50 People to Watch in 2003
By Thomas K. Arnold, Tom Blair,
(page 7 of 10)Katherine Nakamura
Why would anybody want to enter the cauldron that is the San Diego Unified School District? Nakamura believes she can make a difference for children, and help put an end to trustee infighting at the same time. In a highly contested campaign seen as a referendum on schools superintendent Alan Bersin and his controversial reforms, Nakamura beat out anti-Bersin candidate Jeff Lee.
“I’m not interested in firing Alan Bersin, that’s true,” Nakamura says. “But I will not be a rubber stamp for him.” It remains to be seen if she’ll be a swing vote on a five-person school board that’s already proven to be two for, two against anything proposed by the superintendent.
The new dean of SDSU’s school of business administration is hardly the bookish, gray-haired old professor Hollywood might cast. Naughton holds a doctorate in science, but she’s most proud of founding and running her own biotech company, Advanced Tissue Sciences, for 14 years. “I’m going to use what I know about starting and running a business to launch new programs and train new business leaders,” she says.
Naughton will focus on programs in sync with San Diego’s business climate, zeroing in on such areas as hospitality, international business, biotech, high-tech and small business. “I’ve seen many important companies burn to the ground,” she says. “Complacency is not acceptable, so I’m going to make sure things continually get questioned here.”
It’s pretty heady stuff to be called a “music innovator for the millennium,” by Time magazine, no less.
That’s the label worn by this locally spawned pop bluegrass band. Nickel Creek’s second CD, This Side, came out late last year, and debuted at number 18 on the national album chart. The group comprises Vista-raised, 21-year-old fiddle player Sara Watkins; her guitarist brother, Sean, 25; and Chris Thile, 21, a mandolin player from Oceanside. They’ve been playing together since all were preteens. Nickel Creek was nominated for Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards for its eponymous debut album.
Neil Kirby McMillan Jr., alias Mojo Nixon, is back. His outrageous attitude and outspoken, out-there views can be heard weekdays, 3-7 p.m. on KGB Radio (101.5 FM). Nixon blazed his way onto the rock scene in the 1980s with alternative hits like “Elvis Is Everywhere,” “Don Henley Must Die” and “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin.”
He also spent some time working as an MTV personality. Nixon claimed San Diego as his base of operations from 1981 to ’98. He left for a deejay job in Cincinnati but returned to our airwaves in October, bringing with him the unique perspective that helped him author songs like “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child.”
He’s barely 30, but Patnoe isn’t afraid to play with the big boys. As the new executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, he regularly offers his fiscal counsel to Mayor Dick Murphy and the rest of the San Diego City Council. In July, Murphy named Patnoe to the 15-member Citizens’ Task Force on Chargers Issues, where he’s squared off with Alex Spanos & Co. It’s not his first brush with major-league sports. In 1998, at 25, he was a lead political strategist behind voter approval of the 26-block downtown ballpark and redevelopment project. That’s on Patnoe’s mind as 2003 dawns.
With the Padres’ recent proposal to modify the project—by adding high-rise towers and flattening the “park within the park”—Patnoe’s antenna is up. “As a tax dude and someone involved from the outset,” he says, “I take this issue seriously. I want to see the Padres delivering on the promise they made to the city on what kind of a park it’ll be.”