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More than a year ago, PoliticsPA released a list of the fifty most powerful Pennsylvanians.  Eight were women.  This was a point not missed on our staff or by many of you.  Accordingly, we have gathered a list of the twenty-four most politically powerful women.  Excluded from the list are elected officials, but included are some Pennsylvania exports who retain their ties to the Keystone State.  Enjoy our purely subjective list, in alphabetical order.

 

 

Ernesta Ballard She started her own business. She became an author. And in 1963, she became the first woman to head The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, taking the Philadelphia Flower Show to national prominence. Ballard is chair of The Philadelphia Foundation board, board member of The William Penn Foundation, Commissioner of Fairmount Park and countless other positions. She's also one of the founders of Philadelphia's Women's Way, the nation's oldest and wealthiest women's funding federation.

 

Donna Cooper: Currently serving as Governor Rendell's deputy chief of staff, Cooper was previously executive director of Good Schools Pennsylvania, a public education advocacy organization. Cooper also served as deputy mayor for policy and planning in the Rendell administration, advising the then-Mayor on all aspects of city policy. Look for her to have significant influence with the governor on public policy.

 

Becky Corman:  Considered one of the best grassroots campaign organizers, statewide Republican candidates have all turned to Corman to help deliver the Central Pennsylvania ‘T’. She has been involved with just about every successful statewide GOP effort including U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Her son Jake currently serves in the Senate of Pennsylvania.

 

Renee Chenault Fattah: She is the TV news anchor for Philadelphia NBC-10 and the wife of Congressman Chakah Fattah. She's also an award-winning journalist, attorney and Pennsylvania University Law School graduate. Chenault Fattah is actively involved in the community and one of the city's most respected African American women.

 

Vanessa DeSalvo: At only 31 years old, this executive director for the campaigns of Auditor General Bob Casey, Jr. has become a serious player in her own right. She's dedicated, hard working, smart...and universally liked. Power may not be the appropriate word for this elegant operative but her quiet influence within Democratic circles - including with one of state's top political figures - is certainly on the rise.

 

Rosemarie Greco:  Rosemarie Greco was recently recruited by Governor Rendell to serve as director in the newly created office of Health Care Reform. She is also the founder of GRECOventures Ltd., a business venture and consulting firm. Greco began her career in banking as a branch secretary and in 1997 stepped down as the CEO of the 18th largest bank in America. Greco has a strong and impressive record of civic involvement and leadership in high profile public service ventures.

 

Teresa Heinz:  The wife of U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful John Kerry (D-MA), and widow of U.S. Senator John Heinz. Her sheer wealth makes her player in Pennsylvania politics and she remains a power in her own right - particularly on the issues she cares deeply about. Last fall, she was one of the most prominent Republicans to endorse Ed Rendell for governor. More recently, she 'officially' became a Democrat. Look for her to be more active and outspoken in the Democratic Party where she will be much more comfortable...and accepted.

 

Elsie Hillman: GOP activist, major donor and philanthropist, Elsie has helped to elect every statewide GOP office holder in the past 30 years -- not to mention a President of the United States. Elsie has focused more of her recent time on women's issues, the arts and the region - and less on day-to-day politics - but every statewide GOP candidate still turns to Elsie for help.

 

Colleen Kopp: She's the Democrats version of the GOP's Mary Matilin. She understands better than most the political dynamics of a culture dominated primarily by males. Governor Rendell recently tapped her to serve as deputy secretary for legislative affairs after serving several years as executive director for House Democratic Whip Mike Veon. She has also labored in the field working on numerous state House elections.

 

Carey Lackman: Chief of staff to Senator Arlen Specter, she served as finance director for Specter’s re-election campaigns in 1992 and 1998. Between campaigns, she served as his legislative assistant. Lackman later left to pursue a lobbying career before accepting a position as the first chief operating officer of conventions and meetings for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Last January, Lackman returned as Specter's top Hill staffer.. 

 

Penny Lee:  She has been appointed director of the office of public liaison by Governor Rendell. Lee had served as Executive Director of the 2003 Rendell Inaugural Committee and as National Finance Director during Rendell's campaign for Governor. Previously, Lee was Director of the Democratic Business Council at the Democratic National Committee during Rendell's tenure as General Chairman. She currently serves on the Board of the Greater Washington First Tee, an organization within the PGA Tour that promotes golf in the inner city.

 

Meryl Levitz: President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation has truly helped to make Philly more fun when you sleep over. A dynamic force in the tourism and marketing industry, Levitz plays a major role in the success of Philly as a true tourist destination.

 

Eileen Melvin: As vice chairman of the Republican State Committee, Melvin has worked successfully to put together a winning strategy for the GOP in Pennsylvania. She served on President Ronald Reagan's transition team and was instrumental in the initial stages of his administration, helping to prepare the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. Melvin also served as a legislative assistant to Senator John Heinz. She's well positioned to be the next chairman of the state Republican Party. 

 

Kate Michelman:  The president of NARAL, Michelman was named one of Washington's top lobbyists by The Hill newspaper, and Fortune Magazine has described NARAL Pro-Choice America as "one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America." Prior to joining NARAL in 1985, Michelman was executive director of Planned Parenthood in Harrisburg.  While she is based in Washington, DC, Michelman maintains her Pennsylvania residence.

 

Leslie Anne Miller:  Co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Regional Performing Arts Center and a shareholder in the law firm of McKissock and Hoffman, Miller specializes in civil litigation and mediation. In 1998, she completed a term as the first female President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. In 1999 received the Sandra Day O'Connor Award, the highest award given to a female lawyer by the Philadelphia Bar Association. She also was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania by Governor Tom Ridge. Most recently, she accepted the position of General Counsel to Governor Rendell.
 

Rebecca Rimel: Since 1993, Rimel has been President and CEO of the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's largest philanthropies with more than $4.7 billion in assets. Rimel, a former nurse, first served as executive director at the Trust before becoming its President. Rimel has made the Pew Trusts one of the most influential and innovative charitable organizations in the United States, doubling its grant-making total since 1994 and giving out more than $210 million to 298 nonprofit organizations.

 

Pat Poprik: Pennsylvania Republican Party Treasurer, investment advisor, and top GOP fundraiser, Poprik is a strong voice in the state Republican leadership. She's a member of the Board of Trustees at Penn State University and a member of the State System of Higher Education. A woman who gets things done and is widely respected by her political peers, Poprik could one day (soon) be state party chair or GOP National Committeewoman.

 

Naomi Post: Former executive director of Philadelphia Safe & Sound. Some forget that this Cornell-educated attorney and children's advocate was selected for the post before her husband - Mayor John Street - was elected. She's extremely bright and capable in her own right. Post, a lawyer and a former deputy chief in Philadelphia's Family Court, has worked with children's issues for more than 20 years.

 

Midge Rendell: This U.S. Appeals Court judge swore in her husband as the 45th Governor of Pennsylvania in January, making her the First Lady of Pennsylvania. Although her seat on the federal bench precludes her from politics, look for her to be a tremendous influence in non-political arenas, such as the arts. She'll leave the governing to her husband but she's clearly one of the most powerful women in the state.

 

Judith Rodin: The first woman to be named to the Presidency of an Ivy League institution, she served on President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and co-chaired the transition team of Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street. She also served from 1994-95 on a Presidential panel to review security at the White House... and was even mentioned as a potential running mate to Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. Close with Governor Ed Rendell (a Penn grad), she runs one of the largest employers in Philadelphia.

 

Christine Toretti: GOP National Committeewoman, major donor and chairman and CEO of S.W. Jack Drilling. She served on the Governor George W. Bush Presidential Campaign Committee. A force within her industry, the Bush administration sought her input by placing her on the Energy Advisory Committee for the Bush/Cheney Transition Team. Most importantly, she threw a great party at Club Macanudo on the Upper East Side at last year's Pennsylvania Society.

 

Marilyn Ware: GOP major donor and fundraiser helped to elect Tom Ridge governor in 1994. In addition to serving on numerous boards and commissions, including the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Ware chairs the American Water Works Company, one of the nation’s largest water companies. Ware was recently appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC).

 

Mary Esther Van Shura:  Assistant Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City of Pittsburgh. Van Shura has worked on campaigns since as long as anyone can remember. An effective and influential member of Pittsburgh city politics. 

Sandi Vito:  This former Deputy Campaign Manager for Ed Rendell's successful gubernatorial election should earn her a few points with the state's chief executive. Vito is a former chief of staff to state Senator Tina Tartaglione, and has roots in the pro-choice movement having served as the executive director of the NARAL.

 

 

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