Columnists to add pizzazz to The Union |

Columnists to add pizzazz to The Union

Richard Somerville, Editor
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Last week we introduced you to new members of our news staff at The Union. Today we’ll tell you about four new columnists from our community who will contribute their views and expertise on a regular basis.

Even regular readers may not realize that many of the people who write regularly for us are not full-time employees of The Union, but are what we call “free-lance” writers or columnists. That’s because, especially at small newspapers, we do not have a writer with a special expertise on our staff nor the budget of a full-sized newspaper with a circulation of hundreds of thousands.

However, we are blessed to have very knowledgeable and talented people living in Nevada County whom we are able to tap into for providing specialty coverage that we know our readers want.

There are our neighborhood columnists – Vivian Herron in Washington, Laura Lavelle at Lake of the Pines, Shirl Mendonca at Lake Wildwood and Mike Drummond at the Clear Creek Ranch. And what would we do without Dick Tracy to write about gardening, or his wife Felicia about horses?

Historians Bob Wyckoff, Brad Prowse and Gary Noy connect us with our past, while scientist Alan Stahler helps us look into the future. Carol Carson and Suzie Daggett keep us in touch with health and fitness, and many traveling readers help us see the world through their stories.

And don’t forget our expert sports columnists, fisherman Denis Peirce and runner Steve Bond.

Four new columnists either have started writing for The Union or will begin soon. Here is a little about each of them:

You may have noticed the byline of K. Ryan Hodgkin (you can call her Ryan) on The Union’s Outdoors page last Thursday, writing about sailing at Scotts Flat Lake. She ended up in Nevada County after working in the advertising business in the Bay Area because the lure of the high country was too much for her. We found her working at a local outdoors shop, eager to tell our readers about what she calls this “magical four-season playground.”

“I’ve taught kids to sail, directed outdoor leadership programs, led backpacking trips, and written travel essays,” Ryan said. “When I moved to Nevada County, I considered myself a semi-serious mountain biker, backpacker and cross-country skier. Now, thanks to my friends and neighbors, I have found bird-watching, fly-fishing, geo-caching, snowshoeing, road cycling and wakeboarding.

“Every day I meet someone who’s off to try something fun outside,” Ryan said. “And I always want to go with them.”

Now you’ll be able to go along, too. Just watch The Union’s Outdoors page for her latest adventure. For now, Ryan can be reached via Readership Editor Dixie Redfearn’s e-mail,

Ronnie Paul has been giving us a local column for our Food page one Wednesday a month, and we’ve been looking for somebody who can fill the other weeks for stories about area cooks and recipes. We’ve found her in Jo Names.

Jo, whose first column will appear July 21, retired from law enforcement in San Jose and decided to make a dramatic change in careers. She attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, graduating as a certified pastry chef.

She has worked in restaurants, owned a catering company, and taught culinary arts both at the California Culinary Academy and a chain of cooking stores. Since retiring to Grass Valley, she has been cooking for friends and is looking forward to being back in the “food arena” in a more active way. Jo’s e-mail is

The Union was sorry to lose its longtime wine columnist, Norman Gates, who died recently. Wine and interest in wine is growing rapidly in Nevada County (witness the recent opening of two tasting rooms in downtown Grass Valley), so we are lucky that Rod Byers has agreed to share his broad knowledge.

Rod is director of sales and marketing at Nevada City Winery, where he has worked since 1983. He is a longstanding member of The Society of Wine Educators and currently teaches wine appreciation courses at Sierra College at both the Rocklin and Nevada County campuses.

He is a California state-certified wine judge and has been an active judge at the California State Fair since 1987. Rod has been a home winemaker since 1976 and has organized the Nevada County Fair home winemakers competition since the early 1980s.

His first wine-related job was picking grapes in Europe as a teenager, and he has been actively involved with the California wine industry since 1975. He will start by writing one column a month, but we hope he’ll enjoy it so much that he’ll want to do more. Rod plans to cover not only the increasingly respected wines of Nevada County, but California and beyond, as well as winery trips and other topics.

Rod can be reached at

Gina Gippner’s “Just Mom” column will debut next Tuesday and will alternate with Mike Drummond’s column every other week. Gina is “Just Mom” to her three children. Her son is now a Marine serving in Iraq, and her two daughters live with her near Penn Valley.

She raises hogs with her family and has run numerous businesses from her home, in addition to running a not-for-profit called The Coming Home Foundation and being active in the community. She’ll be sharing the myriad of experiences that being a mom in Nevada County entails. Her e-mail is

Each of these writers brings something special to The Union. We hope you enjoy them, and let them hear from you.

Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturday.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User