Just-retired Chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County Tony Krvaric sits down for this installment of the Edgy Interview. I’ve been after my friend and regular reader of The Edge for a couple years now and finally cajoled him into taking part. Tony mused to me about how cool it is to read about the “other side” of people who we all assume we know because we’ve seen them in professional settings. Now it’s his turn and I think you’ll agree Tony doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a revealing look at what made him a fixture in San Diego Republican politics for so long and what makes him tick now.
Which American from history do you identify with most and why?
Ah, so we’re starting with an easy one? Without a doubt President Ronald Reagan. Even though he was almost 60 (!) years older than me, I felt a connection with him growing up in Sweden. I was a teenager living under the constant threat of the Soviet Union “next door” when he was the U.S. president. His unflinching commitment to freedom for all people and calling the Soviets and their “evil empire” out inspired me and millions of others across Europe. I fell in love with America, vowing to move there one day and become an American myself. Without Ronald Reagan, my life would be different. Along with my father, President Reagan was the most important man in my life.
Do you think America’s best days are behind her or ahead of her and why?
I’m an eternal optimist. The thirst for freedom from tyranny will prevail though it may seem dark at times. President Reagan spoke of that “Shining City on a Hill” that is America, a beacon for hope and freedom for all in a troubled world. I truly believe America is ordained by God to be that beacon and thus we have a special responsibility. It will not be easy. Great things never are. But yes, the best is yet to come, God willing.
Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.
So true. After I’d decided to become a financial professional, I did the rounds at all the major firms but they wouldn’t hire me into their training program. I never went to college so I didn’t have a college degree. I had always been self-employed, so it was never an issue with education and here these people just dismissed me out of hand for not having a piece of paper. I had plenty of drive, but “nope.” Eventually I came upon an A.G. Edwards & Sons office in Rancho Bernardo. I asked to speak to the manager and waited patiently in the lobby. Eventually I got in to see him and told him my story and he said “Tony, I believe in you. To get here from Sweden you’ve worked hard, and your story is inspiring. If you want the job, I’ll hire you.” That man’s name was Richard (Dick) Haughey. He’s since passed. He was a kind and generous man. Gave me a break. I will never forget it. I’m tearing up just writing this.
On a separate note, that day I found out I got the job was the day my wife and found out we were pregnant with our first child. Can’t make it up. Chills.
How did you first get involved in local politics?
I remember it like it was yesterday. At my naturalization ceremony when I was sworn in as an American citizen I was approached by a volunteer from a Republican Women Federated club by the name of Trinie Bowling. She was the most prolific voter registration volunteer. She registered me to vote and invited me to come to the local Republican Party meetings and soon I started volunteering myself. Before long I was helping raise money and serving as Finance Chairman (I ask people all day long to hand over their life savings for me to manage so asking for money comes natural to me). About four years later those rascal committee members sentenced me to Chairman and I served seven consecutive two-year terms. The rest, as they say, is history.
Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why?
One album sticks in my mind as one that came out during my formative years and is my all-time favorite: No Parlez by Paul Young. It came out in 1983. I was twelve years old. To this day I know the exact order of the tunes and all the words. The original CD is in my dusty old collection, but it’s also the most played album in my Spotify account. Oh, the memories. Side note: Combined with having just turned 50, this reminiscing is proof positive of a midlife cri… err… “moment.”
What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what do you listen to now?
The Paul Young album and my frequent visits to the SiriusXM 80’s station notwithstanding I absolutely love all types of techno music. I grew up with it and enjoy it to this day. The artists are too many to mention, but I will give a special nod to Swedish artists Swedish House Mafia (since disbanded) and Avicii (passed away far too early). We’ve come a long way since ABBA in Sweden. Oh, and if anyone tells you they’ve heard me belting out “Dancing Queen” or “Money, Money, Money” by ABBA they’re lying. Just evil rumors spread by my enemies. All dastardly lies!
Tell us about your artistic talent(s).
Umm… None. I do have a sincere interest in other people and am the consummate networker though. I thrive on making connections to make amazing things happen. If you’ve ever entered my “web” you will know that I take pride in staying in touch and make note of even the smallest details about you. Interestingly, I’m actually a relatively private person, believe it or not. OK, I’ve drifted waaay off the original question. <senior moment>
Favorite cuisine and where do you get it?
Anything spicy. Mrs. Krvaric just looks at me and shakes her head. Mexican food. Thai food. Sushi with lots of wasabi, etc. Whenever I order food at some type of ethnic restaurant and I tell them I want it spicy I have to explain to them, “Not white man spicy. I want it authentic spicy.” I’ve seen chefs and wait staff peer out at me, waiting for the collapse but I just munch away and then thank them, saying “Not bad. It was OK spicy.”
What is your favorite moment from sports?
Another no-brainer. The ice hockey USA win over the commie Soviets at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The ultimate underdogs. It was a microcosm of the cold war that was being fought at that time. And less than ten years later the Berlin Wall fell and the evil Soviet “empire” crumbled under its own corrupt weight. Good riddance. Communism was never to rear its ugly head again. Or so we thought at the time.
Which reality TV show would you most like to compete on and why?
Come on John, you know this one. The Amazing Race for sure. We’re both big fans of the show and text each other like little girls during each season. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to reveal that? Anyway, kidding aside, I enjoy seeing the different places around the world and the curveballs that are thrown to contestants. I find myself yelling at the TV “READ THE ENTIRE CLUE YOU DUNDERHEADS!” Sigh. So many mistakes could be avoided if they just READ THE WHOLE CLUE CAREFULLY.
What is your favorite movie?
TWO movies: Wargames and Red Dawn. Wargames because it ignited the computer nerd (discussion for another time) in me and Red Dawn because it solidified my opposition to communism. Red Dawn came out in 1984 at the height of the Cold War. My parents fled communism in the former Yugoslavia, and I was fed a steady diet of anti-communism, hearing tales of how horrible it was. I’m sure that’s not unlike growing up in a Chinese, Vietnamese or Cuban family. We know the evils of that ideology. I have a visceral reaction any time freedom is infringed. I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about politics.
The Republican Party of San Diego County is regarded as the best in the state. What’s the secret?
The secret is zero tolerance for internal squabbling, passing resolutions, attacking fellow Republicans, lamenting over things outside of our control, and endlessly debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. We pair that with a strict focus on things that ARE within our control, i.e. fielding and training candidates, recruiting volunteers, putting out our own news, having fun events that appeal beyond just activists, registering and identifying voters, putting out a constructive agenda, and raising money towards a positive vision. At our last committee event (we don’t call them “meetings” — who wants to go to a meeting?) our featured speaker was superstar Candace Owens and we had almost 1,000 attendees! It was fun, fast-paced, and exciting for all. Well, not for cranky people who didn’t get to debate who should be tossed out of our Party next or endlessly debate bylaws. The 99.99% of the rest of us had a blast.
Being an effective Chairman further requires balancing the needs and desires of many constituencies; volunteers, activists, business leaders, candidates, and elected officials, all of whom think they and their needs should be the priority over all others. It requires having thick skin and an unshakable belief in the mission. Phew, it makes me tired just listing all that. After 14 years of that it’s no wonder I’m bald today.
What’s next for Tony Krvaric in the political world?
After 14 years of serving as volunteer chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego it was time to step aside. I stepped down in January (of 2021) and turned 50 in February. It is time for a new chapter in my life. Many people I’ve met over the years thought I was staff at the Party. I had to constantly remind folks that I am a small businessowner and the Chairman is a volunteer — to the point where I started putting “volunteer” in parenthesis behind my name in Party communications. I learned a LOT during my tenure about how politics works — for better or worse — and have built an incredibly large Rolodex of relationships. Going forward I will utilize what I’ve learned and my relationships in politics on the national stage, which actually started in 2020 with my raising a LOT of money for President Trump. In 2022 I’ll be focused on flipping the House and Senate to Republican control. In 2024 we take back America from the commies, who I thought we’d defeated in the 80’s but here we are again.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Not sure. I always looked up to my dad who came from nothing, immigrated to Sweden not knowing the language, and eventually built a mid-size, successful company. So being an entrepreneur was always a dream of mine. And coming to America of course. Put a checkmark by both of those.
What item would you like to buy if it went up for auction and you had the money to afford it?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a hopeless romantic. Part of that is a dream that I’d purchase our family home back in Sweden one day and keep it in a family trust for generations to have a place to stay and visit in the “old country.” Compared to our housing prices here in San Diego it won’t take a lot of money so it may very well happen. Keeping in touch with my Swedish and Croatian roots is important.
What would you change about yourself?
I’m too much of a perfectionist and I don’t delegate well. Both hold me back more than I’d like. Everyone who has ever worked for me — in politics or business — can vouch for that. “If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well,” is something I say often and live by, sometimes to a fault, as I tinker with things for too long. I would like to change that about me but at the same time it’s served me well and I’m very pleased with where I am in life. Still, to grow I will need to embrace a little more “Version One is better than version None,” and get better at delegating. I’m working on it. The first part is to admit it, right?
Any final words?
[Trigger Warning] America is the greatest country in the world, period. Not perfect. Nobody is claiming that. If one follows a few basic rules anyone can “make it” here: finish school, don’t do drugs, don’t get or make anyone pregnant before marriage, get married, stay married, tell your spouse you love them every day, do your job with pride, belong to a mainstream religion, pass your values on to your kids, believe in something greater than yourself, seek delayed gratification, listen to your elders, never forget your roots, cherish your family, don’t see yourself as a victim, push through the hardships, don’t be bitter, don’t be angry, be kind to others, humble yourself, give to charity, pray daily, and be grateful for what you have. That’s it. Yes, simple in concept but difficult in practice. When you fall short, don’t beat yourself up. Get up and go again.