Editorial Staff

Managing Editor, Clara Beard <[email protected]>

Clara Beard joined the Independent in August 2022. For more than a decade she has worked in print and online media specializing in sports journalism. She has covered cycling competitions such as the Tour de France, Olympics and world championships.

From 2010 to 2015, Beard served as associate editor of Williams-Grand Canyon News in Williams, Ariz. where she covered the Grand Canyon area’s local government, school and human interest stories.

Beard’s writing has also appeared in Cyclingnews, Cycling Weekly Velonews, Bicycling Magazine, Curve Magazine and HiHeyHello Magazine.

Sports Editor, Frank Aronoff <[email protected]>

An eighth-generation native Californian, Frank was raised in Menlo Park and moved in 1988 to Laguna, his wife’s hometown. He worked in college athletics for over 15 years and for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Locally, he got involved with Laguna Beach High School athletics after the 1993 fire to help reconstruct the athletic records lost in the tragedy. At the same time, the local papers needed help covering the various high school athletic teams and Frank filled the void providing writeups initially for the Coastline and then the Independent.

Frank works as a licensed health insurance agent and licensed mortgage broker when he’s not covering Laguna’s teams.


Editor’s Note: Columnists volunteer to write weekly opinion pieces for The Laguna Beach Independent. They are not employees or independent contractors for Firebrand Media LLC.

Jean grew up in New York City before moving to Orange County, where she has worked as an award-winning freelance writer. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. She graduated from the University of California at Irvine with honors in English.
She is the author of “Breaking into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime” and the co-author with Ila Jane Borders, “Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey,” currently under a film option. For the past 10 years, Jean has taught a memoir workshop for the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.

Ann Christoph <[email protected]>

Ann’s landscape architectural practice combines pro bono community environmental advocacy and design for institutions, public agencies and residences.

Public service—Laguna Beach planning commissioner, councilmember and mayor. Board member of Village Laguna and South Laguna Civic Association.

Writer—Sunset, American Bungalow, and Fine Homebuilding magazines.

Instructor—UC Irvine and Saddleback College.

Awards—Huntington Botanic Garden Shakespeare Garden, Scripps College Sicilian Court, San Clemente Trail, South Laguna Village Green, Glenneyre Street parking garage, South Laguna Community Garden Park, Harry Lawrence Award of Excellence

Parks, beautification—Bluebird Park, Alta Laguna Park, South Laguna Streetscape

Woman of the Year, 2005, Laguna Beach Woman’s Club

Billy Fried <[email protected]>

Billy moved to Laguna Beach in 1999, and soon after launched La Vida Laguna, an eco-adventure company that offers human powered activities in our blue belt, green belt, and neighborhoods. He is an environmental activist who sits on the Board of Transition Laguna. Besides writing a column for the Indy, Billy also hosts a radio show and podcast called “Do Good Works” on KXFM radio.

Skip Hellewell <[email protected]>

Robert “Skip” Hellewell is the 54-year husband of Clare (a.k.a. “the Beautiful Wife”), father of six grown children, and a grandfather. His formal education includes a bachelor of mechanical engineering science, an MBA, and a certificate in biomedical engineering. He worked as an engineer and executive in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. Hellewell edited his college’s engineering magazine and authored several books, including Loving Laguna, A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. He writes the Laguna Beach Independent column “Finding Meaning,” covering topics that make life meaningful but tend to be overlooked, including faith, family, and lessons from Laguna’s past.  

Tom Osborne <[email protected]>

Tom is a retired history professor. He’s writing his fifth book, a history of California’s environmental leadership. His textbook, “Pacific Eldorado: A History of Greater California”, has been adopted for classes at UC Berkeley and numerous other colleges and universities.  He has given invited book talks at UC Berkeley and Stanford. In 2009 he received Laguna Beach’s Environmental Award for chairing the City’s work group that wrote Laguna’s official Climate Protection Action Plan. With his wife, Ginger, he co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Tom earned his history Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate School.

Michael Ray <[email protected]>

Michael grew up in Corona del Mar. He lived and worked in Los Angeles during undergrad and graduate school. He also lived and worked in New York City, Guam, Tokyo. Michael founded or co-founded: Democratic Foundation of Orange County; Discovery Cube; Orange County School of the Arts; Sage Hill School; Irvine Great Park Conservancy (helped stopped the conversion of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro into an international airport); PBS SoCal as an independent station; raised or financed over $100 million for those causes. Economic blogger; Special Guest, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission regarding 2008 meltdown. Business commentator: K-News (Anaheim). President, Sanderson-J. Ray Corp. Paid writer: Coast Magazine; Village Voice Press. Professional “boomer” model.

Susan Velasquez <[email protected]>

Susan is a 36-year Laguna Beach resident. She has been writing and producing personal development seminars for over three decades with over 45,000 hours of group facilitating experience. She has served as executive director of Leadership Dynamics Inc. and Lifespring Inc. as a Basic and Advanced Trainer. Additionally, she spent six years as the Executive Vice President of Verbal Advantage Educational Programs marketed through radio and television.

She currently presents six-week seminars on how to Unleash the Power of Your Intuition. She is a consultant to experienced coaches and business executives who want to strengthen their ability to access their intuition. Her book “Beyond Intellect: Journey into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind” is used as a resource to enhance mental and emotional clarity.

David Weinstein <[email protected]>

David grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and attended the University of Colorado, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. He worked as a commercial real estate broker for over 40 years before retiring.

Growing up he was drawn to folks who could tell a good story, and thinking it was time to share a few of his own, took classes in creative nonfiction writing. His work has appeared in California Fly Fisher, VanLife Diaries, and, of course, his annual holiday letter.

He lives in Newport Beach with his wife Ann and has two daughters and four grandsons.