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50 People to Watch in 2010

We’ve got an eclectic mix of San Diegans worth watching in the new year, from a big-wave surfer to a pair of airwave surfers (just where will Jeff and Jer land?). Check in with some familiar faces and get to know some personalities on the rise.


Shally Zomorodi

Cheerful and easy on the eyes, this newcomer to Fox 5 by way of Orange County is all over San Diego each weekday morning as anchor/reporter. But closer to home, her skill in the kitchen has led her to produce a how-to DVD on Persian cooking, Tastes of Persia—the first of its kind, she says. Her favorite news topics? “Dogs and babies,” says Zomorodi. “Anything that makes people smile, I love to do!”

Jon Mangini

Since opening his Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar in downtown’s East Village in 2006, Mangini has grown annual revenues to $4.5 million and breathed new nightlife into this (still) up-and-coming downtown neighborhood. Last year, he turned his sights to North County, creating URBN Coal Fired Pizza in Vista. In 2010, Mangini will bring his minimalist menu of thin-crust pizzas and salads to North Park. He plans to grow his pizza empire by five to 10 locations throughout California.

Clara Carter

Carter founded the Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network, a full-service convention and tourism management company that serves African-American, Asian and Hispanic groups. The network produces and hosts the annual Multicultural Familiarity Tour, an event that links national ethnic meeting planners with San Diego’s entertainment and hospitality venues. Carter estimates that last year her tour generated thousands of hotel stays, a much-needed boost in our challenged economy.

Jeff & Jer

Honk if you’ve missed Jeff & Jer. Morning-drive radio fixtures for 21 years and counting, Jeff Detrow and Jerry Cesak have been off the air since August, when their contract with Clear Channel Radio expired. But grieve no more, fans. “We’re going on the air with the Jeff & Jer Show in a setting that has never been done before in San Diego, on a radio station that has never been heard before in San Diego,” promises Cesak. Stay tuned.

Bill Lennartz

Lennartz spent 46 years in the business world, but none as gratifying as his past year as CEO and president of Ronald McDonald House of San Diego. Faced with the heartbreak of having to turn away “about 100 families a year,” Lennartz led a campaign to build a new Ronald McDonald House, across the street from Rady Children’s Hospital, that boosts the number of bedrooms from 12 to 47 for families with seriously ill children.

Stephanie Wells

Double Happiness, the jewelry line Wells created with her sister, Alisa Rottenberg, is a fashion staple among celebrity clientele who include Oprah, Victoria Beckham, Jessica Simpson, Rachael Ray and Tyra Banks. Featured monthly in national fashion magazines, Double Happiness designs are sold in more than 600 stores worldwide. Wells just launched Elli by Double Happiness, a direct-sales offshoot, and her how-to book will be published by Random House this summer.

Josh & J.B. Welch

You’ve got to wonder what musician brothers Josh & J.B. Welch of Jamul have in mind for an encore. Josh, 16, and J.B., 20, already have their own record label (Junior Records) and CBS-TV syndicated series, Josh and J.B. in the Industry. Last month, the siblings, whose musical influences range from Michael Jackson to Van Halen, released their first album, Gravity. Rehearsing in Jamul has its benefits for these budding pop stars. “Not many neighbors to bother,” says J.B. “Except the coyotes.”

Demarre McGill

This year, the San Diego Symphony marks its centennial season—100 years of bringing classical music at its finest to the city. That’s exciting not only for patrons but for the orchestra’s dedicated musicians, including principal flutist Demarre McGill. With violinist Kate Hat­maker, McGill created the chamber music organization The Art of Élan, which “aims to expose new audiences to classical music, explore and expand the horizons of the classical music scene, energize audiences and musicians alike and ultimately educate and cultivate a future generation of classical music lovers.”

Chris Van Gorder

Scripps Health is healthier, and so are its patients, thanks in large part to the resolve and oversight of president and CEO Chris Van Gorder. In 10 years, he has pre­sided over a $125 million operational turnaround, earning a place on Modern Healthcare magazine’s ranking of the country’s 100 most powerful people in healthcare. Most important, says Van Gorder, “Each patient gets the resources and talents of 13,000 people and almost 3,000 physicians.” In 2010, he will head the American College of Healthcare Executives, a 30,000-strong international society dedicated to improving healthcare delivery.

Jennifer Sbranti

As founder and editor-in-chief of popular entertaining site ­hostesswiththemostess.com, Sbranti has become the go-to guru of creative and sophisticated entertaining ideas. She also writes a daily blog, The Hostess with the Mostess Guide to Fabulous Finds for Contemporary Entertaining. “We are working on a big redevelopment of the Web site,” she says. “It’s going to be like a Facebook for parties.” She and her husband, Sonny, are also developing a line of stationery, party invitations, favor tags and place cards.

Kyle Daley

San Diego has a knack for producing TV-ready chefs. Our latest is Kyle Daley, current chef de cuisine of Island Prime, with experience at La Jolla’s La Valencia. Great background by any measure, but invaluable when you consider his TV gig: Bravo’s Chef Academy, in which contestants compete at world-renowned French chef Jean Christophe Novelli’s new culinary academy. The good news: Daley is the only competitor with restaurant experience.

Dana Ashbrook

Fans of the ’90s cult TV series Twin Peaks and its prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, may recognize Ashbrook, who plays the bad-boy role of Jimmy on the Starz series Crash, costarring Dennis Hopper. Following his Peaks days, Ashbrook landed roles in smaller independent films and made guest appearances on dozens of TV shows, including Dawson’s Creek and Law & Order. In 2010, he hopes to switch gears. “My ideal would be writing,” he says. “Because the better the writing, the better the actor looks.”

Alex Roth

After nine years as a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune and another year with The Wall Street Journal, Roth today sees the flip side of politics. As one of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ chief spokesmen, he’s a conduit from the mayor’s office to the public on issues involving the environment, water and public safety. Roth says his former profession prepared him well for the work he does now: “The same kind of communication skills that are vital to being a reporter are vital to this job.”

Justin Brooks & Jan Stiglitz

The sad case of a Chicago woman who “plea bargained” into the death penalty inspired ­attorney Justin Brooks, a California Western School of Law professor, to create—with fellow prof Jan Stiglitz—the southern arm of the California Innocence Project. The project trains students to practice law while working on real cases on behalf of “people falling through the cracks.” In addition to aiding prisoners, “We’ve impacted students in a really powerful way,” Brooks says. 

Dr. David Simon

The cofounder (with Deepak Chopra), CEO and medical director of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad aims to change the way people think about healthcare and the relationship between mind and body. It all starts, says Simon, with the brain: “The most powerful medicine in a physician’s armamentarium is knowledge, which teaches, inspires and empowers people to make choices that enhance health and expand happiness.”

Kimberly Hale

Meet the young and well-connected director at Public Policy Strategies, a lobbying firm that represents organizations such as Poseidon Resources, San Diego State University and the San Diego Film Commission. Last year, Hale accompanied Mayor Jerry Sanders and film commission members on a visit to Hollywood with studio executives to discuss filming movies and TV shows in San Diego. Husband Darren Pudgil, the mayor’s communications director, went along, too. The San Diego Police Officers Association has enlisted Hale’s firm to negotiate a better labor contract with city leaders, intent upon closing a budget deficit of about $150 million.

Ami Carpenter

The assistant professor of conflict resolution and first full-time faculty member at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is devoted to building a community capacity for conflict prevention based on real-world experiences. “You have to learn by doing,” says Carpenter. “My students will tell you that they talk more than I do in class, and they’re right. I consider myself their guide or facilitator, but the active learning and the act of learning is theirs to own. They will be graduating and returning to their communities in Afghanistan, Kenya, Indonesia, Texas or Oklahoma and working to prevent violence and human rights abuses in their many forms.”

Jon Palmieri

The Coronado-based philanthropist associated with Partnership for a Healthier Tomorrow is working with United Networks of America, a provider of managed healthcare products, to launch a discount card (sandiegodrugcard.com) that lowers prescription-drug costs by 30 to 75 percent. There are no age or income restrictions, and the card is free to county residents. What’s more, a portion of every transaction goes to local charities such as The Foundation for Women and Outdoor Outreach.

Chris Reed

Ronald Reagan may be the only president he says he admires, but don’t call Chris Reed a conservative or a Republican. He classifies himself as a “libertarian lite.” The editorial-page staffer at The San Diego Union-Tribune and host of KOGO radio’s Top Story with Chris Reed was once a film critic (Hawaii Tribune-Herald) but is no admirer of  “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger, either. “A deeply depressing disappointment,” he says.

Steven Schick

A distinguished professor of music at UCSD, Schick wears many hats. He’s also music director and conductor of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus and artistic director of the ground­breaking percussion ensemble red fish blue fish. Fearless in all fields, Schick is not intimidated by the tough economic times and their impact on the arts. “It’s not a time to retreat,” he says. “What people crave is someone who’s not afraid to go forward.”

Derek Dunfee

Less than six months after a wave fractured his lower leg, the 26-year-old paddled into the year’s biggest wave in the world last winter at Mavericks, winning the Billabong XXL award. When Dunfee’s not chasing waves, he’s something of a hero. He recently rescued a woman from a burning car in La Jolla and helped catch a notorious con man who plagued the surfing community. He’ll be pursuing big waves all over the world in 2010—including a foray into the Arctic Circle for an upcoming movie.

Gordana “Goga” Gelhausen

The San Diego–based designer of couture gowns made it to the final four of Project Runway’s sixth season. Originally from the former Yugoslavia, Gelhausen immigrated to the United States after college and opened a retail shop, Goga by Gordana, in Charleston, North Carolina, and, more recently, the Gaslamp Quarter. Since wrapping Runway, she has been busy designing for celebrity clients and working on her pret-a-porter line, Goga to Go.

Brady Hoke

Following an Aztec victory during his first season as head football coach, Brady Hoke pronounced: “Winning’s fun. That’s why you play.” San Diego State boosters hope winning will become a habit, too, as Hoke seeks to return the Aztecs to their glory days. Until then, they might settle for what Hoke accomplished in his last season at Ball State: a 12-win, undefeated conference campaign and a bowl appearance. If he can do it in Muncie, Indiana, why not on Montezuma Mesa? Maybe this year.

Park View Little League

Most of the Park View Little Leaguers grew up playing baseball together; their well-honed sportsmanship and commitment contributed to the Chula Vista team claiming the 2009 Little League World Series win. “Registration will explode, not just for Park View but for leagues in general,” predicts Rod Roberto, league president for the past three years. “We have a special group of kids this year, and we don’t know how they will develop, but we do know what won, and we know the game plan. The path has been set for us to duplicate.”

Alan Bersin

Being in the spotlight is nothing new for the Brooklyn-born Bersin, who in San Diego served as U.S. Attorney, chairman of the County Regional Airport Authority and, for seven years, superintendent of schools. He also spent a year and a half as California’s secretary of education. Last spring, he accepted an even-higher-profile job—one he’d held before, in fact, under President Clinton: Bersin was named border czar by President Obama.

Karen Hewitt

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California (succeeding Carol Lam) since 2007, leading an office of 275 people, Hewitt calls the job “by far the most rewarding and satisfying I’ve ever had.” Her efforts have focused primarily on activity among the Mexican drug cartels, along with addressing a wide range of crime issues in San Diego. This year, Hewitt will turn over the reins to another U.S. Attorney and is planning “the smoothest transition ever.”

Dr. Raul Coimbra

After a quarter-century of research and serv­ice, UCSD Medical Center boasts one of the nation’s more advanced trauma systems. Coimbra, professor of surgery and chief of trauma, surgical critical care and burns, is dedicated to changing public perceptions about trauma, which he classifies as a disease. “If we use a disease-management model like we have for cancer,” he says, “then we can create systems, and we’ll always be prepared.” President of the Pan-American Trauma Society, Coimbra will work in 2010 with the World Health Organization to develop and implement trauma systems and centers throughout Latin America.

Chadwick Bell

Elle magazine gushed about the 27-year-old designer’s spring 2010 collection during fall Fashion Week in New York: “It was a true treat to view modern silhouettes in innovative fabrics for women who care far more about subtlety and sophisticated design than sartorial shock and awe.” Just one year after the debut of his first collection of classic women’s apparel, the Scripps Ranch native has the attention of top fashion editors and a promising future as a sought-after designer. “Fall 2010 is going to reveal the bohemian side of Chadwick Bell,” says the designer.

Dennis Burton & the Scripps AIDS Vaccine Team

The Scripps AIDS Vaccine Team has collaborated with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to identify a pair of broadly neutralizing antibodies, research that shows promise in the effort to protect against the different strains of the HIV virus. “By far the best way to control viruses is through vaccines,” says Burton, a professor of immunology and microbial science at The Scripps Research Institute. “The hope is that these antibodies can now act as clues in a reverse-engineering process to permit the design of new vaccine candidates, which would induce broadly neutralizing antibodies in recipients and protect against AIDS.”

Mike Rosenberg

Coming west from New York, where he’d been executive director of the off-Broadway company Drama Dept., was a slam dunk for Rosenberg, who last spring was appointed managing director of La Jolla Playhouse. “Nobody in the country does work of this caliber,” says Rosenberg, a veteran producer and longtime friend of Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley. Rosenberg’s mission this year is to create more partnerships between the nonprofit theater and both corporate and cultural organizations in the community.

Pete Balistreri

“Details, details, details.” That’s the succinct business philosophy espoused by Pete Balistreri, executive chef at Tender Greens, a Liberty Station restaurant that specializes in “artisan, farm-to-table cooking.” Balistreri’s right at home in Point Loma, too. He was born and raised there and played sports for Point Loma High before moving on to San Diego State and, from there, to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He plans to open a Tender Greens location in Hollywood in early 2010. 

Colin Rice

Rice served for eight years as chief of staff to city councilman and Assemblyman Juan Vargas, managing district and legislative offices in San Diego and Sacramento, before founding Elevate, LLC, which offers political consulting, advocacy, public relations, marketing, advertising and creative design. He most recently joined The Amerland Group, an affordable-housing developer, and is a partner of Alternative Energy Capital, a renewable-energy financing firm. “I’m excited about leading my teams in solar finance, affordable housing development, marketing and political consulting to clear and decisive success in 2010,” says Rice.

Dave Brown

His official title at his company, Holiday Mat­inee, is creative problem solver, and everyone from bands to multinational corporations to local charities seeks his savvy marketing skills. Brown’s creative secret? “I love my work and work my love.” Look for his forthcoming book, I Swear to Good You Are God at This: An Inspiring Guide to Being Creative and Making Awesome, his way of “spreading some optimism” in 2010.

Bonnie Dumanis

Since taking office in 2003, the nation’s first openly gay district attorney boasts a 94 percent felony conviction rate. Last year, though, some judgment calls stirred controversy, from a medical-marijuana sting to the case of Cynthia Sommer, a woman convicted and incarcerated for poisoning her husband. Sommer was declared innocent due to evidence that the prosecution appeared to have kept private. Republican Dumanis, up for reelection this year, is considered an odds-on favorite.

Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson

When DiGiorgio Johnson moved to San Diego four years ago, she says, “I very quickly learned what really makes the city great is the generous spirit of its people.” As president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties, DiGiorgio Johnson, a cancer survivor, witnessed that spirit firsthand. She says her organization is fortunate to have “a long list of supporters who are dedicated to improving reproductive health.”

Adam Lambert

Other American Idols, win or lose, have gained a measure of fame, including Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. But none has generated the fan frenzy that surrounds San Diego’s Lambert, last year’s Idol runner-up and this year’s superstar. With only one acknowledged CD under his diamond-studded belt (For Your Entertainment went pre-sale platinum last November, eclipsing Madonna, Streisand and the Beatles), and despite minimal public exposure in advance of his album release, Adam has clearly eclipsed last year’s winner, what’s-his-name.

Michael Brunker

At the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, “It’s easy to spend your heaven doing good on Earth every day.” The words of Brunker, ex­ecutive director, ring true for the many who have worked with and volunteered to mentor young people and their families in ethnically diverse communities in the county since 1943. Brunker is at the helm of a major facility expansion and renovation, which will allow the YMCA in Southeastern San Diego to grow its programming and outreach, and expand its impact in the community.

Shannon Jaccard

Jaccard is a communications director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, San Diego (NAMI) and involved with multiple organizations that advocate for people with mental illness and their families. She has a personal motivation. Her brother suffered from mental illness and died of a heart attack at 25 while hospitalized. His autopsy indicated his death was brought on by the use of restraints. Jaccard helps promote the annual NAMI Walks for the Mind of America in April, a 5K fund-raiser that attracted more than 2,000 people to Balboa Park last year.

John Gomez

Attorney Gomez was hired by the family of Mark Saylor, the California Highway Patrol officer who—along with his wife, child and brother-in-law—died last August after their loaner Lexus careened out of control due to a stuck accelerator. Gomez is set to represent them in a wrongful-death lawsuit against Toyota. The case has attracted international attention and prompted the largest recall in Toyota history, along with a personal statement of remorse from Toyota’s president.

Francine Busby

Pepper spray is good for name recognition, at least. Democrat Busby’s noisy fund-raiser and its subsequent raid by a pepper-wielding sheriff’s deputy won her the attention of TV blow­hard Keith Olbermann. And it may have secured the former women’s studies professor and Cardiff School Board president the favorite’s position to win a congressional seat that eluded her in 2006. Not that incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray isn’t a formidable opponent, but his 50th Congressional District, like many in San Diego, edges ever closer to the Democratic column.

Brian Malarkey & James Brennan

The erstwhile reigning king of Oceanaire Seafood Room, Top Chef Malarkey has joined forces with nightclub kingpin Brennan for a bigger slice of San Diego’s dining action. At a time when many local eateries are struggling, the two are gambling on a mega-restaurant in the former Gaslamp Quarter home of Z Gallerie. The partners haven’t settled on a name yet—“It changes every day,” says Malarkey
—but there’s plenty of time for that. The opening is projected for June or July.

Philip Rivers

The emerging face of the Chargers franchise recently became a very rich man, signing a six-year, $92 million contract extension last August. And he’s put up personal-best numbers despite getting only sporadic protection from his offensive line early in the season. With a strong surge in the second half, the 28-year-old Alabaman solidified his place as one of the league’s best quarterbacks. A Super Bowl–winning QB, perhaps?

Todd Glaser

With a front-row seat to the world’s best surf­ers and constant globetrotting to exotic locales, this 24-year-old photographer would seem to have it made, even without winning Surfer magazine’s 2009 Photo of the Year honors. “It is a job, but it’s also a lifestyle—one that I’m really fortunate to have,” says Glaser. Look for more, ahem, exposure in the year ahead, from deep inside the world’s best barreling waves.

Ed Moss

After Platinum Equity’s takeover of The San Diego Union-Tribune last spring, the new owners wasted no time tapping media executive Ed Moss as the paper’s new president and publisher. Moss wasted even less time showing his profile and promising great things to a city that was watching its only daily newspaper continue to shrink. The newspaper’s new motto, “Here to Stay,” didn’t apply to some 300 employees cut from the payroll. But Moss is certainly here and now. One moment, he’s joining the symphony board (pledg­ing $250,000 in free advertising to the orchestra), and the next, he’s crafting an agreement with KGTV Channel 10 to share news content and reporters.

John Ellison

Fifty years. That’s how long John Ellison’s been in the movie exhibition and distribution business. The vice president and chief operating officer of UltraStar Cinemas got his start as a teenager, tearing tickets at a movie theater. The first time he ushered? At a screening of Some Like It Hot, which, of course, was filmed in part in Coronado. Today Ellison’s “still tearing tickets,” in a way: UltraStar’s a pioneer in digital cinema, and he says, “San Diego’s a great movie-going city.”

Ron Roberts & Donna Frye

The campaign for county supervisor in District 4 could prove to be an intriguing and high-profile battleground. With her city council term expiring this year, Democrat Donna Frye is expected to challenge Republican incumbent Ron Roberts in June. Supporters say private polls already show her winning. Frye first won election to the council in 2001 when she defeated Roberts’ former chief of staff, Steve Danon. Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, a Democrat, has announced she will seek Roberts’ seat.

Steve Cherundolo

The Mount Carmel High School grad has firmly established himself as right back for the U.S. men’s national soccer team after 10 seasons at Hanover in Germany’s Bundesliga, one of the world’s top leagues. If he can stay healthy, the 30-year-old seems a lock in the squad for this summer’s World Cup in South Africa. Cherundolo’s also getting married in 2010, “which should start the year off nicely,” he says.

Bill Gore

Appointed last summer to fill the remaining 18 months of retired sheriff Bill Kolender’s term, Gore has been working and running hard ever since. A San Diego native and USD grad who’s the son of a cop, Gore joined the FBI in 1970 and served 33 years. Kolender’s hand-picked undersheriff and successor is the current favorite to win election this fall, but it’s not likely to be a slam dunk. The opposition: Sheriff’s Sergeant Bruce Ruff, former undersheriff Jay La Suer and ex-deputy Jim Duffy (son of former sheriff John Duffy).

Jeff Moorad & Jed Hoyer

The Padres’ new owner doesn’t shy away from big decisions. In 2009, Moorad traded Jake Peavy for four promising prospects and retooled the front office, which culminated in the firing of 14-year veteran general manager Kevin Towers. In Towers’ place: 36-year-old Jed Hoyer, fresh from the Boston Red Sox. The two aim to turn around a team that appeared out of it by last May yet finished strong. “I’m bullish on Padres baseball,” says Moorad. “I won’t rest until the Padres are in the World Series.”

Tommy Trause

With his near-shoulder-length hair, beachfront bachelor flat and the bike he rides to work most days, you might think Trause the antithesis of an upscale city club manager. Think again. A graduate of Cornell’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and veteran of the Bohemian Club, the 30ish Trause can compare pedigrees with anybody. And he’s a refreshing breath of youth in a University Club that must cultivate young members to secure its future. “The members here have trusted me to preserve the history and heritage,” he says, “while gracefully ushering us into a new era.” Sounds pretty upscale.

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