This longtime Lagunan, named Citizen of the Year for the upcoming Patriot’s Day Parade, talks about finding her place in town through volunteerism.
By Ashley Ryan
A self-proclaimed valley girl—before the term became popular—Karyn Philippsen grew up in the San Fernando Valley, cruising Van Nuys Boulevard. It wasn’t until 1979 that she came to Laguna Beach and fell in love with this beachside community.
Philippsen and her husband were looking for a home and found an old cottage with potential here in town. She had always wanted to build her own house and had boxes full of magazine photos she collected as inspiration. They gutted the cottage, leaving only one wall, and rebuilt it from the ground up. Their home, she proudly shares, was even included in the 1985 Charm House Tour.
Since then, Philippsen has become part of the fabric of the community. She runs a business, K.P. Consulting, specializing in community relations, marketing and customer service for the luxury hospitality industry. She also worked as chef concierge as part of the opening team for The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, and was later on the pre-opening team for Montage Laguna Beach as director of international sales.
Notably, she was founding chairman of the Visit Laguna Beach board and still serves as secretary. She is president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library board, serves on the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association board and was recently appointed as the community relations liaison of Laguna Playhouse. This position, she says, will “focus on reminding people to return to their theater, support … [this] treasured gem” after perhaps getting out of the habit during the pandemic.
In honor of her many local contributions, Philippsen has been named Citizen of the Year for the 57th annual Patriot’s Day Parade, which is planned March 2.
“I am still in shock,” Philippsen says. “It has been so humbling. I just do … what I do, not for the recognition, [but] it just needed to be done. … Those named Citizen of the Year that came before me are all people I respect and admire. … It is an honor to be recognized as part of this legacy of commitment.”
Philippsen volunteers with organizations that are meaningful to her, like the library. “Technology is changing so many things, but quiet contemplation using your imagination cannot be substituted,” she says. “Reading or being read to is a soothing experience that captures many thoughts that can then be shared. … The library needs protection so it will always be there for everyone.”
In addition to community work, Philippsen spends any spare time she can with her son, Christopher, and granddaughter, Sadie Mae.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about living in Laguna?
Karyn Philippsen: Everything. We are so lucky in Laguna Beach. [We have] a small residential population. We honor our seniors with the best community benefits and the amazing Susi Q [senior center]. We have our own playhouse, … our own museum, … our own art college, … world-famous festivals, … ideal weather and the best beach. … I have traveled all over the world and I love all the places I visited, but there is no place like home—in Laguna Beach.
Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
KP: Service and giving is how I interpret my life. I am here on this earth to help make a difference—hopefully in a good way—and have fun with fun people. And Laguna is full of fun people. And [I aim] to set a personal example for others. … We are all changemakers, or should be.
Any favorite restaurants in town?
KP: It is difficult to apply the word “favorite.” … I suppose a regular restaurant habit is sitting at the Lumberyard and requiring friends to share my special-requested “crispy” french fries. … I eat most of them, but sharing makes me feel like I am watching my waistline.
Do you have any hobbies?
KP: Watching movies—old movies, especially black-and-white movies—is a favorite pastime. … I also love hitting the convertible button in my car and driving with the wind in my hair. … My favorite quickie drive is PCH north to Trader Joe’s for dark chocolate almonds—a true treat.