81. Jack Ainsworth
Since the abrupt and contentious firing of former executive director Charles Lester last February, the Coastal Commission has been in transition. While the drama – and the year it took the commission to officially name Ainsworth as Lester’s successor – didn’t make for the most auspicious shift in power, Ainsworth is moving forward in his new role. A Coastal Commission staffer since 1989, he now finds himself in a seat of significant power: he’s head of the state agency responsible for approving any development along the more than 1,000 miles of the state’s most expensive real estate. Since his tenure started in February, Ainsworth has been working to refocus the Commission on its original mission: protecting the coast for all Californians. He’s pushing to develop low-income vacation lodging, complete the Local Coastal Plans, and address rising sea levels and shrinking beaches. With about $2 million of the agency’s budget at the mercy of the new Republican administration and Congress, Ainsworth may need to wield that power for an even bigger fight.