The Influencers

Bright, energetic, and engaged in the community, some of the Coachella Valley’s most influential personalities converge on Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa for a richly earned moment in the spotlight

Steven Kleinschmidt Social Scene 0 Comments

Photography by J. Fredric May, Elena Ray, and Taylor Sherrill
Hair Stylist: Joy Fields of J. Russell Salon
Makeup Artist: Chip Tuvman of J. Russell Salon

Early this year, Palm Springs Life set out to identify local personalities from a cross-section of fields whose influence offers a continual, positive effect on all dimensions of life in the Coachella Valley. Handpicked from the business, tourism, arts, politics, education, media, environment, sports, fashion, technology, health and medicine, and architecture communities, we assembled a group that would impress in any U.S. city. We’re fortunate to have them here, improving the quality of life in our community.

On the morning of our photo shoot, these busy folks were greeted at Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert by magazine and hotel staff, hair stylists, and makeup artists. “The Influencers” became our photographers’ subjects, with backdrops that included the property’s new spa, as well as the lounge, boat dock, and manicured grounds.

About half of the 101 personalities selected for this feature were able to attend our midsummer shoot. We’ve included A-list names such as Bill Gates and Barry Manilow, as well as more locally known leaders such as Aftab Dada and Tracy Redmon. We know this feature could easily include many more influential people, but we had to draw the line somewhere. Congratulations to “The Influencers,” and thanks for your dedication to making the desert a perennial paradise.


Chris AllingChris Alling

The principal of Xavier College Preparatory High School in Palm Desert took on leadership of the Coachella Valley’s Jesuit school before the first class of freshmen walked through the doors in 2006. As head of a new educational institution that includes a curriculum distinct from other schools, he is involved in setting its future course, fulfilling the needs and desires of students and their parents, and garnering appreciable community support.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Leonore AnnenbergLeonore Annenberg

The second wife of the late publisher and U.S. ambassador Walter Annenberg served as chief of protocol under President Ronald Reagan and continues to impart a distinctive taste, style, and elegance that have distinguished the city of Rancho Mirage and other desert communities. Mrs. Annenberg’s immense contributions to the arts, education, and science will surely inspire a new generation of philanthropists.

Photo credit: Scott Avra

Leisa AustinLeisa (pictured) and David Austin

With their iconic building on Highway 74 in Palm Desert, the owners of Imago Galleries have established themselves as an important resource for art collectors and students. They have mounted world-class exhibitions and impacted many private collections. Additionally, they are involved in numerous community activities. This summer, they participated in Adventures of the Mind, a national mentoring program for high school students.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Kathleen BennettKathleen Bennett

The director of sales and marketing for the Classic Club and a fixture in local tourism circles has spearheaded the development of programs to boost revenue for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Bennett is active with the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority, Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, and Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International. She is also a founding member of the Desert AIDS Project 100 Women Partner for Life program and is helping establish a desert chapter of the National Philanthropic Association.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Edra BlixsethEdra Blixseth

The co-owner of the exclusive Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Mont., emerged from an abusive first marriage to write the 1987 book Uncharged Battery, which was required reading for UCLA social work students and police investigators. Today, she focuses on Shelter From the Storm, which provides housing, counseling, and education for abused and battered women and their children.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Frank BogertFrank Bogert

Few Coachella Valley residents have lived here as long as this 97-year-old, who moved to Palm Springs in 1927 and served as mayor from 1958 to 1966 and from 1982 to 1988. Outspoken and often audacious, he has been an important part of the fabric of Palm Springs and has preserved much of its history in writing and in documentary films.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Mary BonoMary Bono

The U.S. 45th Congressional District representative is serving her fifth full term, having won landslide support in each election. Among her committee appointments, she serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chairs the Congressional Salton Sea Task Force. She has secured millions of dollars for local transportation and environmental projects and promoted national monument status for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Michael BraunMichael Braun

The vice president of Wessman Development has been the public voice of John Wessman and has maintained a calm and reasoned stance to controversy and criticism, particularly with regard to the long-shuttered Desert Fashion Plaza in downtown Palm Springs. Braun has coordinated and spearheaded the development of Bella Clancy in Rancho Mirage, St. Baristo in Palm Springs, and Campanile in Cathedral City.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

Richard Byford

This talent booker and radio talk-show host taps his acting, stage management, and directing background to guide the local entertainment scene. For six years, he has served as producer and technical director for AIDS Assistance Program’s Evening Under the Stars gala. In July, he accompanied the Palm Springs High School Spirit of the Sands band to China as its stage manager.

Michael ChildersMichael Childers

While his work has been seen worldwide, this celebrity photographer’s heart lies in the Coachella Valley, where he serves on the Palm Springs Art Museum and Palm Springs International Film Festival boards. He has created and produced benefits — including One Night Only at McCallum Theatre — with famous headliners that have raised more than $12 million for the Desert AIDS Project, Palm Springs Art Museum, and Family Services of the Desert.

Photo credit: Jay Jorgensen

Pamela ClutePamela Clute

This mathematics professor for UC Riverside has distinguished herself as a leader in advancing innovative solutions to student underachievement in mathematics. She established and directs UCR’s Alpha Center, which offers two programs at no cost to students and teachers in the Coachella Valley. Mathematics Academy of Teaching Excellence guides teachers in practices to help their students; Girls Academy for Success in Mathematics motivates girls to pursue math courses and consider math-based careers.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Peggy CravensPeggy Cravens

Spending four to five days a week attending meetings with nonprofit organizations, this champion fundraiser has established a legacy of giving. In addition to co-founding Good Samaritans of the Desert and reviving the internationally renowned Joanna Hodges Piano Competition, she has served on numerous boards. Since 1996, she has served on the board of College of the Desert Foundation. She and her husband, Donald, have donated $3.5 million to COD for a Student Services Center.

Photo credit: Courtesy Peggy Cravens

Buford Crites

This retired College of the Desert professor and former four-term Palm Desert mayor has been an influential proponent of environmental/conservancy issues for years and has served on numerous commissions and councils. He is a member of the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Committee and chaired the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto National Monument Advisory Committee.

Aftab Dada

The general manager of Hilton Palm Springs and stalwart of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association is outspoken on issues affecting local tourism. His ability to leverage the area’s greatest assets — the convention center, golf courses, retailers, attractions, and natural beauty — into strategies to draw visitors for work and play benefits businesses beyond Palm Springs’ city limits. He is the immediate past chairman of the Hospitality Industry and Business Council in Rancho Mirage.

Rick Daniels

The executive director of the Salton Sea Authority is also president and CEO of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. But his influence reaches beyond the restoration of the largest body of water in California and expansion/diversification of the local economy. He also sits on the board of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians’ East Valley Tourism and Development Authority and is a member of the City of La Quinta Planning Commission.

Tom Davis

The chief planning and development officer for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians oversees many aspects of the tribe’s operations, including planning and natural resources, economic development, and construction. While keeping an eye on construction of the tribe’s new hotel near the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, he is working on ambitious plans to build a new Spa Hotel, galleria, and cultural museum in Palm Springs. Davis also serves on the board of Guide Dogs of the Desert and Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.

Karen DevineKaren Devine

The weekend news anchor of KMIR-6, the desert’s NBC affiliate, has been with the station for 15 years, won four Emmy Awards, and was selected by subscribers of Palm Springs Life as their favorite local TV news anchor. KMIR hired her as a field reporter, and she served as news director when several major celebrities turned the entire nation’s eyes on the Coachella Valley.

Photo credit: Kiki Haynes

Ernie Dunlevie and John Foster

Forty-nine years of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic have netted $43 million for 35 Coachella Valley charities. Foster and Dunlevie have each served on and presided over the tournament board and are largely responsible for the enduring vitality of the only PGA Tour event bearing a celebrity’s name. They understand the Classic’s important role in the community, from tourism to philanthropy, and have made the Classic Ball, held in conjunction with the tournament each January, one of the desert’s marquee events.

Graison FosterGraison Foster

The CBS-2 television news personality and producer was raised in an environment of poverty, alcoholism, and physical and emotional abuse and now helps kids through SafeHouse of the Desert — which provides emergency housing for teens — to “rise above their raising.” An aspiring actress who appears in two films this year (Jonathan Moon: Alien Attack! and Fairway to Heaven), she is also active in Palm Springs Women in Film & Television.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

James GalanosJames Galanos

Retired for nearly 10 years, the designer’s impact on fashion remains robust and revered in costume collections around the world. He was internationally acclaimed for his extensive use of hand beading and luxurious silk fabrics over full-loose dresses and chiffon coats. His clients included wealthy and influential women such as Rosalind Russell, Diana Ross, Nancy Reagan, and Judy Garland. Now pursuing fine art photography (Serge Sorokko Gallery in San Francisco represents his work), Galanos has participated in events with Palm Springs Art Museum and Fashion Group International of Palm Springs and the Desert Communities, boosting the profile of both entities. LACMA mounted a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1997, and he was part of the 2004 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition WILD: Fashion Untamed.

Helene and Lou Galen

The namesakes of the Galen Center for sports and cultural events and the Louis and Helene Galen Ceramics Studio at USC in Los Angeles, this dynamic duo has shared their wisdom and generosity with the desert in great measure. Helene has served for 20 years on the boards of Eisenhower Medical Center and the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. They support Palm Springs Art Museum and McCallum Theatre. Lou retired from banking in 2005 after he grew Golden West to an impressive 286 branches and reportedly $150 billion in assets.

Bill Gates

Microsoft Corp.’s chairman has invested time and resources in the desert, but his influence extends globally. He has brought new technologies and opportunities to our workplaces and homes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has developed and supported programs addressing poverty, education, health, and the arts. In addition to donating billions of dollars, Gates serves as a role model through his “guiding principles.”

Leslie Gebhart and Robert ImberLeslie Gebhart

A behind-the-scenes volunteer for several Coachella Valley organizations, this life coach has shared advice for overcoming life’s roadblocks with the Braille Institute and Lucy Curci Cancer Center, as well as individual clients. She has offered her services in schools as a volunteer in support of children whose home situation is compromised by family alcoholism or drug addiction and has co-authored three books, including The Not-So-Scary Breast Cancer Book.

Robert Imber

Through his Palm Springs Modern Tours company and his tireless advocacy of the local midcentury legacy, this prolific writer and speaker has increased awareness literally around the world on the Coachella Valley’s architectural treasures. More importantly, he spurs residents to action to speak before city commissions and councils in attempts to preserve endangered buildings.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

Marshall GelfandMarshall Gelfand

A partner in Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, LLP, the largest international business management company in the entertainment industry, Gelfand calls the desert home and has given his leadership and labor to many organizations — as board president of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, Palm Springs Friends of the Philharmonic, Temple Isaiah/Jewish Community Center, and Palm Springs Art Museum. His service turned to activism when his wife, Judy, died of Alzheimer’s disease. Gelfand created the Judy Fund, which has raised $3 million for Alzheimer’s research, care, and advocacy. He also serves on the Alzheimer’s Association national and local boards.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Ted GiatasTed Giatas

The president and CEO of McCallum Theatre has changed the theater’s image from a cultural institution serving an elitist crowd to one welcoming people of all ages and from all walks of life. Since taking over in 1999, he has pulled the theater from the brink of economic collapse, diversified its programming, and set the stage for an expansion of the Palm Desert theater as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Photo credit: Palm Springs Life Archives

Sheila Gilligan

Palm Desert’s assistant city manager for community services is determined to make her city’s name the most popular in the valley. The driving force behind the Palm Desert Rocks! advertising campaign, Gilligan exerts a vision to elevate the city’s profile in and outside of the Coachella Valley and manages it all with confidence and poise. From the new visitor center to the Art in Public Places program, she has been central to the city’s success in distinguishing itself.

Ben Godfrey

The Indio mayor tapped into his architecture and planning background as the chairman of the executive, environment, and personnel committees of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments. In addition to serving on local planning and restoration committees, he has had a hand in establishing a brighter economic future for Indio.

Michael GreenMichael Green

Since moving to Palm Springs in 2000 and opening Triangle Inn with his partner (Stephen Boyd), Green has emerged as a bright, shining leader in local tourism, particularly gay tourism. He is president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association; past president and current board member of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild; a founding member of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism’s Planning, Budget, and Joint Advisory Committee; a board member of Small Hotels of Palm Springs; and a member of several committees of the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority. He also publishes the quarterly Destinations for Men magazine.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Terry Green

For the past 27 years, the director of external relations for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership’s Career Pathways Initiative has been active in the local education community. Through leadership positions at College of the Desert and the Palm Desert campus of University of California-Riverside, he coordinated development of the UCR Palm Desert campus, led collaborative efforts to create the nation’s first training center for natural gas vehicles at COD, and aligned partners to build the Palm Desert Library and Child Care Training Resource Center at COD.

Earl GreenburgEarl Greenburg

Called “The Prince of Infomercials” by Forbes for his work with Home Shopping Network, Greenburg’s hands-on marketing wizardry and financial generosity have an enduring impact on so many aspects of life in the desert. He provides a red-carpet environment for the Palm Springs International Film Festival and appreciable quality of life at the Rick Weiss Apartments for people living with HIV and AIDS on the Greenburg/Peet Campus of Desert AIDS Project. The former vice president of NBC daytime programming became an independent television producer and is now president of Transactional Marketing in Palm Springs.

Photo credit: Courtesy Earl Greenburg

Patti GribowPatti Gribow

This TV-talk show host introduces local audiences to a variety of people with compelling stories. She has served as president, founder, emcee, keynote speaker, and chairperson for many events and charities. She co-founded The Ophelia Project, an organization that mentors young girls, and served as president of Women Leaders Forum, where her efforts led to the International Alliance of Women booking their 2007 International Convention in November.

Photo credit: Courtesy Patti Gribow

Terry Hampton and Peter SotiriouTerry Hampton and Peter Sotiriou

Since moving to the desert and opening dot at The Gardens on El Paseo seven years ago, this fashion-savvy duo has shown, through their innovative approach, that they’re not afraid to shake things up. They are committed to bringing their fashion statement to the desert — a statement that focuses on quality, cutting-edge style without exorbitant prices. Known for a high level of customer service, they have opened their store to fundraising events. Recently, Hampton was elected regional director of Fashion Group International.

Photo credit for Terry Hampton: J. Fredric May
Photo credit for Peter Sotiriou: Elena Ray

Mary HartMary Hart

The iconic host of Entertainment Tonight is seen by millions of viewers in 40 countries and has been a Hollywood insider for 30 years. Yet she considers herself a “desert rat,” because she has come here since childhood and now lives part time in Palm Desert. Her omnipresence on the local philanthropy scene has been a boon to many charities.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Brian HermanBrian Herman

The medical director of Eisenhower Imaging Center has created a new model for diagnostic imaging in a hotel-like setting with free valet parking, artwork, and personal attention. He oversees a staff of 15 radiologists that specialize in everything from oncology to his own specialties in neuroradiology and endovascular neurosurgery and ensures that scanning equipment offers state-of-the-art technology for the best diagnosis and life-saving treatments.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Jean Ann HirschiJean Ann Hirschi

The first woman elected president of the Palm Springs Bar Association is a role model and mentor, particularly for young women. She has served on numerous boards, including College of the Desert Foundation, Palm Springs Art Museum, ACT for MS, McCallum Theatre, Desert Samaritans for the Elderly, Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, and Women Leaders Forum. She received the WLF’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Desert Samaritans’ Good Samaritan of the Year Award, and the City of Palm Desert’s Athena Award.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Stephen G. HoffmannStephen G. Hoffmann

A banker for nearly 40 years, Hoffmann is president and chief executive officer of Canyon National Bank, which opened in 1998 with a public stock offering of $8 million (the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians invested $3.6 million of that sum). The bank has since grown to more than $260 in assets and has been profitable and shown an increase — every year since its inception. Hoffmann is a founding director of the North American Native Banker’s Association and active with local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and numerous charities.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Jackie Lee HoustonJackie Lee Houston

The owner of the local CBS affiliate — and several other businesses outside the Coachella Valley — is best known, as she says, for giving away her husband’s money. (Jim Houston II politely declined his place among “The Influencers,” saying Jackie Lee makes the decisions that make the Houstons so vital to the community). Landing the network affiliation was something of a coup; CBS had not licensed a new affiliate on the West Coast in 27 years. The former Miss Washington has positively touched almost every dimension of life in the desert with major contributions to Palm Springs Art Museum, Eisenhower Medical Center’s capital campaign, and many other important institutions and charities.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

R.D. HubbardR.D. Hubbard

In addition to making his personal fortune, this down-to-earth entrepreneur spearheaded the acquisition of the valley’s most sought-after and well-known custom home development: Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert. Additionally, he and his wife, Joan Dale, asked Bighorn members to donate $11 million to Eisenhower Medical Center, raising 75 percent of that amount in 30 days and resulting in the Bighorn Radiation and Oncology Center on the Rancho Mirage medical campus.

Photo credit: R.D. Hubbard

Indian Wells City CouncilIndian Wells City Council

Time and again, this city’s leaders demonstrate that when it comes to cultural and philanthropic activities, Indian Wells looks beyond its borders. In addition to hosting the Pacific Life Open and Skins Game, Indian Wells, through its city council, has supported the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Palm Springs Art Museum, McCallum Theatre, Eisenhower Medical Center, California State University, and other valleywide organizations. Council members are Ed Monarch, Rob Bernheimer (top), Mary T. Roche (center), Larry Spicer (bottom), and Patrick J. Mullany.

Photo credit for Roche and Spicer: Elena Ray
Photo credit for Bernheimer: J. Fredric May

Jim IsermannJim Isermann

If you’ve walked up the stairs at Palm Springs Art Museum in the past 12 months, you’ll recognize Isermann’s bright yellow wall installation, a fine example of the design-inspired art that has catapulted him to the forefront of movement in the art world. A member of the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board and the museum’s Architecture + Design Council, Isermann exhibits his work around the world and heads the art department at UC Riverside.

Photo credit: Michael Childers

Fred JandtFred Jandt

The dean of the Palm Desert campus of California State University-San Bernardino was a distance learning and on-site instructor for the school in temporary facilities at College of the Desert before chairing the committee that developed a strategic plan for the campus. He secured pledges from Coachella Valley cities for a critically needed nursing program, has fostered relationships with other educational institutions, and provided dispute resolution and mediation training.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Jack Jones

Perhaps best known for singing The Love Boat theme, Jones made his stage debut in Las Vegas when he was 19 and worked tirelessly to earn two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance (“Lollipops and Roses” and “Wives and Lovers”). Seventeen of his 50-plus albums made Billboard’s top 20 list; he also won a Billboard Award of Outstanding Achievement. He earned critical acclaim for his lead in the National Company’s presentation of Man of La Mancha and a place among the finest interpreters of musical theater. The Indian Wells resident continues to perform in Las Vegas, as well as for major philanthropic events in the Coachella Valley.

Anndee LaskoeAnndee Laskoe

This CBS-2 news anchor grew up in the Coachella Valley and has covered numerous events of local significance. Her knowledge of the community has made her one of the most well-trusted and most-watched journalists in the local market. She has interviewed President George Bush and Barbara Walters and won an Associated Press Award for her timeliness in reporting a story on a Palm Springs teen who was lured away by a stranger he met on the Internet.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Ted LennonTed Lennon

The president of LDD Desert Development, Stone Eagle Development, Reserve Realty, and Ted Lennon & Associates has been a player in major local residential and commercial projects, includ-ing The Reserve, The Terraces at The Vintage Club, Stone Eagle Golf Club, Desert Crossings, The Gardens on El Paseo, and the new SilverRock in La Quinta. As founder and president of Friends of the Desert Mountains, he has helped acquire and preserve more than 30,000 acres of open space.

Photo credit: Pat Lassy

Derrik LewisDerrik Lewis

In its eighth season, veteran performer Derrik Lewis’ Musical Chairs Concerts presents up to eight concerts a year at several Coachella Valley venues, eventually moving to Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater and the Indian Wells Theater on the campus of CSU San Bernardino, Palm Desert. Stage stars such as Sam Harris, Janet Hopkins, Jim Bailey, Mara Getz, Donna Theodore, Dana Adkins, Eileen Barnett, and many others infuse a fresh schedule in the season’s performing arts offerings.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Father Howard LincolnFather Howard Lincoln

A Claremont Mckenna College economics graduate working as investment banker in Los Angeles, Lincoln was a late-comer to the course that put him in his current job: the Roman Catholic priest overseeing a parish of up to 7,000 worshippers. Today, he draws standing-room-only sermons at Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert and has served since 1992 as the bishop’s handpicked spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino County.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

Richard Machnicki

The longtime Coachella City Councilman and champion of East Valley development was appointed in January as a trustee to the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, a vital entity to East Valley development. The longtime Imperial Water Irrigation District manager was also supervisor of energy and marketing Services in the Imperial Irrigation District’s Indio office before being named in 2004 to lead the utility’s customer service center in La Quinta.

Barry ManilowBarry Manilow

Although this musical superstar with a regular show in Las Vegas and an avid international fan base doesn’t need any local celebrity, he has performed locally to raise money for McCallum Theatre, AIDS Assistance Program, and United Way in the wake of 9/11. Additionally, the Palm Springs resident’s Manilow Fund for Health and Hope benefits, among other nonprofits, Cathedral City High School Bands, Desert Paws, and Palm Springs Art Museum.

Photo credit: Courtesy Barry Manilow

Riff MarkowitzRiff Markowitz

The impresario of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies has written, produced, directed, and starred in one of the valley’s largest tourist draws — a show that has entertained nearly 3 million patrons in 16 years. With international exposure, the show with cast members 55 and older has not only preserved the Ziegfeld Follies form of musical theater, but also changed perceptions on aging. The master of ceremonies himself, by flinging political correctness to the wind in humorous form, dramatizes the absurdity of intolerance based on age, race, religion, sexuality, and gender.

Photo credit: Courtesy Riff Markowitz

Harold MatznerHarold Matzner

The owner of the Palm Springs Tennis Club landmark Spencer’s Restaurant and CEO of a New Jersey-based branding, advertising, and marketing company has made the desert his home for nearly 30 years. He exerts selfless leadership as chairman emeritus and vice chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, chairman of McCallum Theatre, and vice president on the board of trustees at Palm Springs Art Museum, Matzner takes greatest pride in his philanthropic efforts for Desert AIDS Project, Stroke Recovery Center, Temple Isaiah, and Animal Samaritans.

Photo credit: Courtesy Harold Matzner

Kevin McGuireKevin McGuire

The chairman and CEO of Palm Desert National Bank sets a high bar for local businesses through his focus on community involvement. He has served as president of the board of Shelter From the Storm and Catch the Dream Foundation and chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He serves on the boards of Eisenhower Medical Center and Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. With his leadership, the bank has supported many nonprofit organizations with pledges of money and time volunteered by bank employees.

Photo credit: Courtesy Kevin McGuire

Richard MilanovichRichard Milanovich

The chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has guided the tribe in local, statewide, and national political realms. As the tribe’s primary spokesman, he sets the tone for the particularly positive relationship between the city of Palm Springs and the Agua Caliente Band regarding development on tribal land. He oversees tribal business operations and preservation of the Native American culture. Additionally, he was instrumental in pushing for the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones.

Jerry Moe

The national director of children’s programs at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage is a sought-after author, lecturer, and trainer on issues concerning children from addicted families. His ability to communicate with children and help them cope and develop principled values has an immense impact on families from all walks of life.

Susan Murphy

The owner and president of Business Consultants Group Inc. helps professionals better understand how to enhance their effectiveness and overall performance. She has been very involved with Women Leaders Forum and has given motivational keynote speeches for the group’s annual Leadership Academy and Wall Street Teens. Her best-selling book In the Company of Women encourages the building of healthy, collaborative relationships.

Steven NashSteven Nash

In only months on the job, the executive director of Palm Springs Art Museum is forging a path that is destined to change the profile of the established cultural institution and introduce residents and visitors to cutting-edge art. Within his first month at the museum, he secured a Bill Viola video-sound installation, debuting this month. He also started an extensive renovation that will showcase the museum’s collection in a new light and enhance the experience of visitors to the museum’s Annenberg Theater.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Peter Nelson

The board president for the Coachella Valley Water District and Salton Sea Authority and board member of the California Farm Water Coalition manages the production of citrus, grapes, and dates in the Coachella Valley. He led negotiations for the six-state Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement and is now working to bring Colorado River water into Palm Desert to blend with reclaimed sewage water for golf courses and conserve the groundwater basin.

Mark NicholsMark Nichols

Metropolitan Home has called this interior designer a “hot emerging talent” — and for good reason. Since moving to the Coachella Valley in 2003, he has focused his talents on what he refers to as “contemporary refined.” In addition to his distinct visual aesthetic, he is a leader in the use of environmentally friendly materials. His current projects include new construction at Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs and Port Lawrence, a major residential/commercial project that is destined to change the makeup of downtown Palm Springs.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Mark Nickerson

The operating partner of Prime Time International — the country’s largest producer of colored peppers — is among the most farsighted of growers. He has been converting more of Prime Time’s pepper fields to greenhouses, using advanced technologies to create pristine environments that require a minimal amount of pesticides and water. He readily makes himself available to educate the general public on agricultural operations and serves as a good role model for his industry.

Dick OliphantDick Oliphant

Recognized as a leader in the construction industry, this developer has built low-income housing in Mecca, as well as tract and luxury houses, and commercial projects throughout the Coachella Valley. He developed the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and Classic Club; served as an Indian Wells planning commissioner, council member, vice mayor, and mayor; and is a founder of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also has been influential in raising money for the Palm Desert campus of CSU, San Bernardino.

Photo credit: Courtesy Dick Oliphant

Charlie PassarellCharlie Passarell

This former No. 1-ranked tennis player in the United States runs the Master Series tournament at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Since the early 1980s, his efforts have kept what is now known as the Pacific Life Open in the Coachella Valley, by developing venues from La Quinta Resort & Club to Hyatt Grand Champions to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and enlisting sponsors. As director, he has grown the tournament into a major event on the pro tennis circuit, enlisting title sponsorship. He recently helped recruit a new team of investors that includes tennis legends Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, and Pete Sampras.

Photo credit: Michael Baz

Narendra PatelNarendra Patel

The winner of 10 prestigious Gold Nugget awards and other honors has indelibly stamped his architectural aesthetic on the Coachella Valley. His houses and commercial buildings exhibit a distinct appreciation for natural geometrics, color, and the ecosystem. He is committed to sustainable, humanistic design, and stewardship of the environment. He has raised the bar for desert architecture, inspiring others to stretch their creative vision while keeping high standards at the forefront.

Photo credit: Courtesy Narendra Patel

J. Anthony Perez

The co-owner (with Edgardo Pozos) of El Destino Nightclub Cabaret & Bistro in Indio is hot to give gay Latinos a place to hang out, eat, take in a show, and dance. The senior associate at Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists is also proving that, yes, gay people are everywhere and that, by providing business leadership, he can harness the power of the gay community, which has long been associated with tourist-driven Palm Springs.

Tanya Petrovna

The co-founder and head chef of Native Foods has given the Coachella Valley a dining option that is generally easier to find in large metropolitan areas and college towns. By introducing creative dishes that adhere to an organic, vegan diet, she has changed people’s way of thinking about food. And by offering cooking classes, she has shown others how easy it is to create meals that are healthy for the body and the environment.

Robert PondRobert Pond

This former Naval aviator and a collector of classic cars and planes helped establish the Palm Springs Air Museum. Through his support and contacts in aviation, and through the generous loan of his own planes and cars, he helped create a tourist attraction and educational facility that comprises one of the world’s largest collections of flying World War II aircraft. Additionally, he has been a supporter and board member of local nonprofits.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

John Powell Jr.

The CEO of Peter Rabbit Farms and former board chairman of the Western Growers Association has been an advocate of protecting the safe and reliable delivery of food and protecting natural resources through water conservation, energy creation, and productive farm preservation. He also is a member of the California Steering Committee of Working Families for Wal-Mart. 

John RaymondJohn Raymond

Palm Springs’ director of community and economic development has championed projects as varied as affordable housing and luxury hotel development. He negotiates and structures redevelopment agency participation in all development agreements, is the architect of the city’s proposal to College of the Desert for a West Valley campus, and oversees the city’s block grant and public art programs.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Tracy RedmonTracy Redmon

This Palm Springs Unified School District teacher has helped students turn their lives around. In 2005, she developed a class for students not academically ready for ninth grade. This not only keeps them with a single teacher for all subjects, but it also includes a community service component. This year, the students raised funds for SafeHouse of the Desert and produced and performed a program for PSUSD eighth graders that discusses the problems teens face and making wise choices.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Greg and Stacey RenkerGreg and Stacey Renker

Both of them having experienced close calls, this philanthropic couple showed their appreciation for Eisenhower Medical Center’s life-saving treatments by funding two major projects at the hospital that have aided other patients: a wellness center for heart attack victims that incorporates prevention strategies as well as rehabilitation and a 24-suite patient pavilion. Additionally, they have been the presenting sponsor of the Rick Weiss Humanitarian Awards since its inception.

Photo Credit: Pat Krause

Denise RobergéDenise Robergé

This self-styled and sometimes controversial pioneer who helped define today’s El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert is the mastermind behind Robergé Plaza, home to her namesake art gallery, jewelry bar, and Augusta Restaurant. She has created a stunning niche of dramatic 22K gold jewelry for women and personally buys all the stones, ensuring the best shape, color, and clarity.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Doedee RoverDoedee Rover

The president of the board for Xavier College Preparatory High School turned her desire for a local Catholic high school and her skill for fundraising into an eight-year project that resulted in a $56 million school with 245,000 square feet in Palm Desert. Prior to that, she put together funding for Sacred Heart Preschool, which cares for 300 children a year and has a long waiting list because of its fine reputation.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Russ RussellRuss Russell

The vice president and regional director of Union Bank of California has served on the Desert AIDS Project board of directors for eight years, for the past two as president. His longstanding ties, understanding of the Coachella Valley, and collaborative style have built bridges that have joined together many sectors of the community in the fight against AIDS. For 20 years, he has volunteered with the American Cancer Society and served as a member of the Desert Palm Leadership Council.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Cathy SerifCathy Serif

The nutritionist and personal fitness coach founded Fitness in Balance and created the Balanced Training Boot Camp Experience, a four-week outdoor conditioning program that emphasizes safety, progression, effectiveness, and professionalism in parks throughout the Coachella Valley. Participants commit to traditional calisthenics; cardiovascular, strength, and agility training; conditioning; yoga; and nutrition. She specializes in women’s fitness and has written extensively on the topic.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Dick ShaloubDick Shaloub

The owner of 19 McDonald’s restaurants in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere in Riverside and San Bernardino counties shares his business and finance expertise with the boards of Canyon National Bank, Agua Caliente Development Authority, the City of Palm Springs Budget Committee, Palm Springs and Palm Desert chambers of commerce, Cathedral City’s Downtown Redevelopment Task Force, and numerous charities. Two governors (George Dukemajian and Pete Wilson) appointed him to the Joint Powers Authority that manages Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Photo credit: Elena Ray

Barbara SinatraBarbara Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s widow has maintained the same cool, party-filled tone of the Frank Sinatra Countrywide Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament (marking its 20th year in 2008) since her husband’s death in 1998. The tournament’s events include a fashion luncheon and open house at the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, the tournament’s beneficiary. The nonprofit center in Rancho Mirage provides therapy for young victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

Sue StedingSue Steding

The Indio-based Riverside County chief assistant district attorney and co-author of West’s California Criminal Trial Book has worked in the D.A.’s office since 1976 and was on its first team of career criminal prosecutors. She also won a grant to fund a child abuse prosecution unit and handled nearly 100 trials to verdict, including a death penalty case. She is active in a variety of charities and professional organizations.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Susan SteinSusan Stein

The fashion editor of Palm Springs Life and regional director of Fashion Group International brings her knowledge of fashion to the pages of Palm Springs Life, introducing the Coachella Valley to the latest trends in clothing and accessories. She teaches at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where some of her students are among those awarded FGI scholarships. She also directs Fashion Week El Paseo, a multivenue celebration of fashion and beauty that attracts world-renowned designers, includes educational seminars, and benefits charities.

Photo credit: J. Fredric May

Ric and Rozene SuppleRic and Rozene Supple

The owners of R&R Broadcasting and Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs have expanded opportunities for local residents to explore different perspectives. With 40 years in broadcasting, they operate five radio stations that present both conservative and liberal talk radio programs, as well as new music and oldies. They were the first in the valley to offer an alternative to mainstream movies at Camelot and are about to embark on a theater expansion and development of a cultural center that will include a venue for plays, music, dance, movies, food, and special events.

Photo credit: Sherri Breyer-Mardones

/Palm-Springs-Life/October-2007/The-Influencers/Trina TurkTrina Turk

Capturing the vibe of swinging Palm Springs like no other fashion designer, Turk’s unapologetic, brilliantly colored retro designs were sold by Barney’s New York, Fred Segal, and Saks Fifth Avenue within a year of launching her label in 1995. Today, the woman who as a teenager made a dress from a bed sheet has namesake boutiques on North Palm Canyon Drive and in Los Angeles and New York. She also appeared on The Apprentice as emcee at a Santa Monica Beach fashion show for a group of swimwear buyers where two teams designed and competed for the win.

Photo credit: Courtesy Trina Turk

Ernie Vossler

Golf community development in the Coachella Valley can be traced to this board chairman and principal of Landmark Golf Co., who has been developing golf properties in the desert since the 1970s. Nurturing ties with the PGA and courting prestigious tournaments, he has brought international attention to properties such as La Quinta Resort & Club, Mission Hills, and PGA West. Among his current projects is La Quinta’s SilverRock Resort.

Phyllis Washington

The owner of Maison Felice in Palm Desert raises cultural awareness with a series of educational lectures that attract between 150 and 200 people to her El Paseo store. She brings to the local market luminaries in the worlds of design, literature, furnishings, art, academics, and fashion. Meanwhile, her store displays handpicked European antiques in room settings that feel more like a house than a showroom.

Dr. Robert Waterbor

Consistently selected among the Top Doctors appearing annually in July in Palm Springs Life, the Eisenhower Medical Center chief of staff moved to the desert in the 1970s and opened a private practice on campus in 1986. He has served as secretary/treasurer, section chief of internal medicine, and president-elect of the hospital. The Harvard College physics graduate who earned his Ph.D. and M.D. degrees at Duke University has been a stalwart leader at the private hospital in Rancho Mirage.

Ellen Sanders Way

The owner of Sanders Way Ranch and a junior partner of Prime Time International in Coachella tirelessly promotes agriculture on local and statewide levels. Formerly state president of California Women for Agriculture and former advisor to State Assemblyman Jim Battin, she was appointed in 2004 by Gov. Schwarzenegger to the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board, where her knowledge of Coachella Valley agriculture helps guide policy decisions.

Max WeilMax Weil

The head of the Weil Institute of Critical Care Medicine has brought innovative, life-saving techniques to the forefront of the international medical community. The physician has led research for improved devices for rapid diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of intensive care patients; and his reputation attracts internationally renowned experts to share their knowledge, as well as young researchers to the institute’s fellowship program. Thousands have received CPR training at the institute and in public venues such as schools and senior centers.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

John WessmanJohn Wessman

Though he has often been criticized for his delay in renovating Palm Springs’ Desert Fashion Plaza, this prominent developer has enjoyed extraordinary success in both commercial and residential buildings. His projects include many of the valley’s notable structures, and his latest plans for replacing the Desert Fashion Plaza with a mixed-use development hold potential for far-reaching impact that extends beyond downtown Palm Springs.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

Terry WilcoxTerry Wilcox

The tournament director for the Kraft Nabisco Championship oversees the first major tournament of the year on the LPGA Tour. Now heading into its 37th appearance on the Dinah Shoe Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, the tournament draws more than 100 of the best women golfers, attracts national media, and benefits numerous local charities.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

John WohlmuthJohn Wohlmuth

The executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments plays a vital role in issues of regional significance, including environment, transportation, and planning for population growth. In particular, he has been working on shaping the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan developing a multiservice center for the homeless, and air-quality control. He also serves on the advisory board of the Blakeley Center for Sustainable Suburban Development and State of California Salton Sea Advisory Committee.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

Robin ZimpferRobin Zimpfer

The assistant county executive officer for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency has wielded her influence in the desert by boosting Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival sponsorships by 30 percent. She also serves on the board of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. In addition to bringing jobs and expanded cultural amenities to the area, she has raised more than $100,000 for breast cancer research and awareness.

Photo credit: Taylor Sherrill

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