There’s a longer story here — and I’ll relate it some day — about Byron’s first run for City Council and Competitive Edge’s role in it. For now I’ll leave it at “it was CERC’s very first project, we were hired by the other side (the Kay Davis campaign) and we learned very valuable lessons.” Despite his defeat in that race at the hands of another friend-of-CERC Ron Roberts, Byron eventually persevered to become San Diego’s 2nd District City Councilman. He served two terms which included two years as Deputy Mayor. Byron remains active in community affairs and he’s pushing to revitalize San Diego’s Midway District.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a brain surgeon when I was in Junior High.
What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?
Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.
My lucky break was scoring #1 in the San Diego Civil Service test at age 23 and becoming a Lifeguard Lieutenant. That led to my role as the first Executive Director of the U.S. Lifesaving Association and traveling the beaches of our nation for four years.
Who should play you in your biopic?
Jeff Bridges would do a great job playing me. We are obviously identical twins.
How did you first get involved in politics?
I started my political career in San Diego after personally shaking the hand of Barry Goldwater in 1964 at Westgate Park where Fashion Valley sits today. Growing up as the son of a Naval Officer from Nebraska meant my parents voted absentee by mail and I saw both parents mark their ballots.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?
That would be the late PR guru Dave Nuffer, who I had known since age 12. He always maintained a good sense of humor and was a valued friend. Dave was always up for adventure. When I was 12 and visiting Ensenada with the Nuffers, he gave me confidence to eat my first street taco. Having run with bulls in Spain, Dave led me to make courageous decisions in public policy. And he was blunt and honest when I had fallen short of my potential or run aground.
If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?
President Ronald Reagan and I would talk about his seven years of stories as a lifeguard on the Rock River in Dixon, Illinois, where he rescued 77 lives.
Which American from history do you identify with most and why?
As an Eagle Scout, I identify with Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy and I would talk about his vision for Yellowstone and our national parks. I would ask him how he snuck away from a formal Black-tie dinner at Yellowstone to go camping with his new friend John Muir and what type of cobbler was cooked in the Dutch oven.
Which legislative achievements are you proudest of?
Leading the effort for Downtown’s Petco Park and the billion dollar-plus redevelopment efforts that came with it. Those included the Convention Center, restoration of the historic Balboa Theatre and taking early land-use steps for the arrival of the USS Midway and North Embarcadero esplanade. A close second was overseeing the master plan of Liberty Station (Formerly Naval Training Center) and surviving a recall effort that failed due to an insufficient number of signatures.
You’re still working on local issues that matter. Tell us about those issues and what drives you?
I continue my efforts to support the construction of joint-use swimming pools at Liberty Station and at Pacific Beach Middle School/Beach and Bay YMCA. I jump off the OB Pier with the Junior Lifeguards to support the Prevent Drowning Foundation by teaching more kids to swim. I also stay active in land-use policy and I’m working to fight racism and hate through Continuing the Conversation (CTC).
What is your favorite moment from sports?
The US Olympic victory in hockey over the Soviet Union in 1980 [ed. referred to as the “Miracle on Ice.”] was the start of a series of events that led to the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union.
What three things are must-haves in your fridge at all times?
Oikos Greek Triple Zero Yogurt (15 grams of protein and low sugar), Zero Water (multiple favors), and sugar-free popsicles.
Favorite cuisine and where do you get it?
Mexican, especially my wife Bridget’s recipe for tamales, enchiladas, beans and rice.
Tell us about your artistic talent(s).
I’m a frustrated architect. Every time a City of San Diego capital project idea came forward, I sketched out plans for the Pt. Loma Library, the NTC Waterfront Park and Aquatic Complex, and the Fiesta Island Youth Campground containing over 200 native Torrey Pines and Coastal Oaks. I always signed my sketches and gave them city staff.
What advice do you have for young people starting out?
Develop a life plan and go for it. Concentrate on your God-given strengths and perfect them. Recover from the trials and tribulations. Be loving to family and friends. Learn from your mistakes and get back up on your feet. Be forgiving, keeping moving and be happy until you are called home. In the meantime, grow a garden!
Name the living person you admire most and what makes them admirable?
My wife of 32 years, Bridget Cantu. She is passionate about what she believes in and takes action to change the world.
What item would you like to buy if it went up for auction and you had the money to afford it?
My dad survived the sinking of two aircraft carriers in WWII. If I was at an auction, I would buy back a fully restored 1959 red TR3A that my father started working on in the 70s. I would buy a personal license… CDR WEAR.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
I will be continuing my volunteer efforts to build aquatic facilities, more YMCAs, and a state-of-the-art San Diego Junior Lifeguard and Aquatic Safety Center in Mission Bay.