What lies ahead?

CN&R editors predict the newsmakers of 2012

Each year we take a look in our crystal ball to predict who will make headlines in the coming year. Some of the people listed below will make news for their contributions to education, animal welfare and the local arts scene. Others find themselves in the hot seat politically, or just by way of being the one to make tough decisions in a bad economy. For better or worse, these locals will be on our radar in 2012.

Long-range planner

Kimberly Perry

Kimberly Perry is an extremely approachable woman. During a recent interview in her Butte College office during the holiday break, she was dressed comfortably in jeans and had her dog nearby. Understandably, if we’d met on a Monday morning with school in session, the picture might have been quite different. But she appeared quite comfortable talking about her personal life, her role as Butte College’s president and the challenges that lay before her.

“In the short term, we’re having to batten down the hatches,” she said. “But it will pass. We’re seriously looking at things long-term, what we want to be five to 10 years from now.”

Kimberly Perry

Photo By Meredith J. Graham

Perry took the post of president/superintendent of the Butte-Glenn Community College District in July, coming to the North State from Southern California, where she worked at Los Angeles City College and before that Reedley College.

“I’m continuing to get to know the community. I’ve never been in a place so welcoming,” she said. She lives in a home in Yankee Hill and hopes that soon her husband, a physician’s assistant, will be able to make the move here from Stockton.

“The light’s at the end of the tunnel,” Perry said.

As for Butte College’s forecast for 2012, Perry is cautiously optimistic. She’s disappointed that the school has been forced to cut valuable services and classes—which, in turn, makes it hard for students to stay in school.

“We’re seeing more students who need what we call ‘wrap-around services,’” Perry said. Those include counselors for domestic violence and affordable health services. “If you’re hungry, or you don’t feel safe, your ability to learn is hindered.”

At the same time, she believes the community at Butte College is very strong. “The focus is so much on the students. The faculty and staff here make sacrifices for the students—you don’t see that at a lot of other colleges.”

This past fall, she helped launch a task force for the Butte-Glenn district that she hopes will set long-range goals for all the campuses. She foresees the impact of the current economic crisis to really start showing in four to 10 years, as far as a large segment of the population that has been unable to further their education.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to define what we want to be in five to 10 years for the community,” Perry said. The task force is scheduled to have a draft plan finished by March or April, and that plan will be unveiled and discussed during public forums immediately following. She hopes to bring a finished product before the Board of Trustees in fall 2012.

“We need to be looking at the long-term health of our community,” she said.

—Meredith J Graham

Sustaining the state university

Bob Linscheid

Bob Linscheid wears a lot of hats, but the biggest one by far—his 10-gallon Stetson, you might say—is the one he donned this week: the chairmanship of the California State University Board of Trustees.

These are tough times on the state’s higher-education front, and Linscheid—the longtime head of the Chico Economic Planning Corp. (CEPCO) and owner of the public-relations and business-consultancy firm The Linscheid Co., as well as a CSU trustee since 2005—is now at the epicenter of the effort to sustain the CSU as one of the world’s great university systems.

Bob Linscheid

Photo By Robert Speer

In addition to having to accommodate tremendous funding reductions—$750 million last year alone, 27 percent of its total budget—the 23-campus system also has six empty presidencies. Linscheid is on two of the presidential search committees, including as chairman of the one looking for a president for CSU, Northridge.

He’s also a member of the trustees’ Compensation and Selection Committee, tasked with revamping the presidential-selection process. Its final report is due in late January.

Heretofore the trustees have offset the budget cutbacks by hiking student tuition, and they may have to do so again. “I’m hoping the slide [in funding] has stopped,” Linscheid said during a recent interview. “But my thinking is we might have to put a cap on enrollment.”

There’s more to being a trustee than money matters, of course. Linscheid also wants to advance the system to become a national leader in applied research with a focus on innovation. He also intends to drive the connectivity among academia, venture capital, private equity, entrepreneurship, public policy and federal labs.

For example, Chico has about five start-up companies built around laser technology. Linscheid would like to bring a laser expert from, say, Lawrence Livermore National Lab to town to teach at the university and work with these companies.

In this respect he’s doing what he’s long done in his business career: fostering innovation and economic development by bringing people together and providing advice. He’ll continue that this year with CEPCO and also with a new venture, Grow California, a spin-off of Jon Gregory’s Golden Capital Network.

Gregory and Linscheid are partnered in Grow California with Dr. Rick Hubbard, who teaches at Chico State after a three-decade career with software companies in Silicon Valley. Each year the group hosts four business-development conferences that showcase an industry that’s vertically important to the state. It also brings two new products to the innovation marketplace: the Innovation Scorecard and its subsequent service offering for communities, called Momentum Builder.

So that’s one more hat to wear. Fortunately, Linscheid has left one hat he wore for years—being president of the Chico Outlaws—hanging on the rack. That job was just too much work, he said.

—Robert Speer

Preserving the legacy of ‘Chico’s beer’

Brian Grossman

It should be of great comfort to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s rabid fan base—especially those in Chico, where pride runs especially deep—that despite the company’s continued growth, the craft-brew giant is in no danger of selling out. Though there are no indications that founder/owner Ken Grossman is slowing down, when the day comes that the father of the company steps aside, his son is primed and ready to preserve the family business.

“Thank god the old man didn’t do cat food,” said Brian Grossman, with a laugh. “Beer is fun.”

Brian Grossman

Photo By Jason Cassidy

In an interview at the offices of the Chico brewery, the 26-year-old Grossman (who will turn 27 on Jan. 9) seemed a lot like his dad. Speaking in that familiar reserved-yet-assured manner, the young outdoors enthusiast also displayed a similar devotion to all facets of the brewing business.

“It’s a life that was never forced upon me,” Grossman said, explaining that, while the opportunity was always there, the choice was his, and when he did choose he had to start at the bottom. “I started working here when I was 15, scrubbing fermenters,” he said. “I’ve worked in every production department.”

After a detour through the police academy at Butte College (“not for me,” he decided), Grossman graduated from Chico State with a business degree. Now, he’s the Chico brewery’s general manager, in charge of distribution in Chico as well as overseeing the many facets of the “customer experience”—the brewery tour, gift shop, tasting room and restaurant.

His focus has been on “beer culture” and “beer stewardship,” and his vision for the restaurant is to alter its function somewhat to reflect the general increasing interest in craft beers and to honor what made Sierra Nevada famous—“sort of transforming the restaurant from a restaurant more to a beer-centric place.”

Additionally, Grossman said he’s been working with the teams creating new beers at the brewery, recently developing his own collaboration—a Belgian-style pale ale called Brux (coming out sometime in 2012)—with his friend Vinnie Cilurzo, owner/brewer at the celebrated Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa.

But perhaps the biggest development in the works is the second brewery Sierra Nevada plans to build on the East Coast. Though the company has been looking at many possible sites—most recently in western North Carolina—no decision has yet been made on where (or if) a new brewery will be built.

“Most of my time has been [working on] the idea of possibly doing a new brewery,” Grossman said. “If we do a new a brewery, I would run that facility.

“It’s not the best time to be putting such a big investment forward, but business-wise we have to do something. We’re going to be at capacity. And our carbon footprint means an awful lot to us, and shipping beer from California to the rest of the 50 states, and internationally, we want to minimize that.”

Grossman is quick to add, though, that whatever new developments arise, Chico is still the first thing on the company’s mind. “We would never make it without the support of Chico,” he said, “We wanna stay ‘Chico’s beer.’ ”

Oh, and as if his year weren’t going to be full enough, Grossman will also be marrying his fiancée, Gina, later this month, with Cilurzo officiating. “I have a lot of things on the horizon,” he said with a sly smile.

—Jason Cassidy

Protecting Chico and its furry friends

Lori MacPhail

Lori MacPhail has been with the Chico Police Department for 20 years. As captain of the Support Division, she oversees everything from the detectives bureau to dispatch to records. Oh yeah, and she also oversees Animal Control, the part of her job that will be changing the most drastically these next couple of months.

MacPhail smiled brightly and genuinely when discussing the impending shift in sheltering animals in Butte County. Come Feb. 1, it’ll be her responsibility to ensure the newly formed Animal Services Department can provide the services previously contracted out to the Butte Humane Society. No. 1 on her to-do list is to hire a manager of that department and six others, including a veterinary technician, an animal-care tech and attendants.

Lori MacPhail

Photo By Meredith J. Graham

As we sat in her spacious office at the Humboldt Street police station, she pointed to boxes filled with information on the transition, announced over the summer and recently approved by the City Council. Essentially, the city will be taking control of state-mandated sheltering services for lost or surrendered pets.

Those services had been contracted out to BHS, but turmoil over the years and recent attitude changes have paved the way for a new sort of partnership. BHS will remain present at the Fair Street shelter, but will occupy a portable building and will offer adoption services there. City staff, including Animal Control, the previously mentioned new hires and, at least for the time being, MacPhail herself will have offices in the current facility.

“I’ll be down there a lot—I’ll probably even have an office there,” she said. “Until I’m confident that [the Animal Services manager] is up to speed, I’ll be there. And that’s OK.”

During the past couple months, after inheriting the shelter project after another police employee left the department, MacPhail has been meeting regularly with BHS staff to ensure a smooth transition, she said. What’s still left to figure out are mostly small issues like equipment—who owns this or that—and services like garbage and dog-food delivery that will have to be switched over from BHS to the city.

“It’s kind of like setting up a new business, only we’re splitting up two businesses and separating the functions,” she said.

MacPhail, the Chico Police Department’s first female captain, could see a little more excitement in 2012. Three years ago, she ran for chief and lost to Mike Maloney, who has announced his plans to retire mid-April.

“I honestly do not know,” she said about whether she’d vie for the position again. “One day I want it and the next I think, ‘Hell no!’ ”

Only time will tell.

—Meredith J Graham

Making Chico funnier

John Ross

For a guy whose life is largely devoted to comedy, John Ross is a pretty serious guy. Not a brooding, no-fun kind of serious, just serious about working hard at realizing his dream of opening a comedy club. And come the first weekend in February that dream will start to come true when his comedy venue, The Last Stand, opens its doors at 167 E. Third St. in downtown Chico.

John Ross

Photo By Jason Cassidy

Last year, the 34-year-old Ross moved to Chico from Sacramento with his wife, Anissa, and their three children, and in June he started Comedy from the Couch, an irreverent biweekly sketch/stand-up/improv comedy series hosted by the Blue Room Theatre. The lively show actually moved with him from Sac, where it ran at The Comedy Spot, a venue Ross managed and at which he performed and taught classes.

When asked why he moved away from all that to come to Chico, Ross said, “Originally I came here to do this—just a stand-up club,” adding, “There’s nothing really dedicated to comedy here. It’s usually an afterthought.”

Ross’s plan for The Last Stand is to do three nights of shows each week, Thursday through Saturday. Thursdays will be devoted to continuing the Comedy from the Couch series, while Fridays and Saturdays will start off with early evening improv shows followed by a stand-up show featuring local, regional and touring comedians. Ross said he’d also like to incorporate some irreverent late-night programming on the weekend.

“I think Chico needs something regular, so you don’t necessarily have to see a flier [to find out what’s going on].”

In addition to comedy, the space will also be the new home base for a similarly energetic crew of local arts makers. Partners, of sorts, in Ross’s venue will be the eccentric crew at RayRay Gallery. With RayRay’s lease up in January, the gallery’s owners were looking around for possible new locations, and after getting to know each other the two entities decided to share the spot.

Every two months RayRay will install a new art show (complete with their signature lively openings) that will remain up during, and provide a backdrop for, the comedy performances.

The Last Stand will also offer classes—for adults and kids—in improv and stand-up (visit www.laststandcomedy.com to register), and has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,000 to help get the space outfitted for performances.

—Jason Cassidy

Leading the charge to save the mansion

Lisa Creamer-O’Donnell

Lisa Creamer-O’Donnell would be the first to say she’s not the only person, among the many trying to keep Bidwell Mansion from being closed, that people should be watching in 2012. But she also realizes that, as the chairwoman of the Steering Committee of the Bidwell Mansion Community Project, the group organized to raise the needed funds, she’s the face of the effort.

She is the woman who, after all, at the big community meeting Nov. 3 called to organize to save the mansion from being shuttered, stepped forward when state Sen. Doug La Malfa asked someone to volunteer to run meetings. “I did that,” she said, “and it’s been great fun.”

Her job, she said, is to make sure everybody comes together. “I plan the meetings and chair the meetings, I’m good at that. That’s my forte.”

Lisa Creamer-O’Donnell

Photo By Robert Speer

Creating harmony is what she does for a living. A licensed marriage and family therapist, she works as a contracted mediator for Glenn County.

But this particular committee is exceptional, she said. “I’ll be very humble: I’m the chair of a committee of people who really know what they’re doing.”

In just eight weeks they’ve put up a website (www.savebidwell mansion.org), organized into distinct duties (finance and budget, fundraising and marketing, press and communications liaison), and begun sponsoring fundraisers.

“It’s like a machine already running,” Creamer-O’Donnell said. “We have a lot of really talented people.”

A major step forward came when they learned that it would cost the state $75,000 a year to maintain the mansion after it closed. They approached State Parks and asked whether, if they raised sufficient funds to keep the mansion open, the state would contribute that $75,000 in the form of in-kind contributions—outside maintenance, that sort of thing. The state agreed.

A new fundraising push began Jan. 1. The goal is to get 90 organizations to hold 90 fundraisers or otherwise donate money in the next 90 days. The group has until only April to raise the $100,000 needed to keep the mansion open for another year. But it assumes it will need to continue to raise that much money annually for at least three to five years, until the state’s finances improve to where it can take over again.

Creamer-O’Donnell is a single mother of three kids, two of them in college, who lives in Butte Valley. She credits her 13-year-old daughter, Danie, for providing the inspiration for her to get involved in this cause. The Durham Middle School eighth-grader is passionate about saving the mansion, and has attended all of the Steering Committee meetings.

As Danie put it, “There would be no Chico if it weren’t for the people who lived in that house!”

—Robert Speer

Political hot-potato

Kim Yamaguchi

Kim Yamaguchi’s been in office longer than any other current Butte County supervisor and has enjoyed the longest run on that board since Jane Dolan, who was defeated last year after 32 years on the job. The conservative Yamaguchi was first elected as the 5th District supervisor in 2000, defeating four other candidates, including the late Len Fulton, who had been appointed to the seat in 1982 by Gov. Jerry Brown and served until 1993.

This year the supervisorial election, which is held in June, may present Yamaguchi with his toughest race yet in his ambition to serve the Ridge, including the towns of Paradise, Magalia and Stirling City. The supervisor, who was on vacation when his office was contacted for this story, has not yet declared his candidacy for re-election, said the office assistant who answered his phone. He had told this paper in October that he would make his intentions known this month.

Kim Yamaguchi

CN&R file Photo

“We’ll cross that bridge when the time comes and my community either accepts or rejects me,” Yamaguchi said at the time. “I’ve never run unopposed. I see [early declarations] all the time.”

Eight years ago, in 2004, Yamaguchi handily defeated challenger Charlotte Hilgeman by picking up a whopping 72.5 percent of the vote. Last time around, in 2008, Yamaguchi won big again, taking 58 percent of the vote against former Paradise Town Councilwoman Robin Huffman (23 percent) and businessman D.H. Grumbles (19 percent).

This year the three-term supervisor, if he runs, will face at least two and possibly as many as four competitors for the seat. Mike Greer, a special-education teacher and member of the Paradise Unified School District board, and Doug Teeter, a property manager, paralegal and off-road-vehicle enthusiast, have told this paper they will run.

Huffman has hinted she will run again, and those close to her confirm that she will. And longtime Paradise Mayor Alan White, who’s served on the Town Council since 1996 and whose term expires next year, has also expressed some interest in running for Yamaguchi’s seat.

That is a fairly wide spectrum of candidates, politically speaking, that very well could spread out the vote enough to oust the incumbent.

“Every four years I sit down with my wife and go through things,” Yamaguchi said in October. “How will this affect my personal life and family? Do I have the sufficient level of energy and passion to carry through with this job? The last thing I want is to be an old fogey who stayed too long.”

—Tom Gascoyne

Finding a home for Nor Cal art

Pat Macias

Back in 2009, Pat Macias, a retired high-school art instructor who also teaches art to the homeless at Chico’s Torres Community Shelter, lamented to her friend Trudy Duisenberg about the absence of a museum dedicated to original, local art.

Plenty of galleries sell art, but that’s different from a museum, where original works can be displayed solely for viewing pleasure and for education. Duisenberg suggested fixing up the stately Veterans Memorial Building on The Esplanade across from Chico High School, which had been empty for years. The idea was attractive to Macias, who’d been director of Chico’s 1078 Gallery.

Pat Macias

Photo By Vic Cantu

What sealed the deal was an impressive donation of 350 works of art by Northern California artists that local collector Reed Applegate gave to the proposed museum. Reed had been collecting the art since the 1960s, and his gift featured a treasure trove of works by widely known artists such as Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, Peter Voulkos and Chico’s Janet Turner.

“We just put the two ideas together, and that’s how we came up with the concept for the Museum of Northern California Art,” Macias said.

The group—abbreviated as monCA—has Macias as its president (and Duisenberg as secretary) and plans to host works of artists from the San Francisco Bay Area to the borders of Oregon and Nevada. The museum would also feature art lectures, concerts and educational programs for all ages.

MonCA achieved nonprofit status in October, has started a website (www.monca.org) and is working hard at trying to acquire the veterans’ hall, which is tricky because, while it sits within city limits, it belongs to Butte County.

“That building would make a fabulous museum. It’s got a great stage, wood floors and wonderful public exposure since it’s within walking distance of four other themed museums,” Macias said.

Even if the vets’ hall doesn’t pan out, Macias says the group is willing to consider other buildings that have viable space.

But for now, monCA needs funds. If it becomes available, the vets’ hall will need a heating and cooling system and renovation to make it accessible to the disabled. The group also needs to finish paying for a small school bus it’s procured in order to facilitate bringing parts of the collection and arts activities to retirement communities and local schools.

Plans for fundraising include applying for grants, tabling during the Saturday farmers’ market, house parties, and occasional month-long, “pop-up museums” in various rented spaces around town. Donations to the museum can be sent to: monCA, P.O. Box 4654, Chico, CA 95927.

—Vic Cantu