut. They are Jared Jacobson and Adam Sobkow.

  • 9. One-hit wonders

I'm going to leave out people who dropped out after the first year, or who are new additions this year. I'm also going to overlook Jeff Fawcett, since he's back after a one-year absence. And, I'm going to give a pass to the people who pop up for just one year in the Top-50. But there are a few people who pop up on the list, and then disappear just 12 months later. Rob Fowler made a one-year appearance at No. 30 last year. Morris Shannacappo and Krystyna Tarwid each made the Top-40 section just once.

  • 10. Roller-coaster riders

My final "award" goes to the people I think have taken the wildest ride over the past four years -- including swoops both up and down, and yet never dropping completely off the list. Take a look at Terry Parlow, who started at No. 15, then dropped to No. 27, and then to Top-50, before scooting back up to No. 29 this year. And don't forget Jim Murray, who sits at No. 16 in both 2007 and 2010, but hit No. 14 and then No. 27 in-between.


So, what kind of things (besides a blur of colour) do you see when you look at the four lists side-by-side? Who is too high? Who is too low? Who doesn't deserve to be there? Who is notably absent?

I didn't even get into anything really analytical, like trends in gender, or trends in age, or businesspeople vs. politicians. Anyone else want to take a crack at it?

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Anyone on this list who wants to buy it as a limited-edition poster -- let's talk!

(I'm serious, I'll do this :P)

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