Written by Tom Blair, Virginia Butterfield, Kim Cromwell and Colin Flaherty
with Don Braunagel, David Gregson, Christine Rasmussen and Thomas Shess Jr.
Everybody asks how we choose these watchables. In the past, we’ve explained the incredible research that goes into this, how we consider hundreds of candidates from all professions—politics, law, the arts, education, sports, science. And in truth, we still do it that way. Our researchers are all over the city, collecting gossip (and sometimes actual facts) in bars, halls of learning, football stadiums—wherever local news is made. It’s not bad duty—until it comes time to narrow a list that often starts at 400. Then our choices get definitely quirky.
After much argument and internal lobbying, we now present you with our list of 50 San Diegans who will make a difference in our city in 1996. We don’t argue that everyone selected will be an everlasting credit to the city. (See Tom Blair’s rogue’s gallery of watchables past, on the last page of this magazine.) But we do insist that each of our candidates is an exceptional person, respected (at least at present) in his or her field, and causing more than a ripple in the public arena.
So here are the politicos who will shape our government, the athletes who will propel our teams to victory, the entrepreneurs who will add dollars to our economy. Each has a plan. Read on.
... Sometimes the heart sees what the eye cannot. “I’m an eye-for-an-eye guy,” says longtime friend Dan Pearson. “But Azim says there are two families who are victims.”
This month marks the first anniversary of Tariq’s death. But his memory lives on in the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, formed by his father. Its goal is to make a dramatic impact on teen violence. Together, the foundation and Viewpoint Films will begin production in 1996 on a documentary of Tariq’s story. The film will focus on issues of teen violence with a goal of motivating the viewer into action to combat its escalation.
“We will attempt to take this issue into the living rooms of every family, the classrooms of every school, the headquarters of every corporation and through the halls of Congress, if necessary, to initiate change in America and around the world,” Khamisa vows.
Susan Golding & Gerry Parsky
A city always watches its mayor. When it stops watching, watch out. (Some mayors, of course, invite closer scrutiny than others.) And once again this year, Mayor Susan Golding commands our attention, sitting high on our list of San Diegans to watch in 1996. Her hands-on-everything style of management will keep her busier than ever during an election year.
But this year, with national politics taking center stage here at home, Golding will be watched from near and far, sharing the top spotlight with another San Diegan: Gerry Parsky. Together, they’ll be put to the ultimate political test as they and the GOP Host Committee work furiously to pull off the 1996 Republican National Convention in August.
Almost all concerned give Golding the lion’s share of the credit for wooing the GOP. But behind every successful woman, there’s a man. In the case of the Republican Convention, the man is Gerry Parsky, chairman of the San Diego Host Committee. He’s the one who bears ultimate responsibility for the millions of dollars that must be raised and the thousands of things that must go right.
Parsky, a millionaire investment broker with a home in Rancho Santa Fe, is an attorney and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Ford administration. His choice as chairman of the Host Committee was at once a surprise and a natural. Despite a national reputation, Parsky, 52, was little known in his adopted San Diego a year ago. But Mayor Golding knew him as a man with the skills and contacts not only to raise $20 million but marshal the forces to coordinate virtually all of the convention-related activities surrounding the big event.
If the committee succeeds? “Beyond the economic impact” (estimated in excess of $165 million), says Parsky, “the convention offers us an opportunity to redefine the image of our city: to let businesses and investors around the world know that San Diego is at the forefront of technology development and communications, has world-class educational and research institutions and offers an unprecedented quality of life.”
Alice B. Hayes
Alice B. Hayes is a gracious charmer with an easy smile. Don’t let that fool you. The new chief executive at the University of San Diego knows exactly where she wants to take the independent Catholic institution: into cyber-space and up through the national collegiate ranks.
The new president, six months into the job as Author Hughes’ successor, is a career biologist with an impressive research record. She is determined to “wire” the Alcalá Park campus to bring all faculty and students on-line. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Hayes.
“It is not enough to be up on the hills,” she says. “To achieve wisdom, we must take our knowledge and our reflections into the city to serve humanity.”
“Just think, if you could schedule a business meeting in Tijuana and be back in your office in 20 minutes,” exclaims Alan Bersin, the U.S. Attorney recently appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno to oversee border affairs from Texas to San Diego. “Wouldn’t that spark trade between the two cities? Besides, in Tijuana, they have great restaurants.”
Bersin, a relative newcomer here, promises 158 new inspectors to keep the traffic flowing at customs. Other improvements he envisions include car-pool lanes and separating the handling of drug and immigration problems from ordinary border travel. With the added clout of Reno in his corner, Bersin just might pull off what he’s promised.
A Brooklyn native, a football star at Harvard (along with teammate Tommy Lee Jones) and fluent in Spanish, Bersin sees our city as an exciting international crossroads. And he hopes to see more direct flights to San Diego, perhaps with a renewal of Mexico’s interest in a cooperative airport project. “It’s ridiculous,” he complains. “It takes me practically two days every time I want to get to Washington.”
Imagine a future in which you go to the doctor’s office for a cancer shot, just as you do for a flu shot today. “The advent of antibiotics in the 1940s gave us the power, for the first time, to overcome infectious diseases,” says Dr. Malcolm Mitchell, director of the Center for Biological Therapy and Melanoma Research at UCSD’s Cancer Center. “I believe biological therapy will have the same impact on our ability to overcome cancer.”
What’s ahead? Moving a cancer vaccine into treatment of earlier stages of melanoma; a vaccine for breast cancer; blocking blood-vessel formation so tumors can’t grow; treatment of cancers with immunized cells outside the body.
“Patients have options,” says Mitchell, “even if the doctor doesn’t seem to give them any. If they know the right questions, they can get the doctor to help them.” You can find some of those questions in Mitchell’s chapters in Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy, published by Andrews & McMeel.
Members of the San Diego Master Chorale are already comparing their new music director to Robert Shaw, one of the greatest choral directors of all time. Selected from more than 70 applicants during a six-month search, Graeme Cowen beat out three finalists in competitive auditions involving the full chorus.
The overwhelming choice of all involved, he prepared Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana for Yoav Talmi and the San Diego Symphony before heading back to Philadelphia to collect his belongings for the move to San Diego. Cowen comes here after seven years as music director of the renowned City Choir of Philadelphia, a group that has performed under many great conductors, including Leopold Stokowski, Erich Leinsdorf, Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta and Sir Neville Marriner.
It’s been nearly two years since California passed its three-strikes law, and Deputy District Attorney Gregg McClain, who heads the DA’s team of nine three-strikes attorneys, hails it as a success. Especially in San Diego, where prosecution is more vigorous than in any other California county.
“We’re the meanest, the baddest, the toughest,” he boasts. The initiative found varying degrees of support up and down the state. But here, it passed overwhelmingly. And the DA’s office got the message.
Critics say the law is too harsh, but there are loopholes. A compassionate DA can dismiss a prior felony conviction under certain circumstances (no history of violence; a petty theft involving food for consumption). McClain chuckles when he recalls phone calls from prison, where inmates study his loophole list. “I don’t know how they get that list,” he says, “but they do.”
His task this year is simple. All Larry Killeen has to do is settle one of San Diego’s more enduring political debates: Should we have a working port, for industries such as shipbuilding, or should our port be for tourists and recreation, à la Seaport Village? As the new port director, Killeen may offer a third choice: both. As the former port director in Tacoma, he won raves for revitalizing that city’s moribund shipping business.
“Some people question whether we can play in the maritime game, because it costs a lot of money,” Killeen says. “I think we can. But we have to ask: Can we get enough revenues so that we can do dredging projects and help with the rehabilitation of the San Diego–Arizona railroad? These are all capital-intensive projects. And that’s the question we have to answer.”
Georgia Tucker, Anthony Pico & Clifford LaChappa
With the Republicans gathering in San Diego this year, now may be the time for the leaders of San Diego’s gaming tribes to make an impression where it counts. Sycuan Chairwoman Georgia Tucker, Viejas Chairman Anthony Pico and Barona Chairman Clifford LaChappa know they already have some heavy local support. But it’s not the locals who will decide their fate.
“Will the politicians come around in 1996 to represent their constituents’ wishes regarding tribal government?” Pico asks.
LaChappa remains optimistic, declaring: “The year 1996 promises to be the dawn of a new era of hope and prosperity for San Diego’s Native American community. This is because we have grasped an opportunity at free enterprise.”
But that opportunity could slip away. When the Supreme Court makes its ruling on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which the state has repeatedly challenged to gain more control over Indian gaming, the final outcome will be more than a decision on the law.
“This isn’t just a matter of gaming,” Tucker says, “but one of self-determination. It’s our inherent right to build a brighter future for our people. This year will be pivotal to that quest.”
This is the year Abdur-Rahim Hameed calls the bluff of San Diego’s largest builders. For years, many of these companies claimed they didn’t have more minorities in their workforce because they couldn’t find enough minority workers skilled in the building trades. No more.
Hameed started the country’s first non-union minority apprentice program. With more than 40 apprentices in training at job sites throughout the county, the Black Contractors Association now is giving minority youths the skills to compete for high-paying construction jobs. Hameed’s program features a “labor boot camp” that is a model for similar efforts nationwide.
Hameed’s office also is an increasingly important stop for contractors who seek public-works contracts. Hameed’s support was a key factor when the city awarded a $180 million contract for the expansion of the Convention Center.
Kipland Howard covers the waterfront. From Seaport Village to the bay-front hotel towers to the Convention Center, Howard has played key—if backstage—roles in almost every major waterfront development downtown in the past decade. Most of that time, he was the protégé of controversial developer Doug Manchester—pushing Manchester’s projects, negotiating his deals.
Now that Manchester is consumed by airports and Idaho, Howard, 41, is coming into his own. In 1996, he and his Allegis Development will be pushing for approval of the first new waterfront hotel in nearly a decade. The 46-story, $200 million project, on land now occupied by Campbell Shipyard, would tower over the expanded convention center. He’s also planning to add a third ferry stop to the waterfront, along with water-taxi service linking all the bay-side hotels.
“Howard is leading the way to making the waterfront a hub of activity, not just a viewing point,” says Ron Oliver, who heads the Downtown Partnership.
The San Diego–Tijuana border has two big problems: Some people get across too fast; others don’t get across fast enough. The Border Patrol is in charge of fixing the former. The task of improving the latter has fallen to Mark Reed, San Diego’s newly appointed district director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The stakes are high. Without faster border crossings—even on a weekday, lines can be an hour or more—all talk of a regional economy incorporating San Diego and Tijuana will remain just that: talk. Reed says INS efforts at the border are equal parts “deterrence, diplomacy and discussion.” Already, his crackdown on document fraud—a national model—is so successful it is freeing up more inspectors for shorter lines.
“If we can’t get that wait down to less than 20 minutes by the summer, then I don’t deserve to have a job,” Reed says.
Last year, KFMB-TV, Channel 8, lured Denise Yamada from KNSD-TV, Channel 39. Smart move by Channel 8. But Channel 39, by promoting the personable Margaret Radford from within to replace Yamada, scored its own coup. Ratings for the KNSD evening news, with Radford and co-anchor Marty Levin, jumped.
Three shows a day—4, 6 and 11 p.m.—plus lots of attention to her new husband, Joe McMahan, keep Radford hopping. McMahan was a TV reporter at L.A.’s KABC; they dated for nine years. And then, as fate would have it, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“He’s doing great,” says Radford, while admitting to long hours spent in doctors’ offices. “But I’m the kind of person who’s bored silly if I’m not doing enough. My career—my life—has not been easy, but in certain respects, it’s been charmed. I know everything will work out.”
Radford and Levin are the only two local anchors who’ve worked for all three network affiliates. “Hopefully, this is my last stop,” Radford says wistfully. “I don’t ever intend to leave San Diego.”
Given his druthers, Steven Brezzo might prefer not to be watched this year. Not with such a critical eye, anyway. The 47-year-old director of the San Diego Museum of Art came under some pretty intense—supporters say unfair—scrutiny in the local newspaper last fall. After 16 years at the helm of San Diego’s largest art museum, Brezzo was first skewered for a high salary and so-called lavish style that included limousine rides and gourmet expense-account dinners. Then he was slammed in another story that questioned museum operations and the quality of the SDMA collection.
The stories touched off a furor in the arts community and caused some to fear that the negative press might scare patrons away from arts funding in general. But while some were taking bets on Brezzo’s survival at year’s end, he was busy “planning projects into the year 2002. We’re proceeding with the mission of the museum,” he says. “We consider ourselves to be entrepreneurial and visionary. And as far as we’re concerned, it’s the pioneers who always get the arrows.”
The great offensive hope of a resurgent San Diego State University football program has some very big cleats to fill. George Jones shares his name with the country music recording star. But for the Aztecs’ dynamo running back, comparisons to superstar Marshall Faulk are more appropriate.
Physically, he’s slightly smaller than Faulk, the former Aztec back who’s now the backbone of the Indianapolis Colts. But Jones’ numbers already are bigger in one key category: total yards for a season. In the Aztecs’ November 18 game against the Rainbows in Hawaii, Jones broke Faulk’s single-season record for rushing yardage, reaching 1,755 yards with one game to go.
But then, he’s no stranger to record books. At Bakersfield College, Jones set a national junior-college record for touchdowns in a game (six) and for a season (34). The six TDs in one game broke a record set by another famous running back: O.J. Simpson.
Ron Rudolph builds things. Big things. Like skyscrapers and racetracks. In 1993, the Centex Golden vice president supervised construction of the Del Mar Fairgrounds grandstand—winning his company an award for best new building in the world. He delivered the project under budget and a year ahead of schedule.
Now in charge of building the $180 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Rudolph has to do it again. With a major difference: Had things gone wrong in Del Mar, a few horse races might have been postponed; if things go wrong with the Convention Center, it could postpone Mayor Golding’s hopes for higher office in 1998. Lots of mayoral prestige riding on this race.
“Mayor Golding’s statewide ambitions could not survive if this expansion were a year late and $100 million over budget, as the last center was,” says Fred Wanke, a local painting contractor and business leader. “That’s why she picked Rudolph.”
Back in the early 1980s, when San Diego Magazine first began compiling its list of locals to watch, arts patron and civic volunteer Elsie Weston was there. The year was 1983, and she was completing her second term as president of the San Diego Opera Association. In that role, she took some tough and controversial stands, as we reported. But her adamant stand for a balanced budget did much to ensure the survival of the opera we enjoy today.
In 1996, Weston faces another, more daunting task, and the survival of the San Diego Symphony hangs in the balance. As chair of the symphony board, Weston was, at year’s end, faced with a budget crisis of epic proportions. In an effort to stem the flow of red ink, she led a board that reacted by cutting the budget (by more than $3 million) and reducing the size of the orchestra, the length of the season and the minimum salary for musicians.
Braced for a battle over the cuts, Weston tries to remain pragmatic and optimistic. “We all need to recognize that we need to pull together to make this all happen and keep the music playing,” she says.
When he came here from the United Kingdom, new Cox Cable general manager Bill Geppert hit the ground running. The merger between Cox and Dimension Cable Services had produced billing snafus. And angry North County callers protested service interruptions of up to three days. Geppert’s TV show fielding customer complaints went a long way toward settling some prickly issues.
Plowing more than $300 million into fiber optics and other technical upgrades will help even more. To offset the cost of all this high-tech wizardry, consumers can expect another bump up in rates this month.
Geppert sees tomorrow’s world, with phone and cable companies bundling similar services, arriving sooner in San Diego than anywhere else. Why? Two factors: the state’s favorable regulatory climate, and competition. Cox goes head-to-head with mighty PacTel in San Diego. Which adds a sense of urgency. But Geppert is confident. “They have to replace all their systems,” he says. “I only have to upgrade mine. I’ll be there before they are.”
Of all the local biotech seedlings that have taken root over the past decade, Mycogen stands tallest among the success stories. In September, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the world’s largest seed company, agreed to pay Mycogen $51 million for access to its new Bacillus thuringiensis insect-resistance technology, which gives plants built-in protection from harmful insects. And Mycogen’s first insect-resistant product, seed corn resistant to the corn borer worm, will be introduced commercially in 1996.
As the man with overall responsibility for the Sorrento Valley company’s management and strategic direction, chairman and CEO Jerry Caulder commands attention. A San Diego transplant from his native Missouri, he’s a member of the board of the giant Biotechnology Industry Organization and also serves on the boards of Environmental Services & Engineering Inc. and Applied Genetics, a California company researching treatments for Alzheimer’s. Those who’ve been waiting for a local biotech giant to emerge should keep an eye on Mycogen. And Caulder.
You bought a $4 million home, and the builder skipped to Texas without finishing it? Call Steven Strauss. You want to sue a major hotel chain for breach of contract? Call Strauss. Your foundation soil was improperly compacted? Call Strauss.
Who is this guy? He’s a partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves and Savitch, where he leads the real estate/construction litigation team. And he hasn’t lost a case yet. For the past two years, Strauss has won the coveted Outstanding Trial Attorney award from the San Diego Trial Lawyers Association. He’s won cases totalling more than $15 million. And he’s just 36.
Strauss is an active member of Temple Beth Israel and the United Jewish Federation. His clients swear by him. But the praise is not universal. In the case of a real estate broker who vouched for a builder who turned out to be unlicensed, Strauss won a $454,000 verdict. It was one of the first cases where real estate brokers were held liable for construction defects. So don’t ask a realty firm to endorse Strauss. Unless it’s the one suing.
“It was a tiny little idea in 1983,” says Liz O’Brien, president of the San Diego Mediation Center. “Some people thought it was just a funky Southern California thing. At first, I couldn’t get judges to call me back; now I’m on speed dial.”
Unlike arbitration, with attorneys and a judge, mediation is an informal way to get people to agree. Or at least settle. She points out how much cheaper mediation is than going to court. Fees have ranged from $10 (quarreling neighbors) to $450 (a corporate dispute).
At present, O’Brien’s list of 256 mediators has 21 empty slots—for which there are 400 applicants, from all walks of life. A typical profile? She says: “Committed, talented, bright, articulate, quick learners—and overworked.” It reads like a description of O’Brien herself, who has trained 11,000 volunteers to listen, defuse hostility, stay neutral and still get two sides to agree.
Women have made impressive advances in many professional spheres previously dominated by men. But female opera conductors are still astonishingly rare. Karen Keltner, the San Diego Opera’s associate conductor and music administrator since 1982, now finds herself a role model and more in demand than ever. That’s one reason San Diegans haven’t seen her perform since 1993, when she conducted Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers here.
Since then, she has played the role of maestro with the Pittsburgh Opera, the Glimmerglass Opera, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Seattle Opera and the New York City Opera. This year, Keltner returns briefly to her home turf to conduct Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and Rossini’s Cinderella with the SDO. And in 1997, she’ll lead the SDO’s world-premiere production of Myron Fink’s The Conquistador.
The Union-Tribune editorial columnist who’s always taken pride in his political incorrectness, Joseph Perkins this year will be asking TV viewers to embrace his conservative outlook on life and politics.
Perkins, whose outspokenness and brash confidence (some say overactive ego) have sent editors scurrying for the Tagamet, seems to savor his bad-boy image. His new TV show, a syndicated talkfest called Raw, will be taped in Los Angeles. And Perkins promises guests ranging from muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger to musclemouth Newt Gingrich.
Vowing the show will be neither Oprah nor Howard Stern, Perkins thinks the land of television is ready for something slightly more cerebral and uptown than the usual talk-show fare. If it works, he says, his show will be like a video version of a “hip cocktail party.” And he hopes that a vast TV audience will drink to that.
San Diego State set its sights on Beth Burns when the athletic department approached her in 1989 to head the women’s basketball program. Burns saw San Diego as a potential gold mine for recruiting top-ranked athletes. And she’s done just that.
Building from a 7-23 record in her first season, Burns guided the Aztecs to a 24-6 finish last season. The women’s team took the Western Athletic Conference championship 14-0 and recorded 18 straight wins for the second season in a row —the longest winning streak in the nation and in SDSU history.
“Our goal this season is to three-peat,” she says. “We’ve won the WAC championship twice in a row; we want it a third time. No one’s ever done that.” About the persistent rumors she’ll be lured away by a bigger school, she says, “I don’t anticipate going anywhere. I came here to get something done, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let someone else coach in the student activities center when I’ve been waiting seven years for it to be built.”
John Robert Beyster
The rest of San Diego’s military-industrial complex may be shrinking, but Science Applications International Corporation, started and run by John Robert Beyster, is growing at record rates. Over the last year, SAIC has hired more than 1,000 new employees and acquired 16 companies. It’s a national leader in converting military technology to civilian uses. Its nuclear-blast disaster plans, for example, are now used to cope with natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
After unflattering stories in USA Today and the San Diego Union-Tribune, Beyster wonders what he has to do to get SAIC some positive recognition in its own backyard. The problem may be that, in the past, SAIC didn’t seem to want the attention. That appears to be changing. So, Mr. Beyster, now that we’re watching, is there anything we need to know?
Followers of La Jolla Playhouse wondered about its future after Des McAnuff, the popular and talented artistic director since the theater’s revival in 1983, left for greener Hollywood pastures. Any fears proved unfounded. McAnuff’s successor, Michael Greif (rhymes with life), is steering the same successful course as McAnuff—presenting challenging, eclectic schedules that mix familiar with new.
Greif, 35, who began assisting McAnuff in 1983 while earning an MFA in directing from UCSD, showed in his solid first season that he can please audiences as well as critics, with productions ranging from the fun Le Cirque Invisible to the serious An Almost Holy Picture. For the ’95 finale, Greif directed a new musical, Randy Newman’s Faust, rated a good bet to follow the La Jolla–to–Broadway trail blazed by McAnuff with Big River, The Who’s Tommy and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Stay tuned.
Williams Jones is back to start his third career. The first was launched in 1981 when, at 27, Jones was the youngest member of the San Diego City Council. In 1987, he left a promising political future here to earn his MBA at Harvard. And then, after a five-year stint in Fortune 500 finance and real estate in San Francisco, Jones came home in 1993 to start CityLink, a real estate development company that specializes in urban communities.
His first project: a $60 million urban village on six city blocks in City Heights. Complete with police station, community college learning center, gymnasium, library, theater, swimming pool, park and shopping center, Jones’ project is the first of its kind in the country.
“We are trying to show that for-profit businesses can take a leadership role in solving problems in urban communities,” Jones says. In City Heights, long a magnet for guns and drug dealers, he has his work cut out for him. City Heights “has been destroyed by bad land-use planning,” he declares.
Steve Kelley insists he’s not the funniest editorial cartoonist in America. His fans would disagree. Even some of his enemies might disagree. But his fans are serious: They wonder if 1996 might be the year Kelley wins his Pulitzer Prize. Not that he’s waiting around for it.
“I enjoy doing commentary that is both thought-provoking and funny,” says Kelley. “It’s gratifying enough for me just to end up on people’s refrigerators. I’d like to win a Pulitzer someday. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m not going to view my career as a failure.”
Kelley, whose collection of cartoons recently hit the bookstores, is scheduled to make his seventh appearance on The Tonight Show. Meanwhile, expect more of his cartoons in the pages of The New York Times, Newsweek, Time and other national publications. And, of course, in the Union-Tribune.
Bill Kolender & Jerry Sanders
San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders is proud of the fact that crime on the mean streets of San Diego is down. Again. And he’ll offer you a ream of statistics to prove it.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender, himself a former San Diego police chief, thinks he knows a key reason why crime is down. Since he began his career in the 1960s as a rookie cop, he says, he has “never seen so much high-level respect, cooperation and camaraderie among all law enforcement agencies in the county.” Sanders and Kolender, close friends, are one key to that cooperation. Both believe regionalization is the wave of the future in law enforcement.
Sanders and Kolender also share a dream: the vision of a regional law enforcement training academy for San Diego. And they have their eyes on a piece of the old Naval Training Center on Point Loma for its home. To make the project work, they would make the new police academy accessible to all law enforcement agencies in and outside San Diego County—a sort of Quantico West.
Says Sanders: “Criminals don’t respect city and county borders. Why should law enforcement jealously guard its turf?”
With legally mandated term limits now in effect, San Diego Councilwoman Christine Kehoe will be running for reelection in March as a lame duck. But lame is not the same as wounded. Kehoe, running from strength, appears likely to run for a second term unopposed.
Elected to the city council in 1993 as the city’s first openly gay representative, Kehoe remains sensitive to issues affecting the gays who helped put her in office. But she is by no means a one-issue council member. Her fast-track approach to problem-solving, plus a keen ability to effectively use her staff to carry out her vision for the neighborhoods, has endeared this rookie politico to business owners and community groups in her District 3.
Chair of the council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, Kehoe takes an aggressive stand on law enforcement issues. And as evidence of her commitment, she points with pride to the imminent opening of a new mid-city police substation (on time and on budget) and to plans for rebuilding the East San Diego Library as part of the City Heights Village Project.
What does a top-level Democrat do to amuse himself the week when Republicans are gathering for a national convention? Says Murray Galinson, president and CEO of San Diego National Bank, “I applaud the money the Republicans are bringing into the city and hope they drink and eat a lot.”
Galinson has been a power at two Democratic conventions—one in 1984 when he was a key aide to Walter Mondale in San Francisco, the other at Madison Square Garden in 1992 when Bill Clinton was the nominee.
Current political development: Galinson has been recommended to President Clinton by Senator Dianne Feinstein for appointment as a federal district court judge. If the usual timetable prevails, we won’t know the outcome for several months.
Big bucks aren’t found in education. But that wasn’t what Candice Lopez was looking for when she left the corporate world of design and advertising for the San Diego Community College District. “There was something missing in my life,” she says. “Teaching has filled it. I do feel I make a difference in people’s lives.”
As head of the graphics design department at San Diego City College, Lopez discovered that local ad agencies and design studios weren’t recruiting in San Diego—they were going to Los Angeles to hire. So she brought in practicing pros as adjunct professors to help rewrite the curriculum, making it more reflective of industry needs. And to get students the practical experience she felt they needed, Lopez solicited projects from local nonprofits.
For those projects, her students have captured some notable awards. Among them: the Anheuser-Busch grand prize (two years in a row), for college Alcohol Awareness Week posters.
He spent his teen years zapping dragons. And then, joined by a group of computer “wonks,” the adult Michel Kripalani transformed a two-story house in a San Diego suburb into a computer center. In two years, he delivered The Journeyman Project—a 3-D, time-travel adventure game that quickly became the most popular Macintosh CD-ROM on the market, selling 100,000 copies.
While Kripalani and seven fellow workers (now averaging 25 years of age) worked day and night on the multimedia production, they borrowed $70,000 from friends and family to cover expenses. It was a risk for all concerned. “You’ve got to know someone and say, ‘We’re doing this cool thing; there’s no money right now, but you’ve gotta trust us. It’s gonna work,’” says Kripalani.
And work it has. In 1992, they formed Presto Studios, with Kripalani as president. Its newest release, Buried in Time, is the next-generation sequel to Journeyman.
Bob Heider represents the new breed of community activist. The active type. The type who spends fewer hours bemoaning crime at endless meetings and more hours (70-80 a week) doing something about it. Heider is one of the citizens who stepped up to crystallize public outrage over a series of hate crimes in our city, including the murder of 17-year-old John Robert Wear in Hillcrest in 1991.
A founder of San Diego’s original Citizens Patrol, he’s now executive director of the county’s 1,500-strong organization. Trained to be nonconfrontational, volunteers take to the streets in their own cars as extra eyes and ears for regular law enforcement.
Heider also heads up a new program fighting drug houses by pressuring landlords to take action. “Slumlords hate me,” he boasts. “But if we are going to take back our streets, we need all the tools we can beg, borrow or adopt.”
Russ T. Nailz
You’ve heard him on the radio; you’ve caught his stand-up comedy act; you’ve watched him on television. Have you had enough of Russ T. Nailz? Not if Russ T. Nailz has anything to say about it.
This personable multiple personality holds down a regular gig as KUSI-TV’s “Man about Town,” a career turn that came in March when he left 91X Radio after 11 years (off and on) for a shot at local TV fame. As Channel 9/51’s “Man,” Nailz (nee Russell Stolnack) appears in taped segments on the 10 p.m. news, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile, he continues to dabble in nightclub comedy, while pursuing yet another career: children’s author (with his writer wife, Marsha). Nailz gives his spare time to the San Diego City Schools’ “Rolling Reader” program, appearing in local classrooms and reading to students to help spark their interest in books. For now, it’s volunteer work. “But,” cracks Nailz, looking at that future as author, “in a couple of years I hope to soak these kids’ parents for all they’ve got.”
Bob Filner & Juan Vargas
Don’t expect to see the smiles in these photos repeated in any personal meetings between the two politicians this year. Juan Vargas and Bob Filner, brothers in the Democratic Party, are estranged bedfellows in party politics. Vargas, who won reelection (unopposed) to the San Diego City Council just last fall, wasted not a moment letting it be known he would challenge two-term incumbent Filner in the March Democratic primary for Congress.
One key issue that has separated these politicos in the past, NAFTA, may not be much of an issue in 1996. (Vargas favored the free-trade agreement; Filner opposed it.) Instead, the contest may hinge on two less-cerebral factors: charisma (Vargas has the edge) and scutwork in the precincts (both have energy; Filner has the savvy). Whatever happens in the primary, the Republicans shouldn’t hold out much hope. Even after a bloody battle, the Democrats likely will hold on to the 50th District.
Casey Gwinn heads the list of people we should have been watching in 1995, the year Gwinn staked his claim to succeed mentor John Witt as San Diego’s city attorney. Lear-like, Witt anointed Gwinn last year by pushing him in front of the media on a variety of issues, from domestic violence to dilapidated housing to backpedaling on the city’s ban on student car washes. Gwinn was everywhere. He even had his picture inside a newspaper editorial. For the usually quiet City Attorney’s office, the attention was unprecedented.
And with most of his previous potential competitors from the City Attorney’s office now sitting on the Municipal Court bench, Gwinn’s election this spring seems almost a formality. All he has to do is be sure Witt announces his retirement, then file his papers and hope attorney Mike Aguirre or Judge Larry Stirling don’t decide they want the job.
Benjamin A. Haddad
Mayor Susan Golding has “the vision thing” down. (The GOP convention, the expanded Convention Center and a new library are just a few items on the most ambitious mayoral agenda in years.) Now she has to work on “the management thing.” That’s the job of Benjamin A. Haddad, 41, the mayor’s savvy and personable chief of staff.
With a history of high turnover and high stress and, sometimes, low-caliber employees in the Golding stable of staffers, Haddad’s task is to bring more order and talent to the mission of meeting the mayor’s agenda. It’s a big job, and it has begun well. His first goal has been to beef up the staff.
“You have to have a good bench, people you can trust. Creative people who work hard,” says Haddad, who came to Golding last year via USD Law School and, more recently, a position as Governor Pete Wilson’s chief lobbyist in Washington.
The Padres’ new general manager isn’t much concerned about us watching him; he just hopes somebody will turn out at the Murph this year to watch his ball club. It’s a high hope. After months of speculation over various big-name outsiders for the GM’s job, in late November Padres owner John Moores and CEO Larry Lucchino promoted from within, giving their young scouting director, Kevin Towers, the nod.
A former Padres first-round draft pick as a pitcher and a onetime scout, Towers’ tenure as a player was cut short by a career-ending elbow injury while he was still in the minors. He can hope for better luck as general manager.
If the 34-year-old Towers can turn the team around on the field, he’ll be only a qualified success. His big challenge is filling the seats—a predicament epidemic in major league baseball. The fans, it seems, are still restless. And last year at the turnstiles, the Padres finished second-to-last among all the majors. Only Pittsburgh did worse.
For San Diego Convention Center Board President Bill Evans, 1996 figures to be a huge year. With the Republican National Convention due in August, world attention will focus on the center. Meanwhile, work will go forward on the Convention Center’s $180 million expansion, scheduled for completion in 1998.
For Evans Hotels managing director Bill Evans, 1996 also figures to be a big year. With the death of his father, William D. Evans, in 1984, young Evans, a Cornell University graduate in hotel and restaurant management, assumed a major role in the family’s hotel operations.
But Evans’ pet project is the recently acquired Lodge at Torrey Pines and a long-range proposal for upgrading and expanding it. “The hotel has good bones, and we’re putting in a lot of money to make sure it has a figure to match,” he says. First-phase improvements include renovation of all public rooms, installation of classic works by San Diego artists and construction of a granite and clinker-brick wall around the hotel. “This is the first new hotel for the Evans family in 30 years,” he says, “and we’re passionate about it.”
Jill K. Anthony & Paula Kalustian
When Jill K. Anthony and Paula Kalustian formed their company in 1994 to produce musicals at The Theatre in Old Town, they called it Miracle Theatre Productions. Just getting a chance to run such a charming facility ranked as a miracle, they figured. And the name has proven more apt than they had imagined.
The state-owned theater, despite its advantageous location in one of San Diego’s prime tourist areas, had languished under various management teams since its 1979 opening. And then, in 1991-92, Anthony and Kalustian pulled in sell-out crowds for the retro-rock revue Beehive. That convinced Francis Parker School officials, then in charge, to turn over management of the theater to the duo.
Producing director Anthony, a veteran performer, director and producer, and Kalustian, director of the MFA musical theater program at SDSU, renegotiated with the state to get more favorable lease terms. And then they proceeded to keep the venue humming with tailored-to-fit, Equity-contract musicals, like the popular spoofs Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood.
Gail Devers, Brent Noon & La Tanya Sheffield
They all have roots in San Diego, and all are strong contenders in track and field for the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. Gail Devers holds the U.S. record in the 100-meter hurdles (12:46). She is now ranked number one worldwide.
Three-time NCAA outdoor shot-put champ Brent Noon lost the title to John Godina last year, but then came back to beat Godina at the U.S. National Championships. As a freshman at Fallbrook High, Noon beat then-senior Junior Seau for the CIF shot-put championship.
La Tanya Sheffield set a U.S. record in the 400-meter hurdles in 1985 and still holds the American collegiate record today. Sheffield is currently unranked, since she didn’t run in ’94 (she took time out to have a baby).
“I think all three of these athletes have a chance to medal,” says John Wadas, development director at the San Diego Hall of Champions. “It’s difficult to say—that certain day, that certain moment, hopefully you’re on.”