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I‘m not saying dinner was entirely free of incident. There was a substantial amount of food to get through, and some very fine wines appeared with each course. As the night wore on the guests grew a little tipsy, and the fight-or-flirt impulse kicked in. At one point, two fellows differed rather vociferously about who enjoys more influence at City Hall: the mayor, the chief of staff, or the city manager. An arcane dispute, to be sure, for most people but very core to this group. And since these guys were seated at opposite ends of a 30-foot table, we all got sucked in. Meanwhile, a (married) woman quietly complimented the gentleman beside her on his fine-well, let’s leave it at that.
This was all happening in the Georgian Room of the Vancouver Club, a members’ club that over its 100 years (happy anniversary, Vancouver Club!) has seen spirits run high at any number of private soirées. I’ve no doubt it was business as usual for staff, but we all felt that frisson that comes with a special night held only once a year. This was my sixth year attending the planning dinner to discuss nominees to our Power 50 list, but for a few of the 15 or so guests, it was their first. Diligent, they’d emailed ahead of time to get the ground rules and to understand the scope of their responsibilities. “Just be yourself,” I told them. “Bring lots of candidates. Look at last year’s list but don’t feel constrained. Think back on your own life and your business dealings. Ask your circles of influence. Be prepared to champion newcomers. And when you come, don’t hold back.” They certainly listened!
The results of that night’s invigorating debate formed a long list that the magazine’s editors and contributors then whittled down to 50. There was consensus for No. 1 but disagreement everywhere else. And I’m sure you’ll disagree with some of our choices, too. In fact, I hope you do. How boring the world would be if we could select 50 influential citymakers with perfect unanimity. But I do hope you’ll feel moved enough as you read to shout down whatever table you’re sitting at. And maybe you’ll also feel moved to compliment someone on their fine-well, let’s leave it at that.