Bill Wells

Edgy Interview: Bill Wells

Meet Bill Wells, the charismatic Mayor of El Cajon, who took the reins of his vibrant east San Diego County city of 104,000 back in 2013. With a background in clinical psychology, Bill expertly navigates the complexities of city politics. Under his guidance, El Cajon is blossoming, focusing on community growth and innovative solutions. When he’s not in the mayor’s office, Bill might be found jamming on his guitar, relaxing with his wife Bettie, or enjoying a family barbecue, proving he’s as relatable as he is dedicated. He’s also running for Congress. Bill lays out his take on homelessness, details his taste in music, and even touches on his nickname in this free-wheeling Edgy Interview.

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

I love animals, so I considered being a veterinarian.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A musician (famous preferably), a husband, and a father.

You play multiple instruments. What are the most interesting aspects of each one?

I play piano, guitar, and sax. I’m best at piano and that is probably the reason I spend most of my time practicing it and ignoring the others. I love the way piano makes me feel more creative and I find it the most versatile for writing.

I started playing guitar because, at the time, I was working in piano bars, and I wanted to pull the guitar out in the last set (when everyone was good and drunk) and play fun rock and roll songs. I have learned to love writing on the guitar and it’s really the best way to write rock, country, blues, and folk songs.
The sax is my love-hate relationship. It’s the instrument I am the least talented at, but the one that is by far the most fun… when you do it well! It was also the instrument most likely to help me meet women (of course I’m talking waaaay back when I was young and single). To prove this point: it’s the only thing I play that really gets my wife Bettie’s attention. I had pretty much given it up when she one day came home with a very beautiful and very expensive Tenor. I took the hint.

Bill Wells playing the sax

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

When I turned ten, I was given a record player and $10 for my birthday. I went to Tower Records to buy an album… but had no idea what to buy. I told my problem to the guy working there and he sold me a Seals and Crofts and an Elton John album. I wore both of those records out and I often thank God for the dude’s taste because he could have set me down a bad path. I discovered Billy Joel in high school and set out to learn as many of his songs as I could. I also loved Steely Dan, Tom Petty, Earth Wind & Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Today I still listen to all the 70’s and 80’s pop and R & B, but I’ve added things like Michael Franks, Pink Martini, Steve Tyrell and a lot of other pop/jazz type of artists. I’ve loved Sting and the way he writes because I feel like we’ve had parallel musical lives, except for him being a megastar and me not so much.

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

I actually did not attend any concerts in high school. I know that’s strange, but I did start in college. My first was at the Backdoor at SDSU in 1980. I went to see Ricki Lee Jones. She was amazing… so cool. It made me feel cool and very grown up. She brought out a large bottle of Jack, set it on the piano and finished it by the end of the show. Even though I was never a huge fan, she got me interested in live music. I still like the smaller venues where you’re interacting with the performer. A few years later I was trying to make in in Hollywood as a songwriter and was in that world. I got to know many of the artists who became very big later and I got to listen late at night in little clubs or even the recording booth.

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

I’d like to meet with President Lincoln and speak with him about the great divides that have hallmarked the political landscape of both of our societies. I would like to know if he believed in relative truth, or as I suspect, he believed that he was clearly on the side of right. How did he refrain from seeking vengeance and indulging in hatred? What advice would he give me about believing that there was clearly a side that is good and the side that is evil? Having been through a real shooting war, how would he suggest we proceed? Would Lincoln be horrified by the idea of burning it all to the ground to fight against evil, or would he say that that is the price we as a free nation must occasionally pay to find ourselves on God’s side? Either answer would likely be both fascinating and horrifying.

How did your previous career prepare you for politics and becoming mayor?

My career in mental health started in 1988 as a psych tech in a psychiatric hospital and led me all the way to being the CEO and founder of a psychiatric health care company that has clients throughout the state of California. In between, I ran a psychiatric emergency team, worked overnights in the ER doing psychiatric evaluations, been COO and Director of Outpatient Services and a lot of other jobs I can hardly remember. Along the way I earned two BS Degrees, an MS in Psychology and a Psy.D. in clinical psychology. If there is a health care business or psychiatric scenario I’ve not experienced, I would be very surprised. It taught me how to think, how to suffer, how to be tough, how to be compassionate, and how to serve mankind. I thank God for the life I’ve lived and for making me a useful leader.

What is your proudest accomplishment while serving as Mayor of El Cajon?

There are two that take equal space in my mind. The first was the near riot that was averted in 2015. We had an unarmed African American man shot by a police officer. It was just after the Ferguson Missouri incident and the country was a tinder box just waiting to be lit. Within hours of the shooting the streets were filled with BLM protestors. I worked with the local pastors, the NAACP, and the Urban league to navigate to a peaceful resolution. To make this happen, I had to make a very unpopular decision to release a video tape which in my mind explained it all. This was my first test of having to do what I thought was right even though it seemed that it would end my political career. In the end, all these things diffused the situation and there was no violence or property destruction.

The next was during COVID when I concluded that the lockdowns were misguided and harmful. I made the decision to order my police department to not enforce any COVID restrictions. I felt sure that though this was the right thing to do it was sure to end my political career. Surprisingly, it had the opposite effect and made me more, not less, popular. In the end, history has proved me right and I got the cool nickname of “COVID Bill.”

Why has homelessness exploded and what’s the best way for local government to deal with it?

I write and speak often about homelessness, probably because aside from being a Mayor I also have an RN and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and I’ve spent 30 years doing psychiatric evaluations in emergency rooms. I can tell you that homelessness is almost entirely linked to drug and alcohol abuse and chemical dependency. Don’t believe me? Just ask any ER nurse, paramedic, or police officer. They will back me up. The state of California refuses to believe this and has wasted $25 billon on the “housing-first” model. That’s why the problem gets exponentially worse every year.

To make matters even worse, California has made homelessness very attractive. The state has decriminalized a great deal of crime, handcuffing the municipalities from using most of the tools at their disposal to discourage homelessness and by offering staggeringly generous benefits to those who want to live in filth and make our cities uninhabitable. I do not believe that allowing people to live like animals on the sides of the road and then die from addiction, exposure, and violent assault is a compassionate thing. I’m also starting to wonder if the Homeless Industrial Complex is really more motivated by cash than solving the problem.

What would you buy at auction if you had the chance?

My dad died when I was eight. He left me one thing, an Omega Sea Master watch. My mom saved it for me, but when I went back to claim it, it was gone. My wife bought me one just like it a few years ago, but I still wish I had his.

What are three foods you must always have in your refrigerator?

I like to have good cheese and crackers, Mexican food, and a Topo Chico. If I can arrange it, I like some left over Japanese gyoza, BBQ brisket, and pepperoni pizza to be at the ready. And, to be honest, ice cream.

Did you (or do you now) have a sports hero and what’s special about them?

It has to be Magic Johnson. Truthfully, I’m bored by the NBA now, but the Johnson era was a golden age, when players were doing incredible things on the court and having the time of their lives, redefining what a human being could do within the laws of physics. Sports should be fun, and Magic is the epitome of fun on the court. Always smiling and always moving. No look passes, contortionistic acrobatics, and a shot so smooth he made it look easy. Who’s even close now….oh and not sold out to communists.

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

I’m sure it’s not around any longer but I really wanted to try out for American Gladiators. I especially liked the pugil stick competition. I like a good fight.

Take us through “Bill Wells’s perfect day.”

My perfect day would definitely not include yard work or a trip to Costco, but it could be so many other things. An early morning Jacuzzi with Bettie is a great thing and I’d always be happy to follow it up with tennis or golf (IF I’m playing okay). I am a family man and love to get the whole group over for a family party. Music is still wrapped around my favorite times and I restrict performing to just one benefit concert a year now; concert day is always a perfect day for me. I like a good battle if I’m fighting for right, so I’m usually pretty pumped up after going at it with some corrupt organization or politico. Though it’s not as outwardly exciting, I like taking my wife to church and then meeting up with friends for lunch after. Any day in the water on a hot day is hard to beat.

Bill and Bettie Wells

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

My old boss, who eventually became a business partner, was universally loved and a bit feared by all. He told me to never be too busy to talk to every person on your staff. He told me to know them, know their problems and their triumphs. He said the CEO was actually the janitor’s servant. He also told me to always call out BS and never let anyone ever threaten you or push you around. Deal with it immediately preferably in public so it would never happen again… from anyone.

What advice would I give a young person who wants to run for office?

Do it for the right reasons. It’s a great calling and a pretty lousy career. Also, if you do decide to do it, go out into the world first and acquire some skills and experience that will make you useful. The new way of doing it, by getting an internship, which leads to a campaign position, which leads to a staff job and then to running for office, earns you a lot of friends in the business, but has nothing to do with serving the people. Go be a businessperson, or a soldier, or a teacher or something, before asking people to give you such an important job. Imagine a 23-year-old, never been married, marriage counselor. The degree is not enough to have something to offer.

Shelley Zimmerman

Edgy Interview: Shelley Zimmerman

When you drop by a neighborhood party you don’t expect to meet Superwoman. But then I met San Diego’s former Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman. After hearing her fascinating stories and takes on everything from politics to bean dip to education to police work, I just had to get her to sit for an Edgy Interview. Shelley’s been a dedicated leader in law enforcement. She joined the force in 1982, making a significant impact with her strong commitment to community safety. Zimmerman, known for her innovative approaches, was Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s first hire and the department’s first female chief. Shelley continues to write prolifically on many civic topics. I think you’ll see why she was a beloved cop and chief and why San Diego was blessed to have her at the helm.

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

I love animals, so I considered being a veterinarian.

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

My father was a trial attorney and I always thought I would go to law school. When I moved to San Diego after college, I still thought I would go to law school. I mostly put myself through college and I knew I would need a job to pay for law school here in San Diego. I joined the San Diego Police Department, to help me pay for law school. But from day one, I fell in love with being a San Diego Police Officer and I never did go to law school! 35 years later, I retired as the Chief of Police. There are numerous reasons why I loved being a San Diego Police Officer. Here is just one of them: multiple times a day, you will have the opportunity and privilege to help someone and usually at their worst possible moment.

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

I would very much appreciate talking with President Lincoln about leadership and how he led during his time in office. Inscribed on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial are his Gettysburg Address and second inaugural speech. Every time I get to Washington, DC, I always take the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial and ponder the meaning of the inscriptions. In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it was not clear how the war would end. This address was narrowly focused, emphasizing remembering and honoring those who died and what they were fighting for. In his second inaugural address, the nation was still at war, but Lincoln saw the future as one where we had to take care of those hurt by the war, and the country must unite and act in the spirit of togetherness and not spite. To have the opportunity to discuss all of this and so much more would be amazing.

What is your proudest accomplishment while serving as San Diego’s Police Chief?

To accomplish many things, you often will need help, lots of it. I certainly had help and stood on the shoulders of giants. Throughout my career, I had the privilege of helping mentor many officers and professional staff. My proudest accomplishment was assisting others to succeed in obtaining their goals.

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

I can think of many laws that need to be repealed but if I had to pick one right now, it would be California’s Proposition 47. I opposed Proposition 47 from the beginning because it was seriously flawed. I called it then and I still call it now, a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card. Reducing penalties without requiring accountability does not work for drug and theft offenses, which Proposition 47 championed, nor will it work for more serious crimes. When people are victimized by crimes, they deserve to know that the offenders will be held accountable. Every time the system fails to provide consequences for illegal activities, people lose faith in the rule of law and its ability to protect them from crime.

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

Cleveland is where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located. I grew up in Cleveland so of course I listened to a lot of rock music. I still listen to a lot of rock, but I also listen to many other genres such as jazz, classical, R&B, pop and even some metal, and country.

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

I suppose my first concert was the one I played in, and it felt great. To see people enjoying the music you are playing was magical. As a young child, I started playing musical instruments and continue to this day. I played in the marching band and orchestra in high school. I also played in the pep band at The Ohio State. (I wasn’t good enough for the marching band) I play drums, clarinet, piano, and guitar. However, in full disclosure, I do not play any of them well.

3PIXstudios © 2017 –

Have you recently watched any shows that resonated with you?

I didn’t watch it at the time it aired, but I recently finished watching the series The Wire. Having worked narcotics and other detective assignments in my career, I found there were many accurate depictions. No matter what assignment I had, I always believed we must follow the facts and clues to its logical conclusion, no matter where they might lead. There is a line in The Wire that gets to the heart of this, “You follow the drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But if you start to follow the money you don’t know where that will take you.”

Did you (or do you now) have a sports hero and what’s special about them?

I absolutely love sports. I wouldn’t say I have a sports hero, but I have several players and sports personalities that I admire. Growing up in Cleveland and then attending The Ohio State University, I followed the Browns, Cavs, Guardians (Indians), Buckeyes and now in San Diego our Padres, Aztecs, and Gulls. Our Wave FC is also fun to watch. When the Chargers played in San Diego, I followed them too.

I have so many great sports moments. Let me mention one. I had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Padres game. I was a bit nervous and wanted some advice, so I called Trevor Hoffman. Who else would I call but the Padres Hall of Famer and he gave me some great advice – aim high at the catcher’s head because there is a tendency to aim low since you are on a mound. This was spot on advice, and I am proud to say, I threw from the rubber, didn’t bounce the ball and I will call my pitch a strike. I was then invited by Mark Grant and Dick Enberg into their broadcast booth. I think they were impressed with my sports knowledge, and it was quite special reminiscing with Dick about him calling two Browns games — The Drive and The Fumble — that are part of the agony of Cleveland sports.

Mark Grant, Shelley Zimmerman and Dick Enberg in the booth

You’re a cyclist. Have you ever competed in cycling and if so, tell us a great story about that?

I love to ride my bicycle. I have never competed in just a cycling race, but I have competed in several triathlons, which includes a cycling segment. I am a proud mid-packer in my age division. I think maybe once or twice I had a podium finish, but that was likely because there were only three in my age category. I say it still counts.

There is a story I would like to share about riding my bicycle from San Francisco to San Diego to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The first year I did this, I had never even driven my car over Big Sur, and now I would ride my bicycle. It would also be my longest ride at over 110 miles, and the most I climbed, over 7,000 feet. Although I had trained, I was still quite apprehensive about this day’s difficult ride. About halfway riding through the hills of Big Sur, I started to get quite tired, and the doubt started in my head: could I do this? While climbing another hill, I saw two challenged athletes ahead of me. I saw they were both riding on cycling prosthetics as I approached them. One had a prosthetic for his right leg, and the other a prosthetic for his left leg. At that moment, I realized I had nothing to feel tired about. I continued to ride with these fantastic, challenged athletes and was inspired by them every pedal stroke. Because of them, I finished the ride that day with an incredible sense of accomplishment.

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

Having worked undercover during my career, I would like to be on Survivor. I think I could put those skills to good use to outwit, outplay, and outlast.

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

It’s not just professional advice but the best advice I received for any situation, and I got it from my mom. “Do your best! And if you didn’t do your best, why not? Figure out what held you back from doing your best, fix it, and do better next time.”

Take us through your perfect day in San Diego.

Wake up to see a beautiful sunrise. Take a bike ride on the coast, with the wind at my back. Spend time with family and friends, help someone, take in a sporting event, and watch a beautiful sunset.

What would you change about yourself?

To stop being so hard on myself. I am my own non-stop biggest critic.

What advice do you have for young people considering law enforcement as a career?

Being a police officer is an honorable and noble profession. If I had to do it all over again, would I be a police officer? Without any hesitation, that answer is YES! Being a police officer is not just a job but a calling. It is a sacred commitment to protect society and often the most vulnerable and humblest among us. When you are a police officer, you are part of something much bigger than just yourself. The policing profession needs good people, so you must live a life that allows you to pass a background check. You should also consider becoming a police cadet to get a sense of what being a police officer will entail. Go on a ride along with a police officer and see for yourself why being a police officer is a fantastic career. If I may add, the San Diego Police Department is hiring, so if anyone is reading this and considering a career as a police officer, apply!

Jessica Patterson

Edgy Interview: Jessica Patterson

Jessica Millan Patterson has proved that women within the Republican Party can rise and make a difference. She’s helmed the CAGOP since 2019 as the first Latina and the first woman to lead the Party. In that role Jessica takes the fight to Democrats across the state. But just as important, as you’ll read in this installment of the Edgy Interview, she’s a mom who’s raising two strong girls. The family lives in Simi Valley, a stone’s throw away from her hero’s Presidential Library.

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

 I am a child of the 80’s and a huge Ronald Reagan fan, but if I had the opportunity to speak to any President it would be Abraham Lincoln without a doubt.  To be the President at such a divided time in our nation’s history is so incredibly remarkable… I’d have so many questions.

 What is your proudest accomplishment while serving as Chair of CAGOP?

In 2020, we flipped four House seats, the most of any state in the nation. In the 2022 cycle, we kept and grew our congressional delegation, secured a House Majority, and I saw my mentor and friend Kevin McCarthy become Speaker of the House. It was great to see the hard work by our team and volunteers pay off in a really big way.

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

There are so many issues created by the Democrat super-majority that I think it’s difficult to choose just one. I do wish the fentanyl epidemic got more attention — this is affecting not only adults, but our children are being poisoned as well. Over 110 Californians die each week and it’s absolutely devastating. China is producing this deadly drug, it’s pouring through our southern border, and brought into our communities.

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

This past year I’ve really gotten into the series Yellowstone. Taylor Sheridan is an artist who happens to write phenomenal stories told on the small screen.  The character development he does, the back stories, the different viewpoints; he is immensely talented.

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

Hands down 90’s rap. I’m from Los Angeles and the amount of talent that came from the West Coast rap scene during that moment in time is legendary. Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ is a cultural masterpiece and should be required listening; even the Library of Congress selected the album for preservation in the National Recording Registry. Now, I listen to a lot of country and as the mother of two girls, I am also in my Taylor Swift era.

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

December 1989, New Kids on the Block at the Great Western Forum. I was in 4th grade and got to tagalong with my older sister and cousin — I felt so cool.

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

Tacos. I could definitely win some trophies by throwing back some tacos.

Did you (or do you now) have a sports hero and what’s special about them?

Sports truly have such a special place in my heart and, growing up in Los Angeles, we’ve had so many amazing franchises and teams. Whether it’s the Dodgers, Lakers, or USC football — so many elite athletes have come from many of these teams, and I feel lucky to have seen anew nd experienced that firsthand.  There is one athlete that I believe is incredibly special though not from an LA team: Bobby Bonilla of the Mets. I cannot get enough of his deferred salary arrangement, is just legendary. Every year, I celebrate “Bobby Bonilla Day” on July 1st — coincidentally on the same day when the Mets pay him $1.2 million, the California Democrats increase our gas taxes.

What is your favorite baseball moment? 

I don’t think anything can compare to Kirk Gibson’s homerun in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  I was eight years old and got to watch my Dodgers win the World Series. I loved the Orel Hershiser, “I’m going to Disneyland” commercials that would follow. Little did I know, that I’d have to wait until my daughter was eight years old for them to win again.

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

To this day my dad, Frank Millan, is the hardest working man I know.  The advice he gave not just for working, but for life in general, “There is no substitute for hard work.” I live by those words every day.

Who or what exerted the most influence on your career? 

I am so incredibly grateful to every mentor and boss that I have had over the years, each of whom I have great love and respect for. Truly, I would not be in the position I am today had it not been for Speaker McCarthy. His belief in me that I could do something out of my comfort zone — out of my own desires — really pushed me to go over the last five years to places I never thought I could. My children look at me in a different way, because of the work I do today and the impact it makes not only in our state but in our country. I would have likely spent my entire career in the background had he not pushed me to run for Chair of the California Republican Party.

What do you see yourself doing, professionally, in 10 years?

I have never looked that far into the future.  I’ve always believed that when you focus on the now without distraction, the next, and the next after that take care of themselves.

Say one of your kids wanted to go into politics. Would you encourage or discourage that?

I would probably discourage my children from getting into politics, but ultimately foster their passions.  Fortunately, right now at 9 and 11 years old, and despite having met a President, many Governors, Ambassadors, Senators, Congressional members, and a guy they call Uncle Speaker in their life, they both have other interests.  Abigail wants to be a designer and flip houses with her dad when he retires.  Madeline wants to be an inventor; she’s specifically interested in robotics.

Any proud moments with your kids and family you want to share?

Madeline and Abigail are the absolute proudest accomplishments of my life. Most recently Abigail won her 5th grade Halloween writing contest. Madeline was the first student in her class to read six chapter books and pass her accelerated reader test earning the coveted Teacher’s Desk for a Day.

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

All the discontinued Tory Burch wedges; they are incredibly comfortable! Now that I am in my 40’s I have moved away from high heels as much as possible. When they stopped producing the classic wedges my world stopped. I’m just shy of 5’2”, so don’t tell me just to buy the loafers and enjoy the ballet flats.

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.