ROI Influencers: People of Color 2019 — A to L

Shariq Ahmad
Edison Democratic Organization
A former aide to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, Ahmad has an ever-growing profile among South Asians in the state. He has helped at both the local and state level and is a well-connected individual. He’s a great example of mixing business and politics for the betterment of his community.

Leslie Anderson
CEO and president
New Jersey Redevelopment Authority
The first African American woman to lead a financing authority in New Jersey, she has a direct impact on the members of all underserved communities. Her group has leveraged more than $4 billion in new investments and figures to be a key influencer in matters involving Opportunity Zone projects.

Guillermo Artiles
McCarter & English
After a year in the Governor’s Office as associate counsel, this Cuban American is back in the private sector at McCarter & English and is a go-to on several emerging industries such as cannabis and renewable energy — also key issues on Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda. Artiles already has created a high profile for himself and is actively engaged with the Hispanic business community.

Mishael Azam
Vice president of external affairs
UnitedHealth Group
A fierce lobbyist in the health care realm, Azam has worked her way up from being the first Muslim staffer in the State House to heading government relations in New Jersey and other Northeast states for one of the largest insurers in the country. She is well known for her no-nonsense attitude and sharp wit, and younger staffers and lobbyists alike seek her out in Trenton’s halls.

Adenah Bayoh
Founder and CEO
Adenah Bayoh and Cos.
The real estate powerhouse in Essex County has been widely known for her entrepreneurial spirit and sharp business mind. Bayoh has lived the American Dream in every sense of the phrase and continues to enjoy the fruits of her labor, while continuing to innovate and bring fresh ideas to expand her portfolio, whether it is restaurants or housing.

Wasseem Boraie
Vice president
Boraie Development
Boraie remains a strong name in the real estate industry and the company can be seen in the major developing areas of the state, including Newark, New Brunswick and Atlantic City. Boraie helps run the family development company, led by his father, Omar Boraie, and alongside his brother, Sam Boraie.

Mo Butler
Knowing what’s going on in Newark business and politics is Butler’s specialty. The longtime confidant of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has the trust of some of the most powerful people in the state. As anticipated, with Booker in the presidential race, Butler’s profile has only risen. But think again if you think his massive influence doesn’t go beyond Booker. It does.

Patricia Campos-Medina
Board member and former president (2016-2019)
Leading the charge for Latinas in the state, Campos-Medina is a force to be reckoned with. She is close to many of the leading Hispanic business and political leaders in the state and beyond. If there is something brewing in the community, Campos-Medina is sure to know about or be supporting it. Her role in the PAC naturally leads to her searching for the next Latina leader.

Marlene Caride
Dept. of Banking & Insurance
Leading the state’s efforts in health care insurance protections, Caride’s work in the past year has helped make the state one of the leaders in ensuring more New Jersey residents have access to lower-cost health care than they would in other states. This Latina is among the most powerful in the state.

Kyung Hee Choi
Vice president
Holy Name Medical Center
A voice for Koreans and Asians at large in the state, Choi’s bold program that catered to the health needs of Asians has been emulated across the country — and spurred the creation of a Hispanic program. The simple but innovative push has helped break down communication barriers, promoted better access to health care and boosted the reputation of Holy Name among the ethnic communities it serves.

Sheena Collum
Village president
South Orange
The leader of South Orange’s municipal government also is the leader of the state’s chapter of the American Planning Association. She’s pushing towns to modernize the way they view economic development and how it can change their future.


Tai Cooper
Vice president of policy and communications
All eyes are on the EDA this year as it looks to revamp the way it does business and works with businesses. Cooper, formerly in Newark’s political inner circle, is focused on helping revamp the agenda and goals of the state’s economic development arm. Cooper’s stock — boosted by her strong work ethic — clearly is on the rise.

Claribel Cortes; Francisco Cortes
Setroc Group
One of our power couples, they are co-founders of a top marketing agency, but also get the nod for being on the boards of the Hispanic chamber (Clarabel) and NJ State Veterans Chamber of Commerce (Francisco).

Jose Cruz
Senior managing director
Many feel the hardest-working broker in the state was one of the biggest pieces of the deal that brought his old firm, HFF, together with his new firm, JLL. There’s a reason he’s a regular on our ROI Influencers: Real Estate lists — few do it better or are respected more.

Michellene Davis
Executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer
RWJBarnabas Health
Davis had a quieter year than in the past, but her political and business influence has not waned. One of the most, if not the most, powerful and well-known African American women in the state, Davis is a notable presence in any room she enters. Her influence goes far beyond health care.

Uli Diaz
Vice president of government affairs
Horizon BCBSNJ
The quintessential New Jersey political operative, Diaz works as hard as he plays. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. He is the highest-ranking Hispanic executive at the state’s largest insurer. He also is a part of local politics in North Jersey — and a well-known ally of Menendez.

Wilda Diaz
City of Perth Amboy
She is a fearless fighter for her town, whether it’s for grant money to develop Perth Amboy as an urban hub or looking for ways to boost female entrepreneurs. Her relentless work ethic and energy has made her a face that is well known to municipal and state leaders, as well as the statewide business community.

Tara Dowdell
Tara Dowdell Group
A well-known Democratic strategist, Dowdell has worked hard within politics and without to build her brand. Many know her or have heard of her, and her work to elevate other minority entrepreneurs hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dowdell is also a regular on MSNBC and has been a contestant on “The Apprentice.”

Shereef Elnahal
CEO and president
University Hospital
The former health commissioner has left a mark on New Jersey and continues to find a new challenge in the state’s oldest problem hospital. After serving at Veterans Affairs and the White House, he was tapped to lead the state’s health department. After finding success in expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, among other accomplishments, Elnahal is taking on the challenge of University Hospital in Newark.

Michael Epps; Rosa Farias
Executive director; Deputy executive director
Atlantic City Initiatives Office
The pair — and their office — are charged with overseeing and coordinating the day-to-day implementation plan that will help improve and transform Atlantic City in a variety of ways.

Nariman Farvardin
Stevens Institute of Technology
Growing the reputation of the Stevens Institute in an era when educational institutions are seeing a decline in interest has been an achievement Farvardin can claim. Providing relevant STEM classes to respond to a rapidly changing world is the reason why the school continues to see its graduates hired by major corporations and is continually ranked as one of the Top 10 tech schools in the country.

Kenneth Frazier
Chairman and CEO
The pharmaceutical company head enjoys a powerful reputation both in New Jersey and in the country. His company is experiencing strong growth in key health care sectors, all while battling political and public pressure tied to drug pricing and other health care debates. Frazier, unlike many corporate heads in the state, can be seen at events supporting the youth and STEM industries.

Rudy Garcia
One of the most senior Cuban Americans in New Jersey politics today, the head of the lobbying firm MBI-Gluckshaw commands the room — regardless of the venue. He has played a role in efforts to save Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez during President Bill Clinton’s administration and previously served as mayor of Union City and in the state Assembly. He is a known entity on State Street and around the state.

Barbara George Johnson
Executive director
John S. Watson Institute
A powerhouse in her own right and familiar face in the halls of Trenton, Johnson leads the Thomas Edison State University’s Watson Institute for Public Policy, giving her a front row seat to the state’s political battles. Johnson has been a vocal critic of the state’s need to overhaul its tax incentive programs and has been at the forefront of research and analysis to represent its effect on the various municipalities in the state.

Ghermezian family
Triple Five
It could be facing yet another delay, but the ambitious goal of opening a Meadowlands megamall — and American Dream is certainly shaping up to be so much more than that — has been showing signs of progress beyond what has developed in the past decade. The Ghermezian family is racing to show entertainment destinations are the wave of the future. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the grand opening.

Gerry Gibbs
Capital Impact Group
He is one of a handful of African American partners at a Top 10 New Jersey lobbying firm and his quiet demeanor cannot hide his understanding of the way things work in Trenton. A former state Treasury official and Clinton administration appointee in the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Commerce, Gibbs has an impressive breadth of experience that serves him well on State Street.

Vin Gopal
Senator (D-Ocean Twp.)
State of New Jersey
Gopal has taken a middle road in New Jersey politics, commanding the respect of his peers as he does so. The young South Asian senator is a leader for youth and actively engages with his and other minority communities, while also shouldering the responsibility of fighting for the district he represents. Gopal has avoided political entanglement with any one side and is seen as a tempered voice in what can be a temperamental State House.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti
Dept. of Transportation
The struggle to fix New Jersey Transit continues on Gutierrez-Scaccetti’s watch, and her commitment to the cause continues unwaveringly. She has handled the criticisms of the public and press with class and stays focused on the task at hand. Under her leadership, the Department of Transportation is working more effectively and getting more done within its allotted (but increased) budget.

Ryan Haygood
CEO and president
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Haygood heads an institute that aims to improve the lives of urban residents by improving their economic opportunity, increasing their role in the political process and ensuring they live in a society that promotes social justice and equity.

Corry Hong
Founder, CEO and president
He’s the leader of the biggest company you may not be familiar with. Or, you may know it by this: the company that purchased the old Merck facility in Whitehouse Station. Hong, a quiet and humble leader, had a big impact by simply buying the building. He’s now slowly (and quietly) building connections throughout the state.

Ali Houshmand
Rowan University
Houshmand is an innovator in the higher education space and continues to grow the South Jersey brand well beyond its previously limited reach. Many know about the expansion of the university in the past few years, but few know the man behind the growth. Houshmand knows he is not only growing the next generation of leaders, but also is helping add to the growth of the South Jersey economy. It’s a tough task he is handling with ease.

Sarah Jones
Director of government affairs
Horizon BCBSNJ
Being a public servant runs in the family for Jones, whose mother was a judge in New Jersey and a trailblazer in her own right. Jones has been able to make her own mark on state politics. She commands respect at both the state and federal level for her political acumen and ambition. Jones has worked for U.S. Rep. Donald Payne and is a valuable asset to the state’s largest insurer. 

Andy Kim
U.S. Representative
Kim, a Korean American, is a first-term congressman representing the 3rd District, but, as the first Asian American congressman from the state, he represents one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in New Jersey. The Rhodes Scholar is a former aide in President Barack Obama’s administration, where he worked on national security.

Kris Kolluri
CEO and president
Cooper’s Ferry Partnership Inc.
A former CEO of the now-embattled Schools Development Authority and a former NJDOT commissioner, Kolluri was one of the first Indian Americans in New Jersey to have an active and prominent role in state politics. Kolluri now heads Cooper’s Ferry, a partnership in Camden focused on improving the economy and attracting businesses to South Jersey.

Robert Lee
Community outreach liaison
Joe Jingoli & Son Inc.
Lee is an under-the-radar person who has a huge impact in Atlantic City. He serves as the go-to coordinator for the numerous community outreach projects that Jingoli undertakes. He served in a similar role when the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened.

Thai Lee
SHI International
The company just got a big boost in name recognition when it bought the naming rights to the Rutgers football stadium. SHI also is known for something else: being the largest woman-owned business in the U.S., with revenues over $10 billion. Lee, a Thailand-born Korean American, was recently recognized as the 11th-richest self-made women in the country.

Vicky Llerena
Founder and CEO
SocialVibes Media
She founded and heads one of the top women-owned and Hispanic-owned media and marketing companies in the state, but Llerena makes this list for the work she does within her own community. A frequent speaker on the panel circuit, she is part of a number of organizations that are attempting to improve the lives of underserved communities in Hudson County.

Julia Lopez
Hispanic Bar Association
Also an attorney with ReedSmith LLP, Lopez is making it her mission to raise the number of Hispanic lawyers (about 4% nationally), female Hispanic lawyers (closer to 2%) and Hispanics who are partners (less than 1%). This, in a state that is approximately 20% Hispanic.

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