Most Influential

Seattle’s Most Influential People

Making a significant difference in our community

By Rob Smith January 8, 2024

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This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Five women fighting Asian hate. The Civic Poet of Seattle. The Medical Mythbuster. A woman in charge of helping to revamp Seattle’s waterfront.

They are just four of Seattle magazine’s Most Influential People of 2024. These extraordinary individuals sometimes (not always) toil in obscurity, but they’re fighting to improve their communities with whatever means available. They are truly heroes working to make our constantly changing city, state, and nation more livable, accessible, and equal.

The list is based on three main criteria:

Who are the (potentially) unsung heroes who did something significant last year? Who is working selflessly to find solutions to our region’s or world’s problems? Who has been behind some of the year’s biggest news stories? It’s not often who you think.

All approach their work or activism from a unique lens. All are making a difference in our community.

These are Seattle’s Most Influential People. Join us every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday over the next two months as we roll out stories highlighting their impactful work.

Philanthropy

Equity

Politics

Arts

Business

Sports

Hospitality

Health Care

Education

Fashion

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Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Chef, author

López-Alt is a two-time James Beard Award-winner, with all three of his books making it onto The New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, The Wok, currently in bookstores, won him his second James Beard Award this year. Photo by J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

General director, Seattle Opera

On November 22, 1981, a teenage Christina Scheppelmann saw Don Carlo in Hamburg, Germany. The five-act opera, which Scheppelmann called an “incredibly monumental, relevant piece of music,” displayed the life and conflicts of a fictional 16th-century European prince. From then on, she was in love. “(Opera) is incredibly emotional. It’s exciting,” she says. “If you…

Most Influential, Business: Marques Warren

Most Influential, Business: Marques Warren

Entrepreneur

The solution-minded Warren founded Cougar Mountain Financial, a lender specializing in loans to women and minority-owned businesses at airports. So far, he has financed restaurants at a food court at Los Angeles International Airport, and several retailers at San Francisco International Airport... Photo by Danielle Barnum

Most Influential, Education: Sheila Edwards Lange

Most Influential, Education: Sheila Edwards Lange

Educator

When Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange was appointed chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma in the fall of 2021, she became the highest-ranking Black administrator in the UW system. Photo by Ryan Moriarty/UW Tacoma