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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.

Tony Young

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