Most Influential 2018: Meet the top 100 influencers in Orange County

From The Orange County Register

By Todd Harmonson | | Orange County Register

Orange County is loaded with influencers, from people who are determined to end homelessness to billionaire philanthropists and perhaps the best two-way baseball player since Babe Ruth. The Orange County Register again has selected the 100 Most Influential People in Orange County, and some of the choices will be exactly who you’d expect. Others, however, will surprise and maybe even delight.

And, yes, we know there are many incredibly influential people who did not make the list for 2018. It’s not that they suddenly lost influence or did anything wrong. We try to spotlight people who help us understand the year and we try to mix in new faces. Let’s put it this way: Mike Trout has been influential every year for the Angels, but this time he did not make the list. Shohei Ohtani, however, did.

So did some people you never have heard of but who will fascinate you with the ways they influence Orange County, including amazing kids, members of the military and educators.

Here are our selections for Orange County’s top influencers in 2018. We also will have extended profiles on some of our selections that will be linked to the list as they become available.

Tony Adkins
The physician’s assistant is known at CHOC as the “Dancing Doc” who brings joy to children at the hospital with his dance moves and infectious good humor. He was raised by a single mom in South Los Angeles and served his country in the Army, always relying on music and dance to lift his mood.

Tina Aldatz
She’s a community activist who was given the Director’s Community Leadership Award from the FBI in April for her liaison work with the Hispanic community

Damien Arrula
Placentia’s city administrator used his past experience with a veterans village to break ground on a 50-unit complex in Placentia this fall. He also got creative finding additional revenue, coming up with gas station partnership, and shepherded a city sales tax measure.

Don Barnes and Todd Spitzer
The newly elected sheriff and district attorney, respectively, in Orange County mark a significant change atop the county’s law enforcement community after the long tenures of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and D.A. Tony Rackauckas.

Pat Bates
The state senator continues to push for reform in what has become known as the Rehab Riviera, Southern California’s epicenter of the drug rehabilitation industry. Bates won re-election to represent the 36th Senate district.

Jay Bellamy
He spends holidays building sand sculptures at Baby Beach in Dana Point honoring veterans and others who tragically lost their lives. Bellamy is inspired by the memory of his sister, who was struck by a train in San Clemente.

Blaze Bernstein
Bernstein’s brutal murder in January led to “a communal call for kindness.” His parents created a “Blaze it Forward” movement and their Facebook page has more than 21,000 members sharing moments of good deeds.

Lauren Best
The Sonora High graduate and USC student was honored at the National Philanthropy Day luncheon for her work with special needs students and Girl Scouts, including developing an all-special needs troop.

Sean Boulton
With a spiraling teenage suicide epidemic and the release of letters written by Corona del Mar student Patrick Turner, Boulton, the principal at Newport Harbor High, wrote a letter addressing the pressure placed on students. In part, it said, “This competitive culture has significantly impacted our young adults. We endlessly discuss test scores, National Merit Scholarships, reading scores, AP scholars, comparisons to other school districts and this is when we start losing our collective souls – and our children.”

Bill Bracken
He serves hundreds of thousands of meals each year through food rescue and other programs and from his truck named Betsy and just moved into a 9,000-square-foot kitchen in Garden Grove. The former chef at a couple Newport Beach hotels was inspired to devote his skills to charity by a homeless man named Randy.

Kelsey Brewer
While legislative affairs and policy analyst at Association of California Cities – Orange County, she was instrumental in gaining support for AB 448, the bill that established the O.C. Housing Finance Trust bill. She now is the communications and policy manager at the non-profit Jamboree Housing Corp.

Ada Briceño
As co-president of Unite Here Local 11, which represents some Anaheim Resort workers, Briceno took part in contract talks, walked picket lines, and was instrumental in pulling together a coalition of unions that persuaded voters to pass Measure L, which raises wages at businesses that have received city subsidies.

Hannahlei Cabanilla
She won “So You Think You Can Dance,” becoming the second consecutive winner from Orange County. The Anaheim Hills native went on a national tour and was cast in the upcoming TV production “Rent: Live.”

David O. Carter and Brooke Weitzman
Carter is the federal judge who nudged and gently forced county and city officials into working together to address homelessness in O.C. Weitzman is the tireless and driven O.C. lead lawyer in the homeless civil rights lawsuit over the riverbed encampments that forced the county and its cities to stop criminalizing homelessness.

Doug Chaffee
County supervisor seats are nonpartisan in that there is no party affiliation on the ballot, but in actuality, no Democrat had been an O.C. supervisor in 12 years until the Fullerton mayor beat Tim Shaw to represent the 4th District. “It’s a great job and a great opportunity to take care of people’s needs on a pretty grand scale,” Chaffee said.

John Chhan
Seal Beach residents rallied around the owner of Donut City when his wife had a stroke. They bought out doughnuts early in the day so he could spend the rest of the day with his recovering wife.

Courtney Conlogue
The top surfer from Santa Ana won the US Open of Surfing in front of her home crowd, despite a major injury that had her sidelined earlier in the year. That catapulted her to a strong finish, which included another victory in France.

Kathi Conroy
Conroy, whose son died while serving in the U.S. Army, persuaded more than 60 restaurants in San Clemente and Laguna Beach to dedicate “Missing Man” tables to the memory of the fallen.

Brian Coty
As a volunteer with the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, he spent three years collecting the names of all Marines from the 5th Marine Regiment who died in Vietnam to be inscribed on a Vietnam Memorial installed at Camp Pendleton on Memorial Day.

Joanne Culverhouse
After 15 months of planning, Culverhouse, as superintendent of the La Habra City School District, oversaw in September the rollout of a complete overhaul of how the district’s nine schools are organized, creating a specialized focus for each campus and modernizing the district’s structure.

Josh D’Amaro
Disneyland’s new president ended a deal with Anaheim, stopped plans for a luxury hotel and struck new agreements with unions in months after taking over in his return to the park, all with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge quickly approaching.

Tom Daly and Sharon Quirk-Silva
The two assembly members co-authored AB 448 and won bipartisan support to establish the Orange County Housing Finance Trust, putting Orange County in a better position to compete for millions of state and federal tax dollars to house homeless and low-income people.

Martha Daniel
She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. as a teenage girl in Memphis, went on to found her own $20-million-a-year company, studied and earned her degree as an ordained minister and this year was named a Martin Luther King Drum Major Award recipient for her work advancing tolerance, equality and justice. On Monday nights, she teaches Bible studies at jail.

Sam Darnold
The New York Jets traded four picks to move up three spots in the NFL draft in April to grab the USC quarterback and establish him as the future of their franchise. He missed some time with an injury and has had some shaky moments, but he also has shown a lot of promise in his rookie season.

Shauhin Davari
The Orange Coast College debate team has won nationals for fourth consecutive year, and Davari is OCC’s Director of Interpretive Events and head speech and debate coach.

Laura Davick
For two decades, Davick, the president of the Crystal Cove Conservancy, has fought to make sure Crystal Cove cottages remain how they were when she lived there as a child. In October, the conservancy announced that it had secured half the funding needed to begin restoration of the 17 remaining cottages that are not in use.

Todd DeShields Smith
After a decade of delay, the OC Museum of Art broke ground on its new location at the Segerstrom Center. The museum is being designed to be inviting to the public as a gathering space and even have art displayed that people can see from outside.

Tyler Diep
The city councilman bucked the blue wave and beat Democrat Josh Lowenthal for the 72nd Assembly district seat despite allegations of fraud. He said one of his top priorities is to put the community’s polarization in the past.

Jane Doe
Shortly after turning 15, this teenager was victimized by a predator who found teenage girls through social media and had sex with underage girls. After nearly three years of struggle and criminal court hearings, she finally saw justice with the young man pleading guilty in later summer to several felonies and in a private way agreed to go public to share her #MeToo story and warn other teens about Internet dangers.

Troy Edgar
The mayor of Los Alamitos was the driving force behind the city’s ordinance opting out of Senate Bill 54, which limits cooperation between local and state agencies with federal immigration officials. Edgar visited the White House three times and started a Gofundme account for the city’s legal bills it the lawsuit the ACLU brought against it.

Kevin Elliott
The Huntington Beach native, now advertising executive, took over the airshow in his hometown, rebranded it as The Great Pacific Airshow and pulled off a success in only a few months. In July, he was awarded a three-year permit with the city.

Chloe Mei Espinosa
The young environmentalist, who is in middle school, convinced the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to stop using plastic straws and drink stirrers. She also got the Pali Institute, a science camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, to stop using plastic coffee stirrers.

Katrina Foley
Costa Mesa’s first directly elected mayor defeated Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who helped strip her of rotating mayor’s role last year. Foley is a strong advocate for cleaning up the city’s abundance of unregulated sober living homes.

Melvin Gordon
The Chargers running back has come up big on the field to help lead the team, which is based in Costa Mesa, to the NFL playoffs. Off the field, he launched his Beyond the Flash Foundation to help local children. In its first event, the foundation partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast and Second Harvest Food Bank to provide food and a Winter Wonderland event for 1,000 low-income children.

Cpl. Brian Gray
He gained the trust of Maria Ursu, an elderly woman who had been living on the street for months, and encouraged her to seek help. She was reunited her with her son, Dennis, in Chicago on Oct. 10, with the help of charitable donations.

Emile Haddad
FivePoint’s CEO oversaw the opening of a significant part of the Great Park Sports Park and donated the land that will become the location of City of Hope’s Orange County cancer center.

Don Han
As a senior human relations specialist at OC Human Relations, he is the first responder to the hate crimes that are on the rise in Orange County. He experienced hate growing up in the Bay Area as a young Laotian refugee in the 1980s.

Liane Hawkins
Hawkins has taught kindergartners for so long she has retired not just once, but twice. She finally closed out her substitute teaching career recently at age 76.

Carla and Jim Hogan
The Gold Star parents have collected nearly 500,000 pairs of socks for deployed Marines following the death of their son, Donald Hogan, in Afghanistan.

Kanoa Igarashi
For the second year in a row, Igarashi won the US Open of Surfing in his hometown of Huntington Beach. He soon is expected to be the face of Olympic surfing in 2020, surfing for the host country of Japan.

Archana Jain
One of six Orange County teachers of the year, Jain recently earned a credential in career and technical education. She encourages her students by embracing the message on a sign in her classroom: “If you haven’t failed yet, you haven’t tried anything.”

Paul Kariya
Sure, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, but Kariya’s long reluctance to have his jersey retired by the Ducks ended in 2018. He became the franchise’s second player to be honored that way, and his No. 9 hangs in the rafters alongside the No. 9 of his linemate and friend Teemu Selanne.

Mike Kaviani
Kaviani took over in August as the director of the Orange County Animal Shelter, which got a fresh start this year after moving into its new $35 million facility in Tustin in March. The shelter is working to overcome a previous stigma of being overcrowded and euthanizing too many animals.

John Kennedy and Michael Markus
Orange County Water District GM Markus and Executive Director of Engineering Kennedy have helped lead a pioneering project that has turned an unprecedented amount of wastewater into drinking water. After being highly purified to potable levels, it is used to replenish the central county groundwater basin. Guinness declared the 1 million gallons produced by the plant on Feb. 16 to be a world record for a 24-hour period.

James Keston
Keston bought the Orange County Soccer Club last year, rebranded it, signed new players and moved it to the Great Park Soccer Stadium, where it had a growing fan base and crowds of up to 5,000. This year, OC Soccer made it to the finals of the expanding United Soccer League for the first time. Keston has focused on creating a “path to the pros” for local players and engaging the community.

Chloe Kim
She became the youngest woman to win Olympic gold in the halfpipe and the youngest to land back-to-back 1080s when she dazzled in her Winter Olympics debut.

Brad Kominek
The head brewer at Noble Ale Works in Anaheim earned gold medals for the same beer at two top competitions. This year, Noble Ale Works’ Imperial IPA, Nobility was awarded a gold medal at the World Beer Cup and at the Great American Beer Festival in a highly competitive category. Kominek, 37, of Santa Ana, also brewed for charity, raising more than $10,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walk with his We Love Lucy IPA, created specifically for the fundraiser.

Nick Kovacevich
He is the co-founder and CEO of Orange County-based KushCo Holdings, which started off in 2010 making pop-top bottles for weed and is now a publicly traded company with brands and offices across the country.

Rebecca Kovacs-Stein
She is one of the most dedicated homeless advocates, part of a grassroots group that has kept track off the welfare of many of the people scattered from the riverbed tent encampments. She has fed them, clothed them, housed a few of them, provides transportation and other services.

Ed Lee
Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which he founded with his brothers Wing Lam and Mingo Lee, was invited to host a dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan. The honor typically is reserved for fine dining chefs. He is partners with Brian Huskey in Tackle Box, which started a second location in May at SOCO in Costa Mesa, and he’s a key investor in Toast Kitchen & Bakery, which opened in Costa Mesa in July.

James Lenthall
Coordinated boaters and merchants association and helped make the process for the $330 million DP harbor renovation a collaborative process between the community and the developers.

Rabbi Peter Levi
The Orange County regional director of Anti-Defamation League has been at the forefront of countering anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. He spoke up strongly in July when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Holocaust deniers should be able to post their beliefs on the platform. “Facebook, a private organization, should not become a platform for hate speech,” he said.

Lt. Col. Michelle Macander
She took over command of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton on June 22, becoming the first female Marine to be named commander of a ground combat arms unit. “It is a privilege to carry on the legacy of this storied battalion, and continue to provide support to the largest and most decorated division in the Marine Corps,” Macander said in a statement.

Joe Manzella
The founder-owner of the Catch and Taps restaurants, Manzella, 51, has stepped up to become a bigger player in the brewery business, ramping up to 5,000 barrels a year with plans to up that to 25,000 to supply his restaurants, other restaurants and retailers. This year he reopened Taps in Brea and a 19,000-square-foot tasting room in Tustin with a massive tank room, dedicated food truck, bar, wine tasting and soju cocktails.

Wendy Marshall
Marshall was instrumental in helping to get a $1 million grant to fund a shark exhibit at the Ocean Institute. Earlier this year, she also helped get a $30,000 grant to help with Coastal Citizen Scientists funded by the California Coastal Commission. The program was the highest funded grant of that type in the state.

Keith Mattassa
He has helped lead the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to become a national go-to center in ocean and marine mammal research, broadening its mission beyond sea lion rescue and rehab.

Aaron McCall
The Costa Mesa resident and chairman of Indivisible OC 48 led a local chapter of the national organization’s effort. He realized that after he assumed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in 2016 that he needed to get involved, and his focus was California’s 48th congressional district.

Duff McGrath
The nephew of Betty Lou Lamoreaux, Orange County’s first female Superior Court judge, is pushing for an overhaul of the state’s probate court system. He has a “reverent walk” planned for Jan. 3 from Orange to Santa Ana to raise awareness about probate issues and plans to screen a documentary about the issue the next day in Laguna Woods.

Katherine McPhie and Milan Narula
The University High students created the Open Sesame Coding for Kids program that teaches coding to kids in shelters. They won a $15,000 Dragon Kim Grant and help impoverished children see a future in technology and computer science.

Cece Moore
The investigative genetic genealogist worked for years with Finding Your Roots. This year, she helped crack the Golden State Killer case.

Arte Moreno
The Angels’ owner has a new manager, and his team has exercised the opt-out clause in its lease with the city of Anaheim, a move clearly made in an effort to gain leverage in negotiations with the city.

Mike Mussallem
The leader of Edwards Lifesciences was selected as the No. 15 CEO in the world by the Harvard Business Review, but his work helping people extends well beyond his company’s manufacturing of heart valves. He and his wife both grew up with brothers with Down syndrome, and they dedicate their personal philanthropic money and time to helping people with Down syndrome.

Peter Navarro
The UC Irvine professor emeritus is one of the architects of the Trump administration’s trade strategy, particularly connected to China. Navarro was promoted early in the year to become Trump’s trade adviser after previously being pushed aside by the president’s more moderate advisers.

Tung Nguyen
He was pardoned for murder and robbery, crimes he convicted of in 1994, by Gov. Jerry Brown in November after previously being granted early release in 2011. The winner of a Soros Justice Fellowship is a prominent community organizer in Little Saigon.

Shohei Ohtani
The Angels’ superstar made a huge splash when he first arrived from Japan and regularly packed Angel Stadium when he pitched early in the season. The American League Rookie of the Year also is a dangerous hitter and became the first player since Babe Ruth to pitch at least 50 innings and hit at least 15 home runs in a season.

Eric and Kyle Paine
The Paine brothers operate Community Development Partners, the affordable housing developer that turned the Quality Inn motel in Santa Ana into The Orchard housing community for homeless people from the Santa Ana Civic Center. They also are behind The Cove apartment complex in Newport Beach for seniors and homeless veterans.

Sue Parks
The president and CEO of United Way Orange County led the charge for the United to End Homelessness effort, including securing the support and time of leaders from the business world, community groups and faith organizations. She spearheaded the effort less than a year after she was selected for her United Way position.

Gabbi Patrick
She worked at her parents’ Mexican restaurants since a kid and was a GM by the time she was a teen. She decided to attend culinary school and eventually founded Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, an exceptional restaurant. This year she opened Chaak, a cutting-edge dining room specializing in modern Yucatecan cuisine, in old town Tustin, an area undergoing a revival.

Jeff Pearlman
His passion project book on the USFL, “Football for a Buck,” drew raves and showed the role then-team owner Donald Trump played in the league’s demise. Pearlman also regularly skewered his congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, via his site and @CrazyDana48 Twitter feed.

Brian Peterson
The artist from Miami moved to Orange County and created the non-profit Faces of Santa Ana. His work captures the personalities of people who are experiencing homelessness, and his subjects benefit from what he calls “love accounts” established from half the proceeds he receives.

Mike Pompeo
The Los Amigos High graduate moved from CIA director to Secretary of State and was thrust into key negotiations with world leaders on behalf of the Trump administration.

Katie Porter and Harley Rouda
Porter, a UC Irvine law professor, unseated two-term GOP Rep. Mimi Walters by running as an unabashed progressive in a district where she was advised against it. Political newcomer and Republican-turned-Democrat Rouda pushed out Dana Rohrabacher from the post he’s held for 30 years.

Jo-Anne Prophete Matsuba
She was honored by state Assembly as the 65th District Woman of the Year for her charitable work that includes raising money for the Get On the Bus program that takes kids to see their incarcerated parents.

John Reese
Already the top festival producer in O.C., Reese added three new fests in 2018, including the pop culture mash-up Big Adventure Fest, the sold-out ska-infused Back to the Beach and the sold out punk rock Surf City Blitz.

L. Song Richardson
On Jan. 1, 2018, she took over as the dean of UC Irvine School of Law and became the only woman of color to serve in this role among U.S. News and World Reports top 30 law schools.

Bruce Rollinson
Mater Dei’s football coach led the Monarchs to a second consecutive CIF State championship with a 35-21 victory over De La Salle of Concord. The triumph was the 300th in Rollinson’s career, but he’s not done. With a young team, he has big plans for next season.

David Rosa
In a year full of bravery from firefighters, the Long Beach fire captain from San Juan Capistrano rushed into a building after an explosion at a high-rise senior apartment. He was shot and killed by a 77-year-old man in the building, police said. “In death Capt. Rosa has strengthened the bond of our firemen,” Long Beach Chief Mike DuRee said at his funeral. “In his valor, there is hope.”

Marytza Rubio
She started the Makara Center for the Arts in Santa Ana in 2016, and it has grown to include literacy programs and readings. Like the 1888 Center, the Makara Center shows the vibrancy of the literary arts that is up and coming in the county.

Fran Sdao
The chairwoman of Orange County Democratic Party led the charge for a sweep of the county’s congressional seats that made national headlines. She’s leaving the job, but is going out on quite a high.

Grant Sheen
Over the course of several years visiting his grandmother in China and seeing her deteriorate with Alzheimer’s, this high school student invented a digital program that when hooked up to a head device allows patients to communicate basic wants and needs. This year, he was awarded at $10,000 national Davidson Fellows scholarship for “pioneering work.”

Rick Shintaku
The South Coast Water District chief is shepherding a desalination plant north of Doheny State Beach that has avoided most of the environmental opposition other projects have faced. He says desalted water could be flowing from taps by the end of 2021.

Sande St. John
An uber-volunteer, St. John works tirelessly promoting the causes of at least 10 non-profits in Laguna Beach. She recently was recognized by the Laguna Beach City Council as a community hero.

Carl St.Clair
He led the Pacific Symphony in its first performance at Carnegie Hall and its first tour of China. Read more

Michael and Nicole Suydam
He is one of the driving forces behind the United to End Homelessness effort. She went from being the CEO of Second Harvest to return to Goodwill of Orange County, this time as its CEO. Together, they are one of the most influential couples in Orange County.

Elizabeth Turk
Her Shoreline Project brought together thousands in the community and was the largest public art project in the county in recent memory and was a cornerstone of the Laguna Art Museum’s centennial.

David Valintin
Named this year as police chief in Santa Ana, David Valintin already is turning things around for police and the community. After growing up in Santa Ana, the new chief is credited with reducing shootings as well as homicides and implemented a special pride and tradition program linking police with local residents.

Jordan Villwock
As emergency coordinator in Laguna Beach, Villwock helped make the city the county’s first to have an emergency wireless notification system. He won a state award for his evacuation plan.

Fram Virjee
He took over as Cal State Fullerton’s president on Jan. 1 and immediately became a major presence on campus, along with his wife Julie. He makes a point of embracing the university community — in person and via social media — and has strong support in the process to become CSU trustees’ choice as Fullerton’s permanent president.

Jinger Wallace
The co-founder of Laguna Bluebelt wrote a grant and created a water quality education program to prompt conservation efforts among inland communities. For the first time in recent memory, the Aliso Beach berm wasn’t breached this summer.

Lisa Wright Jenkins
She is the CEO for the Council on Aging — Southern California which programs and services to more than 290,000 seniors and disabled adults in Southern California. They were recently awarded the Ombudsman Contract for Riverside County based on the success of the Orange County Ombudsman Program.

Robert Wyland
The iconic marine mammal artist this year marked 40 years since his first gallery opened, and 25 since he created the Wyland Foundation. His artwork graces the NCL Bliss, launched in June as the largest cruise ship sailing Alaska.