Jack McGrory

Edgy Interview: Jack McGrory

Jack McGrory is one of those San Diego public servants who, as they say, knows where all the bodies are buried. Heck, Jack may have buried them! Seriously, Jack was San Diego’s City Manager at a time – 1991 to 1997 — when the Mayor was weak and the public administrators wielded a lot of power. He helped bring Super Bowls XXII and XXXII to San Diego, helped make Petco Park a reality and more recently had a leading role in bringing San Diego State University’s new western campus to fruition.

Tell us about the point in your life when you realized your calling was public administration?

I grew up on the South Shore of Boston. Home to three Presidents and I was deeply influenced by JFK. Public service was a noble motive then. And politics is core to my Irish genes 🙂 I figured a law degree would be critical. I was diverted by four years as a Marine Infantry Officer, but eventually got the JD. By the way, the Marines were the best experience of my life. I wasn’t in combat; I was in the last Marine officer class to get orders to Vietnam and they pulled us all out in July 1972. James Mattis was in the class after me.

If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

I would love to talk with President Lincoln about his personal beliefs around the Civil War, his views of his Generals, and what he would have done differently. And his plans for Reconstruction of the South.

If you could repeal one law, which would it be and why?

I would repeal all laws restricting a woman’s right to privacy, the right to seek an abortion as contemplated in Roe v Wade. We keep trying to impose moral values into the law at the expense of our freedoms.

What was your proudest accomplishment while serving as San Diego’s City Manager?

I was most proud of our commitment to diversity in our workforce and establishing much better relationships with our communities of color particularly in City Heights and Southeastern.

Please share a funny story about your time at City Hall?

The stories are too many to tell. For 15 years I was the lead staff person for closed sessions. You’ve never seen crazier discussions behind closed doors. Wow! My last City Council meeting as City Manager was pretty funny. I walked in with a Marine flak jacket on just in case the Council wanted to give me a hard time. City Councils suspect that City Managers hide money in reserve in their budgets to make the budget balance. Of course we have to or they would spend everything at least twice:) So Councilmember George Stevens — a great guy and an African American preacher — stands up at his Council seat and pounds the shelf in front of him three times and says, “Jack you can’t leave the building until ‘You show me the money!’” A really hilarious moment. And I said, “not happening.”

What’s the best professional advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?

John Lockwood, the prior City Manager, would always say: don’t do anything that you couldn’t look Mike Wallace [ed. Of 60 Minutes fame] in the eye and explain. I had a little different take. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your five kids to read about in the newspaper.

Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why?

Whitney Houston. Incredible voice and music. Would have loved to have dinner with her. Such a crazy, tragic ending.

What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?

I liked good rap and then Michael Bublé; “Home” is my favorite.

Who would you want to have play you in your biopic?

Jimmy Stewart [Ed., so what if Jimmy’s dead? He could probably out-act most of today’s stiffs]

What fiction book has influenced you the most?

To Kill A Mockingbird. It just reinforced a deep respect for civil rights and the courage it takes to stand up to racism. That’s why today’s public discourse about these issues is so shameful. Slavery was “a job training program?” Who are these people?

Favorite cuisine and where do you get it? 

Hot dog and fries. Must have ‘em once a week.

What three things are must-haves in your fridge at all times?

Fruit, Cheez-Its, and chocolate chip cookies. [Ed., There’s your traditional food pyramid!]

What is your favorite sports moment?

Being in Houston to see Butler sink the winning shot in the Final Four. Personally… winning the Marine Corps basketball championship as captain of the First Marine Division team.

What passion project(s) are you involved with?

I’m extremely passionate about SDSU and the California State University system. I was just reappointed by the Governor. As a first generation/first in family to go to college, the CSU is really important to me. We are the university of opportunity in California. 70% of our 500,000 students are first generation and 75% are ethnically diverse. I got my MPA from SDSU, taught at night there for 25 years and served on the Foundation board for nine years, two as chair.  We raised $830 million. And I was a leader of the campaign to enable SDSU to acquire the Qualcomm stadium site for a new western campus, so I’m passionate about all things CSU.

Tony Krvaric

Edgy Interview: Tony Krvaric

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 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.

Julie Meier Wright

Edgy Interview: Julie Meier Wright

Julie Meier Wright has been a tireless champion of San Diego since she moved to the city in 1996. During her 13-year tenure as President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Julie sold San Diego across the country and around the world. Perhaps just as important, she’s been an advocate for women taking strong roles in business and politics and serves as a mentor to many women. Julie is currently a Strategic Advisor at Collaborative Economics, a Senior Fellow with the US Council on Competitiveness and a Senior Fellow with the California Council on Science & Technology. As you can see from the following interview, she’s extremely thoughtful.  As Jim Rome would say, “Julie has a take and it doesn’t suck.”

What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Do the risky things early when you have a chance to fail and recover; otherwise you may get too comfortable and tied down. Get a law degree – not because I think we need more lawyers but because I think the training can help navigate a complex world, especially in policy.  Give back, even when you can only give a little.  If you even think you want to run for office someday, get involved now with campaigns, issues and elected officials. Above all, always behave with integrity, even if it costs you in the short-term.

If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

I was privileged to meet a few, and got to know President Reagan a bit.  He was a very smart man until Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of a well-deserved retirement.  I would love to talk to him about today’s populism and partisan divisions and how he’d overcome them.  What he’d think of Brexit given his close ties to Margaret Thatcher (who could be part of the conversation, as long as we’re wishing!). Like other San Diegans, I miss my good friend Herb Klein, Richard Nixon’s communications director in the early years of his presidency, often musing “What would Herb think?”

What’s the most important issue facing California, why, and what should be done about it?

You won’t be surprised, given the name of your company, but I believe the most important issue is competitiveness – something I’ve focused on since I took a special course at Harvard from the guru of competitiveness, Dr. Michael Porter, many years ago.  Competitiveness is not a partisan issue, but it is California’s most serious issue because we compete for investment and jobs.  Are our taxes and regulations competitive?  Are our schools – K-12 and higher education – first rate?  Is our housing affordable?  How about energy costs?  Do we attract enough research money?  Do we incentivize innovation with policies and investment?  Do we support startup companies?  Objective benchmarking against competitor states and, increasingly, competitor nations, can inform responsible bipartisan policymaking, as it did in the ‘90s. PS – I think that withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and imposing tariffs will disproportionately hurt California.

There are lots of proposals for education reform.  What would you change and why?

Education is absolutely key to removing the hopelessness so many in our country and elsewhere feel and it’s critical to building the workforce we need to remain globally competitive. I would get the undue influence of unions out of education, recognize and pay top teachers competitively to other professions without regard to seniority and allow experts in science and engineering to team teach or quickly get credentialed, emphasize early-childhood education (proven by many studies to have a huge lifetime ROI), ensure high-quality STEM education starting in elementary school, and revise our education policies away from “butts in seats” to enable digital education for a generation of digital natives. In higher education, California must reverse its declining investment in the UC and CSU systems; universities must be able to move more quickly to respond to the job needs of our regions’ innovation economies; and the federal government must stop the decline in funding of basic research, historically a driver of the nation’s global economic leadership. Finally, at the national level, I would create a mandatory two-year program of national service (including military and international humanitarian service) so our young people walk a mile in another’s shoes.

What was the last book you read? Give me a one sentence review.

I have probably read 200 books on my iPhone 6, so I always have books with me.  The most recent – Out of My Lane. Leveling the Playing Field for Iraqi Women – was written by a dear friend of many years, Eileen Padberg, who spent nearly two years in Iraq building a program for Iraqi women to compete for US small-business contracts. My one-sentence review: Enjoy the fascinating adventure of an Orange County Republican political consultant, wearing 40 pounds of flak jacket and helmet, braving war, sandstorms, poor food, and bureaucratic barriers, to make a difference for Iraqi women – and in the process summing up what the US did well and poorly in our country’s longest war.  (OK, it’s a long sentence!)

Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why? 

I love Asian art and, when I was California Secretary of Trade & Commerce, I was presented a stunning large sword painting of Mt. Fuji. Unlike most Japanese paintings, which are delicate, this painting was done with the bold strokes of a Samurai sword.  I loved the painting, but state ethics laws prohibited me from accepting it.  Over time, I lost the name of the artist.  From time to time I search the internet for “sword painting” but all that I find are elaborately painted grips of Samurai swords themselves!  So, if anyone out there knows who the artist might be, let me know!

Tell us about your own artistic talents.

Aspirational at best. As I kid, I loved to draw. I made paper dolls with a variety of fashionable outfits.  I drew floor plans of interestingly shaped homes. I toyed with oil painting, took a few lessons.  I made some beautiful clothing.  Things fell by the wayside as I got busier and traveled more.  My creative outlet is writing, which I love but haven’t been disciplined enough to do regularly.

Favorite sport and why?

I love gymnastics because of the stupendous accomplishments of a beautifully honed human body.  And maybe because I was never that flexible even when I was a toddler!  For me personally these days it’s a combination of cardio, balance, and weight training.

If you were a competitive eater, which food would be your specialty?

Sushi for sure! Given a choice, I always choose sushi and Japanese beer.  San Diego has many fabulous sushi restaurants, such as Taka in the Gaslamp and Shimbashi in Del Mar.  Lately, at home I have been experimenting with sous vide cooking, which is amazing!

Favorite alcoholic beverage in winter and summer? 

Wine! Wine! Wine!  And an occasional vodka and tonic if it’s real hot out.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

Act with integrity in all you do.  As a young adult, I saw my Dad, a consultant to a government contractor, take an important ethical stand; the person he called out ended up in prison for bribery. My Dad had been in the Senior Executive Service and was unwilling to risk damage to his own sterling reputation.  Later, I worked for the most ethical politician I have ever known: Pete Wilson. You could disagree with his policy positions, but you would never question his integrity – or his incredible manners.  Next advice: Find a mentor like Pete Wilson and hitch your star to that person, who is likely to become a treasured friend. And, finally, to the women out there: mentor a young woman on the way up, an invaluable gift in today’s fraught environment.

Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

My lucky break was volunteering in Pete Wilson’s 1990 campaign, which quickly led to becoming the statewide head of his women’s coalition, ProWilson ‘90.  Although I never planned to go to Sacramento, he asked me to be his Director of Commerce, and, after his Council on California Competitiveness made its report in early 1992 recommending a Cabinet-level Agency, he appointed me California’s first Secretary of Trade & Commerce, responsible for all the state’s domestic and international business, tourism and film programs. It was a fabulous job!  And then, of course, I got the chance to come to beautiful San Diego to head the Economic Development Corporation until my retirement in 2011.

Who shaped your thinking most on politics?

Pete Wilson, because he was always the smartest person in the room and respected a wide array of input.  But, also, my own life experience as a policy wonk. While I am a conservative, I am a very independent thinker and demand character, integrity, fact-based policy positions and leadership from those I choose to support.  That’s non-negotiable.

If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?

I am always up for a trip to Asia and, in fact, I’m shortly headed to Okinawa, where I’ve served as an advisor to the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology.  I love Hong Kong – an exciting city that I haven’t visited for over 15 years, when I traveled there as a guest of the Hong Kong government.  And, on the other side of the world, Italy is on my bucket list and I’m headed there in October. [ed. If you’re into hiking, biking, or just looking at, beautiful mountains and valleys, you appreciate history and you find it cool to mix with a unique culture (the Ladin), then you must visit Italy’s Dolomite region]

Name a living person you admire. Why do you admire them?

I am going to take a little license and name three, whom I’m privileged to know: former Secretary of State George Shultz, Rancho La Puerta founder Deborah Szekely, and civic icon Malin Burnham.  What do they all have in common?  In their 90s, they’re as engaged as they have ever been, launching new endeavors and trying to solve sometimes intransigent problems with a lifetime of wisdom, often shaming us with their energy and commitment.  They are role models for us all.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I might be a bigger risk-taker.  I’m working with a friend on a big-data startup and it makes me wish I had acted on one of many ideas I have had over the years but never had the nerve to give up a full-time job to pursue.


Jeff Marston

Edgy Interview: Jeff Marston

I’ve known Jeff Marston since we both walked precincts for Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign – yep, it was Morning in America in 1984. Those Del Cerro doors we knocked on had a lot of eager Reaganites behind them, so my one (and still only) precinct walk was a good one with my buddy. Fast forward 30 years and now former State Assemblyman Marston recruited me to join his Marston Mets hardball club. Unfortunately for him and the team, I was a willing recruit and proceeded to keep the Mets out of the post-season for the two springs I played for Jeff. But, losing aside, the experience of playing for an honest and even keel manager who demonstrated class on the diamond was positive. Enjoy Jeff’s thoughts and stories in this great interview.

Tell us about your artistic talent(s).

I draw great stick figures!  I took lessons on the guitar and clarinet as a kid and succeeded more so on the latter, as I played clarinet in my high school band in New Jersey.  Had I kept up with it, I’m sure I could’ve been another Kenny G!  As for my voice, I inherited my Dad’s singing ability.  May he rest in peace, he couldn’t carry a tune. My mom, on the other hand, had a fabulous voice and sang the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden on numerous occasions before prize fights. Once, before a Rocky Marciano heavyweight title fight, she was bumped for Frank Sinatra at his friend Marciano’s request.

What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in New Jersey, I was a big fan of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but far and away my favorite genre was Motown.  What do I listen to nowadays?  My most recent concert was Brian Wilson at the Civic Theatre and I always seek out the 60s/70s oldies stations, so I guess you could say not much has changed.

Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why?

Clint Eastwood: As a beloved and effective politician, he never compromised his integrity for short-term gain, much like the characters he portrayed on film. I think his most triumphant work was as actor, director and producer of Gran Torino

What was the last good movie you saw? Give me a one sentence review.

The Man Who Invented Christmas. Starring one of my favorite actors – Christopher Plummer – as Ebenezer Scrooge, this film vividly tells the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, which has long been a favorite literary work of mine (as well as favorite film in its various iterations), especially due to its tale of redemption.  As you can see from the attached picture, it was a very popular film…we had the whole theater to ourselves!

If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

President Gerald R. Ford. I’m quite biased here because I had the chance to meet and chat with him on several occasions, usually courtesy of my friendship with his son, Jack.  He assumed the presidency during one of the most tumultuous times in our history, and I would really like to learn more about his thoughts relative to the pardon of President Nixon, an action that many historians today believe may have saved the country from a divisive trial and fallout – but most certainly cost him his own election to the presidency in 1976.  In my opinion, his actions were the most classic examples of self-sacrifice for the benefit of our nation.

What’s the most important issue facing California, why, and what should be done about it?

The State faces huge challenges: infrastructure, housing, homelessness, education, pension reform…the list goes on and on; however, we’re never going to fix any of these issues until party leaders–and their followers-learn to talk to each other in a civil way.  Partisanship has poisoned our political system to the point of paralysis. Many find finger-pointing more satisfying than actual progress.  For all the criticism leveled at President Trump, I think many of us from across the political spectrum have in a way, become just like him, reveling in the blame game and personal attacks rather than constructive dialogue and solutions.

There are lots of proposals for education reform. What would you change and why?

For me, it’s not as simple as the changing of policy but the changing of our attitudes. My focus over the years has been on higher education and more accurately, post-secondary education. There is this low hanging fruit idea that everybody should go to college. Nothing could be further from the truth. [ed. Amen brother!] Oh, everybody who wants to go should have the opportunity and we certainly need to improve access, but it’s simply not for everyone. Students need to be told so and encouraged to seek a “best fit” career path without having to worry about the all too common stigma of not going to college. Or, worse yet, in the minds of some, the supposed stigma of going to a community college instead of a four-year program. Nothing ticks me off more than someone–and I run into this all the time–downplaying the role and value of community colleges. I once had a political leader who should certainly have known better actually say to me, “Well, that’s not like real college.”

I would argue that it is not only real, but many times better than a traditional, so-called four-year school in that the specificity actually prepares you for jobs in the real world. I’m a proud alum and supporter of San Diego State, in fact a past president of their Alumni Association. But, I also take great pride in work I’ve done with the Mesa College Foundation, as well as the entire San Diego Community College District generally. Whether one is looking for a true head start as a transfer student to either SDSU or UCSD, or somewhere else, or a degree in a specific field, community college is the ultimate, cost-effective jewel of California’s post-secondary education system.

If you were a competitive eater, which food would be your specialty?

I actually won a competitive pizza eating contest during my freshman year at San Diego State. I consumed 3 ½ large pizzas before my closest competitor bowed out. I could’ve eaten more, but the pizza started to taste like cardboard. If I were to compete today, it would likely be in a hot pepper contest. My food can never be spicy enough, much to the chagrin of many a chef!

Favorite sport and why?

Baseball, because it’s never over ‘til it’s over.

What’s your favorite baseball memory and when did it happen?

It’s a three-way tie. One for each of my favorite teams…On July 23, 1966 (my 11th birthday), with me in the stands at Yankee Stadium (the original, real one 1923-1974) Mickey Mantle hit his final career grand slam. I know he hit it just for me. On October 16, 1969, I played hooky from school to go to Shea Stadium where the Mets won game five of the World Series and with it, the World Championship. The ticket was $15. I also ran onto the field and escaped with a big piece of the outfield grass. On October 6, 1984, I was at the Steve Garvey home run game in the NLCS against the Cubs. Need I say more? [Ed. No, you don’t. I was there too. The Murph had never seen anything as dramatic. The crowd – and San Diego – went delirious.

Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

In the fall of 1976, shortly after election day and needing eleven units to graduate from San Diego State the following spring semester, I found out about a program called the Washington Center for Learning Alternatives and decided to apply. WCLA provided internships in Washington, D.C. in the legislative and executive branches. Because I had worked in the Hayakawa campaign for the U.S. Senate, I sent the campaign a letter asking them to accept me for an unpaid internship. They thought I wanted a job and I got a rejection letter. I called them, explaining I was “free help” and that made the difference, as became Hayakawa’s first intern. I was literally one of the first fifteen or so people in his Washington office, which ultimately grew to about forty. Because he was short on staff, I was able to do things well beyond a “normal” internship–including serving as his staff assistant for his work on the Senate Agriculture Committee. I was ultimately hired full-time as a Legislative Aide, serving two years in DC before being asked to run his San Diego field office for the last four years of his term.

Who shaped your thinking most on politics?

Senator S.I. Hayakawa. He always thought outside of the box and spoke his mind for what he believed was in people’s best interests. He never really cared about the political consequences and that may have been why he only served one term. To a great extent, my thinking has been very much like that. I only wish I could be as bold as he was.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

To paraphrase since it was many years ago…never lose sight of your principles nor lose respect for the rights of others to have a different opinion. Congressman Clair Burgener. As a public servant, Clair was without equal.

What advice do you have for young people starting out?

We live in a very competitive world, so my advice is simple and straightforward. It’s also based on my experience as an intern. If a door opens for you, even the slightest bit, kick it open and go for your dreams. If you don’t, the person behind you most certainly will. Work your tail off–it will be noticed!

If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?

London: My ancestry is largely British, and I’ve only spent two short days there with my Mom nearly 25 years ago. I’d like to go back to see more of the city and country at large.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when grew up?

A professional baseball player, of course!  In fact, Coach Jim Dietz (Tony Gwynn’s predecessor at SDSU) launched me into my political career, such as it was.  Why?  Because when I was a freshman, he cut me from the Aztec baseball team.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

The friendships I have forged during my career in San Diego public and community relations are by far my greatest treasures. None of my professional accomplishments would’ve been possible without the support of my good friends from across the political spectrum. They have enriched my life in ways that cannot be quantified, and in turn, I hope I have been a loyal and trusted friend of theirs as well.

Jim Brulte

Edgy Interview: Jim Brulte

Jim Brulte is a hero. He’s responsible for California Public Utilities Code Section 2874 which makes robocalls illegal in the state of California.  You heard that right. While a State Senator, Jim authored a law that requires before you get a recorded message on your phone a live human being would have to get your permission to play the recording. Revolutionary and awesome as the law is, it has never been enforced. But Brulte is a hero for at least trying to curtail the robocall scourge.

Jim participates in this edition of The Edgy Interview while in his third term as Chairman of the California Republican Party. You’ll see in his answers hints of how difficult that job has become. Before serving as Party Chair, Brulte served in the State Senate from 1996 to 2004 and before that in the State Assembly.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when grew up?

A baseball player.  I went to bed every night listening to the Angels playing their games in Anaheim. As I grew up I realized, however, that it actually takes skill to play most sports. I do think I could be an Olympic Curler. I am pretty good with a broom.

If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

Probably General Washington.  He knew what it was like to fight an opponent with more resources than his team had–a plight that recent CA GOP Chairs must struggle with.

Tell us why you think California should or should not split into 5 states.

When I was elected to the Legislature there was a proposal to split the state in three.  These split proposals are interesting exercises. They look better on paper than in real life.  I doubt the United States Senate is going to allow eight additional Senators.

What’s the best thing about the USA?

The great American experiment was combining free speech and a free economy.  This has created the greatest amount of opportunity and wealth for the greatest percentage of our people in the history of the world.

Who is your favorite artist, any medium?

I am a big Neil Diamond fan.

What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what is it now?

I hate to admit it, but I liked Disco.  Fortunately, I’ve grown out of that phase of my life.

What music are you listening to these days?

Contemporary Christian

Favorite sport and why?

Football because I like watching team sports.  And football requires many people with different skills.

If you were into competitive eating, which food would be your specialty?

Have you met me?  I eat ALL foods.

Favorite breakfast and where do you get it?

Egg McMuffin at McDonalds.

When you retire, what’s your second career going to be, if any?

I am struggling with that right now.  If the first act in my adult like was public service and the second act is business; with the fourth act as heaven, what will the third act be?  This has been a question I have been asking for a couple of years.

Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

I was lucky to land a job at the Republican National Committee in 1981 where I could learn campaign politics from some of the best in the business.  It was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget.

If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?

I just got back from a trip to Israel. It was my sixth time in the country.  I love the people and the country.  I hope to go again within the next two years.

Name a living person that you admire who I may not know. Why do you admire them?

Former Assemblyman Chuck Bader.  He was my boss from 1987-1990. He has so many qualities I admire.  He is smart, likable, polite and always makes you feel special. He has been married for more than 53 years to his college sweetheart and has successful children. He is the total package.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

Always show up early and stay late is the advice my dad gave me.  He told me I would probably not be the smartest employee around, but I could be the hardest working employee (he was right about the smart part).

Karoyln Dorsee

Edgy Interview: Karolyn Dorsee

For this Edgy Interview we’re going farther back than we’ve ever gone in the time machine. In fact, we’re going back to a time before Competitive Edge (was there such a time?)… 1984! What a year it was to be a recent SDSU poli sci grad. You had Reagan playing cat and mouse with Mondale. It was morning in America. The politics was good and clean and fun and Republicans were on top.  I stumbled in to a nearly derelict building on 5th Avenue in downtown San Diego… not yet “The Gaslamp Quarter.” I go up the stairs but before I get to the top, I hear this loud, crazy, infectious laugh coming from the Dorsee Productions office. Karolyn Dorsee was about to put me to work.

 Everybody loves Karolyn, because when you’re a great fundraiser, you’re a people person and you have fun along the way, people love you. I call Karolyn my political Godmother for the start she gave me. She’s had a hand in starting hundreds of political careers here in San Diego. And, 33 years after meeting Karolyn, through all the ups and downs politics can throw at her, she’s still enjoying her work and working for people she believes in.  Here’s how she began the interview…

How did you get into politics?

John, you have to remember how I originally came into this political world was with President Gerald Ford in 1976 and I helped with a rally in Grossmont Shopping Center with 100,000 people!  When Jack Ford came to town I was working with my husband Jack at Jack Dorsee Sailboats and took the day off to greet him.  I purchased a giant sheet cake and took it to the headquarters downtown to meet the President of the United States!  To this day I am grateful to the Ford family and we stay in touch. The rest is history.  The Federated Women then took me in and I helped with the Grossmont rally and I had found my calling. Then I met Mayor Pete Wilson, which was my whole life in politics!

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh, I wanted to be a cheerleader FOREVER!  My father use to say, after I was cheerleader for many years, “How are you going to make a living being a cheerleader?”  I proved him wrong!

 What music did you listen to when you were a teenager? 

My favorite musical genre as a teenager was good ole “ROCK AND ROLL.”

Tell us about your first concert?

It was with “THE BEACH BOYS.”  I still attend their concerts every time they’re in town!  Their music makes me happy!

What kind of music are you listening to these days?

I listen to today’s JAZZ like Spyro Gyro and Dave Koz, but appreciate and listen to Cal Trader, Stan Getz, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck from back in the day!

Who did the most to shape your thinking on politics?

Assemblyman, Mayor, US Senator and California Governor Pete Wilson shaped my thinking most on politics.  My favorite quote from Pete: “We can’t live without hope.  When we keep hoping, we keep living.”

What is the best thing about the USA?

Our freedom. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to.

What is the most important issue facing California?

The liberal mindset is not working.  Government is giving everything away, raising taxes and letting the criminals out. We need to go back to the basics of what government is really supposed to be doing. As Reagan said in “The Speech” of 1964, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So government’s programs, once launched, never disappear.  Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

If you went back in time, which former President would I like to chat with?

In 1990, I asked Don Hansen of Hansen’s Surf Shop to donate a large surfboard for Pete Wilson to give to President Reagan. We then did a big presentation on stage at a fundraiser.  I would ask Reagan, “What did you ever do with that surfboard?”

If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?

A place I have traveled for many years is Hawaii and I can keep going there forever.

What’s your favorite sport?

My favorite sport is tennis because I played many years and loved it!

What’s your favorite alcoholic beverage?

Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

Who’s got the best pizza in town?

The best pizza in town is LaDou’s BBQ Chicken at SAMMY’S because we love Sami Ladeki!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you? 

I have been very lucky to have many mentors that gave me great advice throughout the years.  So I’d like to say my greatest influence was reading and re-reading Norman Vincent Peale and the book “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

What advice do you have for young people starting out in your profession?

The advice I give young people starting out in my profession is stay positive, learn how to take rejection, do not take anything personally, take care of people, do not lose your integrity and never give up. I love mentoring young students. That also has been my calling.  We sure need them now to take over and never give up!  And one more thing, also live by the Reagan quote: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

Name a living person who you I admire and why you admire them?

Governor Pete Wilson. I admire him for his brilliance and integrity. We need more Pete Wilsons to save California and America. Another favorite Wilson quote is actually his quote of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Tony Young

Edgy Interview: Tony Young

Tony Young is a former San Diego City Councilman, easily winning re-election twice before leaving the Council to run the San Diego-Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross. Now he’s President and CEO of Civic Link Strategies, a public relations firm. A very busy guy, Tony’s also President and CEO of Rise San Diego, a non-profit that advances urban leadership. Tony’s also on the “Board” that steers our San Diego County Issues Barometer. That’s all great, but what sets him apart in this politically divisive world, is his ability to get along with people across the ideological spectrum, which is why people on both the left and the right are encouraging him to get back into politics. I think Tony’s ethos of dialogue comes across in this Edgy Interview. 

Who or what exerted the most influence on your career?

I believe my father was the most influential person in my career. Many people don’t know that my father was a Chief of Staff for County Supervisor Leon Williams. I remember him coming home speaking on all the issues that went on with the county during the 80s. He showed me what a true civil servant should look like.

What was the accomplishment you are proudest of as a City Councilmember?

My most cherished accomplishment was, as Council President, I helped foster a city hall environment that allowed for authentic dialogue between Democrats and Republicans. We were able to address some complex and difficult issues using a bipartisan approach.

Is there a below-the-radar that’s not getting the attention it deserves and what would you do about it?

How policymakers balance the need for additional housing and protecting the integrity of existing neighborhoods. State and local leaders seem to be desperate to address the housing issue with short-term solutions that allow housing to be built that is inconsistent with community integrity. There’s not enough consideration of the long-term impact of existing infrastructure in neighborhoods.

If you could repeal one law, which would it be and why?

I understand this might not be the most important legal issue of our day, however the first thing that comes to mind is the ban of drinking alcohol on local beaches. I think it is perfectly fine to drink a toast to the sunset on the sand at a city beach.

What charities or causes are near and dear to your heart?

The causes that I’m most interested in relating to authentic leadership. I’m fascinated with the concept of leadership and how it impacts the lives of others. Each of us has the potential to be leaders at any moment in time.

Who would you want to have play you in your biopic?

Denzel, of course.

What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?

As a teenager my favorite music genres were reggae, alternative rock music, and hip hop.

First concert you attended and how did it make you feel?

Prince. I felt like a walking hormone.

Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why?

I will give you a few artists. Miles Davis who is probably the most innovative music artist in American history. Bob Marley, who expressed the social and spiritual qualities that resonate most with my sensibilities. Kendrick Lamar who is on par with any lyricist in history and, in his seminal work “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” depicted life for some who lived in my neighborhood.

What fiction book has influenced you the most?

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler. Her world-building ability and character development allowed me to understand the human condition in a whole new way.

Favorite cuisine and where do you get it? 

My go to place for comfort food is the Red Sea Restaurant on the corner of Euclid and University Avenues. It is a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant that is humble but amazing. If you ever get a chance, order the lamb stew with an extra side of injera bread.

What three things are must-haves in your fridge at all times?

Blueberries, feta cheese, and chardonnay. This seems really bougie, but I am not.

What is your favorite sports moment?

The 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox [Ed. Well, that was a terrific one to start with, as it’s ranked as the greatest of all]. I fell in love with baseball. Sitting next to my dad in the living room learning the game from him. Carlton Fisk’s home run, Louis Taint’s cool pitching delivery and the Big Red Machine helped me understand the excitement of baseball.

What item would you like to buy if it went up for auction and you had the money to afford it?

Satchel Paige’s jersey or Miles Davis’s trumpet.

Tell us about the point in your life when you realized your calling was politics?

Still waiting for that call.

Take us through Tony Young’s perfect day in San Diego.

My perfect day in San Diego starts off with a cup of coffee on my deck with my wife Jacque. My grass is freshly cut, and I can see the Silver Strand because the weather is 68 degrees and clear. Hit the gym around 7am and then come home to a berry smoothie. Walk around to smell my rose garden. Play a round of golf. Place some ribs on the smoker. All my family would come over around 6 in the evening. Some of us share a quality bottle of bourbon and eat barbeque. Play music in the backyard a little too loud and watch the grandkids run around.

Jordan Marks

Edgy Interview: Jordan Marks

My friend Jordan Marks is the new Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk for the County of San Diego, having won election over former San Diego City Councilwoman and entrepreneur Barbara Bry last November.  CERC polled for the supportive independent expenditure campaign and only had a small hand in the victory; Jordan did ALL the heavy lifting. That included raising an enormous amount of money for a race to decide an elective office that most voters don’t even know exists! But that’s Jordan: an extremely hard worker who never shuts off and runs through the tape. He also has a sense of humor and I think you’ll pick all of that and more in this Edgy Interview installment.

Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

My older brother recruited me to intern for a California State Assembly campaign as a junior in high school. Out of dumb luck this campaign garnered national attention when my candidate’s opponent, who was an incumbent, was caught on camera inebriated and tearing down our campaign signs. This made national news, my candidate won, and the campaign manager received accolades for his candidate’s upset victory.

Due to the national attention of the tremendous victory, the campaign manager was offered a position to oversee a presidential campaign youth outreach effort. He offered a position to my brother to move to New Hampshire and oversee the youth campaign effort. My brother was a sophomore in college and wanted to focus on finishing school. As a graduating senior in high school, I felt my brother was passing on a tremendous opportunity. So he said if you think it’s so good you do it. And I did.

My brother arranged the interview and the campaign manager saw my hard work and determination personally on the Assembly campaign. I was hired as the Youth for Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign organizer New Hampshire. It was an amazing opportunity for an 18-year-old. I traveled Ohio and New Hampshire and witnessed presidential politics firsthand. My campaign effort was so successful that we were featured on the TV show MTV Rocks the Vote. I learned about being a better community organizer, learned about the flat tax and tax policy in politics, and was able to spend time with Steve Forbes; an opportunity I am still grateful for today.

What was it like working for former Assessor Ernie Dronenberg?

Working for Ernie “The Legend” Dronenburg was an amazing opportunity for me, as I was able to work with my friend and mentor. I am an old soul and being with Ernie I was able to feed my personal enjoyment for the yesterday of politics. I’ve always appreciated the working relationships of President Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill and I try to bring that solution-oriented mindset into my professional career. Ernie is a living example of that relationship that I was able to witness first-hand in Sacramento.

Having lived in San Diego for over 75 years, Ernie is living history. As we traversed the County helping taxpayers, Ernie told stories that helped me become a better public servant. He taught me about the development of Rancho Bernardo as the 15-freeway expanded to the famous avocados of Fallbrook.

Behind the bow tie is someone who lived a fun and fulfilling life from his cheerleader days at SDSU, to being the architect of his family home in El Cajon, to being a creature of habit meeting friends at his lunch table at Filippi’s Pizza. Through his exemplary servant leadership Ernie taught me to lead. Every lunch brought another story or introduced me to another person whose career he elevated over the years.

Thanks to Ernie’s time he invested in my career, I now am a stronger leader and have a vision of measurable for success in my own career. I hope to be as successful as Ernie in my service, community, and family.

If you could repeal one law, which would it be and why?

I’m a big believer in opportunity for young people. Today we mandate internships that must be paid, and I believe it has reduced the number of opportunities for internships and apprenticeships. I would repeal the law requiring internships be paid and allow for paid and unpaid internships to return those additional opportunities to students exploring their future careers.

I believe in that because I lived it. My first internship was with a world class cake shop in Los Angeles that entertained my initial desire to be a baker. While you know I am not a baker today, the cake shop provided me that opportunity to learn early on that was not the career for me because there was a low cost to them to have a 15-year-old high school intern. (It cost them their time – it was an unpaid internship).

Through an internship at Sony Music, I learned my rapping skills were… well let’s just say it was not my destined career.

I was not one of those kids who knew what they wanted to do, so I continued to explore opportunities through internships. While at Sony I learned I couldn’t rap, period. End of that story and that unpaid experience. However, Ernst and Young’s tax department taught me a love for tax policy, walking on an Assembly campaign taught me a love for retail politics, and numerous other offices that I’ve sadly learned no longer offer these opportunities for career exploration due to the cost and regulation.

Yes, I am aware of bad actors in the industries that exploit student workers (let’s protect them). As a former internship director in a legislative office, the value of these unpaid internships became clear as we hired numerous students our budget afforded, and we developed raw talent from various socioeconomic classes that would not have flourished had they not had that opportunity.

Having been given the gift of time, I can look back and see these students had raw talent but would not likely have received a paid internship.  These kids have acknowledged to me that their internship changed their life’s trajectory and because of their unpaid experience in our office they have successful careers today.

What are you most looking forward to accomplishing as Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk?

“Jordan Marks knows how to save the taxpayers money” was my campaign slogan and I truly love helping make San Diego homeownership more affordable. I look forward to implementing innovative ways and changing state law to make it easier for homeowners and renters on their taxes.

I’m most excited about finding a path forward to expanding the homeowners’ property tax exemption and (by law they must be done in tandem) the renters’ credit. This would lead to a more affordable San Diego for folks that we know live in San Diego.

As part of an expansion of the homeowners’ exemption program, I would increase the disabled veterans’ exemption – which is granted solely to veterans with a 100% disability – to include our first responders who are 100% disabled. I’d also extend the exemption to the families of first responders who lost their life in the line of duty.

Next to saving taxpayers money, I truly enjoy serving as the Commissioner of Civil Marriages. I’m excited to roll out a mobile marriage unit in the future to allow us to preform marriages on the beaches in La Jolla, on base for Marines at Camp Pendleton, in a beautiful Julian covered in snow or in Borrego when the desert carpet blooms. I look forward to delivering love all across San Diego County!

Who would you want to have play you in your biopic?

Jonah Hill. Jonah is a comedian, versatile actor, and well-established filmmaker.
Let’s be honest I’m an Assessor. Most people don’t know what an Assessor does and when they find out its property taxes, they either yawn or run away. I feel my humor and personality transcend “the tax guy” and Jonah Hill can be as funny as me.

Jonah Hill and I are both bigger guys, naturally smiling, both of Jewish faith, and I personally enjoy Jonah’s brand of humor. At the foundation of who Jonah Hill is you will find a professional who works to make the world around him a better place. I think he brings that attitude with humor to his roles and will capture that element of how I live.

Lastly, in his most recent role in the Netflix film “You People,” which I highly recommend, Jonah’s character is a White Jewish guy that married into an African American family. As a White Jewish guy that married into a Mexican American family, my wife and I found the film humorous and true to our own family experience in many ways.

I also think Jonah Hill makes excellent sequels – and yes, I will have a sequel!

What is that one book that has influenced you the most?

Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has had a tremendous impact in my life. [ed. Great book with tons of life lessons.] I read this book annually. I give this book as a gift to colleagues when they are promoted, to interns when they graduate, and to friends making career changes. Dale Carnegie helped me identify and understand basic tools and traits I employ daily to achieve success in my service to the community and my team.

At a recent San Diego County Bar Association Leadership Academy panel, I was asked, “how I was successful in my recent political campaign for Assessor and raise of $1 million in campaign contributions?” My campaign success and fundraising success was due to employing the six ways the book helps you make people like you. Smile. Become genuinely interested in other people. Use people’s names. Be a good listener. Talk in terms of other people’s interests. Sincerely make the other person feel important.

If you want to be more successful, be a better person, and have a fun read, I highly recommend “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

First concert you attended and how did it make you feel?

In 1989, I was 9 years old. My single mom got into a live music kick and decided to take each of my brothers (there are three of us) to a different concert. To make it more special we each got our own experience with our mom.

My mom took me to see Cher as part of her “Heart of Stone” tour in 1989. This was when Cher released her hit “If I could turn back time.” To be honest, I would not turn back time – I might be more scarred from the concert and Cher’s outfit. The good news was my mom loved it and I think I lucked out as my older brother had the embarrassing joy he still hasn’t lived down of seeing Madonna singing “Like a Virgin” next to his mom as part of her “Blonde Ambition World Tour.”

If you were a competitive eater, which food would be your specialty?

Early in my legislative career I was volunteered to enter a Julian Pie eating contest. Being a big guy with an even bigger mouth, my office was confident of my ability to win. Turns out I am a terrible competitive eater and came in last behind the high school football coach and senior community representative. While I was terrible at the competition eating, I did really enjoy the apple pie. It’s one of my favorite foods. So if I had to lose eating apple pie, I would still consider myself a winner.

Favorite cuisine and where do you get it? 

Being Jewish I don’t eat pork or shellfish (shrimp and lobster) – a requirement of the dietary restrictions. Tip of the day- sit next to me at a community event and you can have my bacon, shrimp or lobster. It makes me a popular table companion.

All that said, I love ribs and because I don’t eat pork, I love beef ribs. Yes, many will now tell me pork ribs are better. I will take your word for it. I’m always searching for delicious BBQ and delicious beef ribs. San Diego has many excellent BBQ options, buy my favorite place to get beef ribs is Phil’s BBQ. They are consistently delicious, juicy, and flavorful. They deserve the YELP rating they received. The Marks household is happy when beef ribs from Phil’s BBQ are served up for dinner!

What three things are must-haves in your fridge at all times?

Eggs. I’m a breakfast guy all day long. If my wife would have let me, we would have had a brunch wedding. I joke that one day I will open a restaurant called “It’s in Your Omelet” because I like to make omelets with crazy and fun variations from a Philly cheesesteak to beef lo mein noodles.

Milk. I like my coffee and Earl Grey tea with milk. My mother is from Canada where tea and milk are very common and that spilled over to how I drink my coffee. Heavy milk.

Chicken. Growing up with a single mom who ran her own business, my brothers and I enjoyed the same meal 90% of the time. It was salad, chicken, and rice. It is my comfort food.

Frozen chocolate. I think chocolate (milk or white chocolate) tastes better frozen.

Which reality TV show would you most like to compete on and why?

I would like to compete on the World Poker Tour. I’m a fan of playing poker. From a social aspect, it sharpens my ability to read people, it exercises my math skills, and I enjoy the thrill of the game. To go to Las Vegas and compete with the best of the best in the world would be a memorable opportunity. The table talk with players from across the world would be fun and I would have to buy a cool pair of sunglasses.

Let’s shuffle up and deal!

Your son stole the show at your swearing-in ceremony. Any proud moments to share about him?

I’m proud and grateful that at the swearing-in ceremony my son only repeated my name and didn’t choose to say one of his other “funny” words. My son is three years old so I’m pretty proud if he doesn’t wet his bed at night. My wife and I were challenged with having a kid and had to do Invitro Fertilization (IVF). I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to raise this funny, smart, and warm human being. He has made me a better person.

Your Jewish faith is a big part of your life. How has it influenced your perspective on politics?

My politics are driven by my faith. My belief is in the Jewish laws, and bible is there to show you how to live and be a good person. I try to be a better person every day. My favorite scripture is Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” This is difficult in politics, but choosing to think and speak with grace towards others has made me a better servant leader.

I’m also reminded man is fallible and not perfect, so forgiveness is necessary. It has reminded me we are all created to serve and to help those that need it the most. We have gifts and should be grateful to wake up every day to use those talents and treasures to make this world a better place. In the bible we also learned the value of tithing – just not excessively!

Lastly, my faith reminds to me act with purpose and intention. A Rabbi taught me early on that prayer is really a time for daily meditation and reflection. We have been blessed purposefully and so we should take that time daily to prepare ourselves to act with that same care.

What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, write handwritten thank you notes, and “showing up” wins. The book will teach you to be a good human by caring for the person you are communicating with so they can receive you. Mail is a thing of the past and while e-mail is convenient, it’s handwritten notes that break through the noise today and a tangible connection in today’s world.

In my career I have found that while others around me may have been smarter, faster or have other advantages of life that gave them a leg up, it has been my grit and hard work ethic of showing up that helped me excel. Whatever you are doing in life show up and give it your all. That grit will equal success in whatever path you choose.


Bill Geppert

Edgy Interview: Bill Geppert

Bill Geppert will be in the running for Mr. San Diego as soon as Malin Burham wants to relinquish the title. It seems Bill is always stepping up to the plate in some capacity to get things done or shepherd a local organization through a difficult period. I met him back when he was running COX Communications. Now in retirement, he’s my neighbor and as active as ever. Bill’s the kind of guy, when you meet him a few times, you begin to wonder, “does this guy ever have a bad day?” He’s always engaging, upbeat and smiling and that comes across in this Edgy Interview.


Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

Started my career in the communications industry just as cable and then the Internet took off. I was very fortunate to be a part of the burgeoning industry for 38 years during a technologically evolving, growing time!


What’s the best thing about the USA?

Freedom and the opportunity to pursue our dreams! We have free choice, and education provides a pathway to realize potential. We are genuinely blessed to be in America!


What’s the most important issue facing California, why, and what should be done about it?

The housing shortage coupled with escalating prices for homes. Excessive regulations and an elongated approval process is producing 70% fewer homes in the state each year than needed to meet demand. The result is a squeeze on home affordability and availability resulting in first-time home buyers often priced out of the market. Rental rates are now soaring and making it difficult to impossible for many families to stay in California!


If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

I had the opportunity to talk with President Carter when he was here for Insights in 1996 about the Camp David Accords, which were one of the most significant achievements of our lifetime. I’d want to hear his take on what happened then, how the Middle East has evolved since, and how peace could be reached today.


What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?

Then: Rock N Roll: Zeppelin, Clapton, Stones Now: Christian rock: Hillsong, MercyMe, Lauren Daigle… quite a shift!


First concert you attended and how did it make you feel?

Pittsburgh PA: YES, and the little-known backup band stole the show- The Eagles!


Favorite sport and why?

Cycling and Golf, I enjoy the challenge and the competition, both are a test of your internal fortitude. Cycling is more physically demanding and golf more mental, and you can do both for the rest of your life! Additionally, both bring you to some amazingly beautiful places all around the world!


What was the last good movie you saw? Give me a one sentence review.

The Darkest Hour Brilliant performance from Gary Oldman and movie about Winston Churchill, who relied on his instincts and talked directly to the British people to affirm his difficult decision in the direst circumstances during WWII. [ed. Saw it, liked it, especially the impromptu focus group conducted on the Tube].


Favorite alcoholic beverage in winter and summer?

Ice cold lager beer in the summer, red wine with great food anytime!!


Which reality TV show would you most like to compete on and why?

The Voice – what a gift it would be to be able to sing and perform and participate at that level, but I can’t carry a tune, so it’s probably not in my future?!


What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

It came from my Dad. He said somewhere in your life an investment opportunity will come along and it won’t be in your field of expertise. After due diligence, follow your instincts and make the strategic investment. I did this investing in a media company that does advertising in movie theaters. Successfully sold the startup company eight years after building it up. He was right, I probably wouldn’t have invested in it without his advice.


What advice to you have for young people starting out?

Get experience! Don’t be as concerned with position or compensation, as long as you can make ends meet. Gain invaluable experience by doing as many things as you can, that’s most important. Best advice I ever got: “Seek to understand before being understood.”


If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?

Italy’s Tuscany region. My wife and I want to go live there for a summer, ride my bike through the hills, learn the language, enjoy the people, food and wine!


Name a living person you admire. Why do you admire them?

In San Diego, it’s Malin Burnham. He is still engaged and making a difference at 90 years old! Amazing visionary, studies community issues with intensity and he is bold in his willingness to challenge us to be better as a community. His mantra: Community Before Self!


What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

My faith, family and friends, and sharing this lifelong journey with my wife Amy! Recent – riding across America on my bike for Challenged Athletes.


Aimee Faucett

Edgy Interview: Aimee Faucett

Aimee Faucett, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chief of Staff, has long been a behind-the-scenes political dynamo making things hum in America’s Finest City. Although it seems she’s been a constant in politics, Aimee took a turn as Executive Vice President of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce before returning to city hall in 2017. As she’ll explain, she got her start more than 20 years ago before rising through the ranks. Aimee is one of the big reasons Mayors like Jerry Sanders and Faulconer get things done.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An Orthopedic Surgeon, but the sight of human blood and flesh made me gag so I pursued government and politics.


Which American from history do you identify with most and why?

Clara Barton, founder and first President of the American Red Cross [ed. The nonprofit is one of Competitive Edge’s favorite clients!]. She served as a nurse during the Civil War. Like Clara, I have always been driven to support those who are on the line protecting others.


If you could go back in time, which former President would you like to chat with and what’s the topic?

President Richard Nixon. I’d ask him about Vietnam War and Watergate over a glass or two of wine … wine was Nixon’s favorite drink.


Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.

My senior year at San Diego State University I interned for former San Diego City Councilmember Judy McCarty. I was excited and anxious to start looking for a professional job within government or nonprofit. I was graduating in May 1996. In late-March of same year, Judy’s Chief of Staff, Jim Madaffer, invited me to attend a Friends of the Library meeting. Afterwards, we went through a McDonald’s drive-thru and while we were waiting, Jim offered me a job as a Council Representative. I have worked in San Diego politics ever since.


Have you considered running for office yourself? Why did you decide against it?

I have considered running for office. Lasted for 30 seconds and then I snapped out of it. I have always liked the character Oz in the Wizard of Oz.


Who would you want to play you in your biopic?

Kate Winslet.


Who is your favorite artist — any medium — and why?

Peter O’Neill. Peter paints with thick rich paints. I love how he captures the natural beauty of women.


What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?

Anything 80s … Prince, Madonna, DJ E-Z Rock. Today I listen to Yacht Rock.


What 3 things are must haves in your fridge at all times?

Wine, Wine & Wine.


Favorite cuisine and where do you get it?

Mexican food, Ponce’s [Ed. That’s a San Diego, well, Kensington, institution that’s still going strong and now boasts a location in Del Sur].


What is your favorite moment from sports?

USA women’s soccer team winning the 2015 FIFA World Cup.


What’s the best professional advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?

Always treat people with respect and professionalism no matter the situation. You may need them some day. Several people have passed advice along over the years.


What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Chose a profession that you love. Everything else will fall into place.


What item would you like to buy if it went up for auction and you had the money to afford it?

One of Marilyn Monroe’s dresses.


What would you change about yourself?

I wish I would promote myself more.