Local radio station ushers in new leadership

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KXFM announced Thursday that Billy Fried, Cindy Obrand and Jonathan Tufano, well-known Laguna residents and long-time program hosts, have been appointed to the radio station’s board of directors. 

Billy Fried, Cindy Obrand and Jonathan Tufano, well-known Laguna residents and long-time program hosts, have been appointed to the radio station’s board of directors, replacing station founder Tyler Russell McCusker and Chapman University Dean Jerry Price, also an original member. Clara Beard/LB Indy

The trio will replace station founder Tyler Russell McCusker and Chapman University Dean Jerry Price, also an original member.

Fried, Obrand and Tufano will begin their leadership roles at the not-for-profit radio station, which Billy Fried will now chair, effective May 1. 

KXFM was founded in 2012 by then 22-year-old Tyler Russell (McCusker), a 2011 Chapman multimedia graduate and Palm Springs-based radio personality. Tyler and the McCusker family took over a dormant radio signal in Laguna Niguel, moved the FM to Laguna Beach, and introduced an eclectic format known as generational alt-rock that is still broadcasting today. 

Originally staffed by professionals during the day and community volunteers at night and on weekends, the station has become a Laguna Beach icon, with more than 60 volunteers now representing all styles of music and talk, with a charter to serve the city of Laguna Beach with local news, sports, weather, culture, entertainment, public affairs, and an array of unique personalities, programming and music. 

McCusker recently moved to Tucson to be closer to family and took a position teaching multimedia journalism at the University of Arizona. He attempted to lead the radio station simultaneously but said he found it too challenging. 

“Laguna Radio is about and for Laguna Beach,” McCusker said as he announced his retirement from the station. “It was best when we were all local, living the radio dream, promoting concerts, introducing new music and personalities. I am so happy that Billy, Cindy and Jonathan will take over the operations effective May 1. It’s a team I’m sure can continue the legacy of Laguna community radio.”

Fried is a local entrepreneur and personality who has hosted his own talk show, “Laguna Talks,” on the station for 10 years. He also writes a regular opinion column for the Laguna Beach Independent. He founded the local outdoor adventure company La Vida Laguna in 2002 and continues to operate it today with his partner Doug Oyen.   

“I am thrilled and honored to help this little gem and it’s incredible roster of talented hosts enter its next chapter as a vital hub for community,” Fried said. “Radio is a magical medium when done right, and I believe Laguna enjoys a unique and special privilege to have its own station. I’m grateful for the vision and work Tyler and his family put in to get us here, and I can’t wait to see what we can do for the next 12 years. 

Since the station began, Obrand has hosted “Radio Neighboring” as her alter ego “Ida Mae” on Saturday mornings. She previously worked in radio at KOKO, an iconic Telluride, Colo. community-based station founded in 1975 and still broadcasting today. 

“Radio has a special place in my head and my heart, because when it’s good, it’s really good, “Obrand said. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get to work to make KXFM the best community radio it can be.”

Tufano will come aboard to help the station with operations. He has hosted “Deep Cuts” since the station’s inception, spinning only vinyl from his prodigious record collection. 

“Radio has always been my passion,” said Tufano, who cut his DJ teeth as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. “It’s an absolute honor to help this station reach its full potential and see where we can take this little gem and make it even more vital to the community and perhaps even the planet. That’s the power of the medium.”

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