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Austin People of the Year 2020

Eleven exceptional people leading Austin through extraordinary times

Austin Public Health Team

As the director of Austin Public Health, the city’s chief epidemiologist and the interim medical director and health authority, Stephanie Hayden, Janet Pichette and Dr. Mark E. Escott’s joint challenge was preparing the city without sparking panic. When the trio first heard about COVID-19, the course of the new virus was still unknown. But their backgrounds in infectious disease and emergency preparedness equipped them to realize the potential for crisis.

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Pamela Benson Owens

Under Benson Owens’ leadership as Six Square’s interim executive director, the organization has directly disbursed over $46,000 to Black artists and business owners affected by the loss of work opportunities due to the pandemic. Six Square also provides restorative spaces for those traumatized by this year’s events through Black Minds Matter, a program that invites Black therapists and healing practitioners to help community members navigate trying times.

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Shelby Blessing &
Sarah Satterlee

As a leader in serving those who experience chronic homelessness, Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community First! Village helps its residents find both shelter and community. On a 51-acre, master-planned community in East Austin, the village is the first of its kind in the country, and architects Shelby Blessing and Sarah Satterlee are two of the key figures behind its innovative solution.

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Rubén Cantú

As executive director of the Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT, Cantú oversees the education of students in entrepreneurship and a fellowship program guiding women of color into corporate leadership roles within 10 years of graduating. But prior to bringing his startup experience to the university, he devoted his life to ensuring Black and Brown kids don’t just have a seat at the table—they can create a new “round table” where they are valued.

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Ashley Cheng

As co-founder of Rouser, a creative civic engagement platform; co-host of The Rabble podcast; vice president of Asian Democrats Central Texas; and the recently elected Texas AAPI caucus representative to the Democratic National Committee, Cheng’s political endeavors appear at first glance to be her primary passion. Before the 2016 election, however, she never envisioned any personal political involvement. Like many, the 2016 election results changed everything.

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Joi Chevalier

Looking at Chevalier’s smiling face, you’d never know that in the throes of a global meltdown, her small startup is spearheading a revolutionary food distribution program responsible for providing 3,000 daily meals to those who need it most. But behind the relaxed veneer hums the mind of one of Austin’s leading voices on the future of food.

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Kevin Fink &
Tavel Bristol-Joseph

By February, 2020 was shaping up to be an incredible year for best friends Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol-Joseph, co-owners and chefs of 3-month-old Hestia. Then, all of Austin’s restaurants closed due to COVID-19. Ironically, their profession is the very thing that helped Fink and Bristol-Joseph navigate the unenviable challenge of keeping five eateries afloat, all while continuing to provide for the 120 furloughed employees they consider extended family.

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