3. Mary Nichols
It’s getting harder to remember a time when Mary Nichols wasn’t leading the California Air Resources Board, the most important air-quality enforcer in the United States. She is in her 11th consecutive year — and 15th year, total — as the ARB’s chair. Nichols carries quite a load, and it’s getting heavier: The Trump administration is determined to roll back California’s clean-air regulations, and Nichols is in the middle of the fight. A former lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, she served on the ARB during Gov. Jerry Brown’s first term 1979-83, first as a member and later as chair. She left government to practice law, but Gov. Gray Davis brought her back as his natural resources secretary in 1999-2001. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, named her to the ARB in 2007, and she has been there ever since. She’s emerged as a national figurehead for environmentalism and air-quality advocacy through her work and participation in speeches and interviews throughout the country. The buzz around the water cooler is that she may retire soon. We’ll see.
Updated Aug. 15, 2o18