Jim Madaffer

Edgy Interview: Jim Madaffer

Jim Madaffer has long been an infrastructure geek. He’s been a member of the powerful California Transportation Commission, appointed by former Governor Jerry Brown. He’s currently a member of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors and its immediate past chair, a former San Diego City Councilmember (from 2000-2008), a former Planning Group Chair, past Chair of the city’s Community Planners Committee, a former city council Chief of Staff and a serial entrepreneur who founded a manufacturing business in the early 1980s. To say Jim’s a busy guy who has his hands and mind wrapped around big important initiatives is an understatement. He’s an early-adopting forward-thinking force of nature, with a raft of ideas and the energy to pursue them. Jim also has a playful side, as you’ll appreciate in this installment of The Edgy Interview.


Most people say they got a lucky break at some point. Tell us about yours.
Having the greatest parents ever.


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

Beatles concert at Balboa stadium. My parents took me; I was 5 years old.


Do you think America’s best days are behind her or ahead of her and why?

Ahead.  We are at a turning point in American politics today – as though we have two Americas.  We must return to greater civility and remember the best of politics is for all sides to compromise.  There is rarely any one right or perfect answer to the problems we face.


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

Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell.  As a ham radio operator (K6JVM), I’m always tinkering with technology or a gadget of some sort.


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

Any law that is out of date.


Tell us about your proudest legislative achievement on the City Council.

Building a library system that today includes the main library and a growing network of new and modernized neighborhood branch libraries.


Tell us about your proudest achievement as a public affairs professional.

Helping cities become smart and connected communities generally. Perhaps singularly was winning the Polo Fields lease for our client Surf Cup Sports.


Tell us about your artistic talent(s).

Stick figures.


Who are your favorite artists — any medium?


Who should play you in your biopic?

Robert Downey Jr.


What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what do you listen to now?

Rock as a teenager. Today I listen to everything, with a tilt toward country.


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

Chopped – love to cook, love to chop.


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



If you could travel back to a place you’ve been, where would you go and why is that a special place?

Italy – the people, the food, my Italian heritage.


Favorite cuisine and where do you get it? 

Italian.  Italy.


How did you first get involved in local politics?

Tierrasanta Community Council, Community Planners Committee, and the rest, as they say, is history.


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

Upon getting elected, my mentor and predecessor Judy McCarty told me that while I now represent a large constituency of voters, my true constituency is four other votes on the City Council.


What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Find a mentor.


You’ve mentored some people.  Anyone you are particularly proud of?

Aimee Faucett, Jaymie Bradford, Elyse Lowe.


What makes bulldogs special?

The most loving, snoring squish-faces you’ll ever meet.


Tell us about your upcoming development project.

We purchased a 25-acre, 1,400 apple tree you-pick farm and orchard in Julian – hoping to make it a place for locals to enjoy good food, beverages, and a dark sky night.


Take us through Jim Madaffer’s “perfect day” in San Diego.

Breakfast with my bride, bike ride, Costco, and a perfect sunset


What would you change about yourself?

Be less of a procrastinator.


Sara Katz

Edgy Interview: Sara Katz

Sara Katz has been a force in San Diego public affairs for as long as I can remember. In fact, little known trivia, the Katz & Associates offices were in the same building as the Competitive Edge facility when we were located in Mission Valley! Sara has many claims to fame, but the one I like best is rebranding the recycled water program. Back in the early 2000s, the program had been tagged as “toilet-to-tap.” The ick factor was a real problem until Sara came up with “Pure Water Program.” A few years later we scientifically tested that new labelling on behalf of the Public Utilities District, and, while residents had mixed feelings about drinking recycled water, the image of the Pure Water Program was stellar. I think you’ll agree from Sara’s thoughtful answers, she brings her A game to everything she does.


How did you first get involved in your line of work and what keeps you there?

It started off with a political science college internship that I secured in the San Diego Mayor’s office, and then I worked several local, state, and federal campaigns throughout California, Nevada, and Texas. From there, I was recruited to work on back-to-back statewide ballot propositions in California. When I decided to hang out my own shingle (that is a whole other story), I was drawn to issues that had a nexus to policy, but also to the environment – water, wastewater, transportation, energy etc.  And here I am, some 30+ years later, still doing this.  And why? Our mission statement at Katz & Associates is simple:  Helping People Communicate About Things that Matter, and these policy issues probably matter more today than they did when I started the company. I have met fabulous people along the way, which has made the journey even more personally and professionally satisfying. I’m also proud of the small contributions I made in the communities where we have worked, often for many years, on important issues such as potable reuse (you know – “Toilet to Tap” ????), transportation improvements, overcoming NIMBY opposition to site important infrastructure… lots of examples I could share.


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

Soft rock: The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Rolling Stones, Loggins & Messina, Fleetwood Mac, Sade, Prince, Phil Collins, Elton John — a very long list. Throughout my youth there was often music playing in our home – I can see my parents dancing in the living room to the music of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett that was playing on their Curtis Mathis stereo.  So, when I started playing “my music,” I can hear my dad complaining that they just don’t make music like they used to. I love concerts, festivals, and dancing, so music plays an important role in my life!

Today I still listen to all the above, but I quite like several of today’s artists including Chainsmokers, Kygo, Dua Lipa, Gryffin, Harry Styles, Shawn Mendez and Lady Gaga, as well as some of the EDM music that my son blasts from his garage mancave.


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

The first “real” concert I attended — and that I remember made a BIG impression on me — was an all day, outdoor, no assigned seats, August 31, 1975 at Balboa Stadium (now a part of City College). It was about eight to ten hours in length and featured Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, and Loggins & Messina. [ed. Tickets were $7.50] I was way too young for any distilled spirits, etc., but there was no need… the vibe and energy, the dancing and singing to the music of legends that were bigger than life for me at that time was all that was needed for this youngster.


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

President Ronald Reagan. I attended the University of New Hampshire in 1980 on an exchange program with San Diego State University. I was encouraged by former Mayor Pete Wilson to get involved in the New Hampshire presidential Primary – a unique opportunity, he said – so I did. I ended up organizing Youth for Reagan on campus and quickly networked throughout the state, a great place to be during the fall of a high profile, presidential campaign. I was at the event in Portsmouth, NH, when then-candidate Reagan grabbed the microphone and said (paraphrasing): “I paid for this microphone.” Many may remember this was a defining moment in that presidential election.  So, in some ways this was the first real “mic drop”.

Our conversation? I would listen intently, drink in his thoughts, visions, applaud his patriotism and love of America. President Reagan owned the reality that he (and others) were voted into office to represent all Americans – and the litmus test of “red or blue” did not dictate the conversation. I would ask him what it takes for politics to work. Compromise, collaboration, and mutual respect? President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neil, while often on opposite ends of the political spectrum, frequently set a great example on how to compromise and get things done, an example that I certainly wish our current leaders would try to emulate. As an econ major, I would ask about his focus on supply-side economics, known then as Reaganomics, and how he wrestled the inflation rate of over 12% down to 4% while in office.

In 1984 I was lucky enough to serve as a California delegate for President Reagan and Vice-President George Bush at the Republican Convention in Dallas, Texas. Barely out of college, this was such an honor for me. So, no doubt in my mind, I’d like to chat with President Ronald Reagan.


Are America’s best days ahead of her or behind her?

This is a tough one, John. I have often said that I was born 20 to 25 years too late. I am a big fan of the Greatest Generation, which both my parents were on the tail-end of. My father graduated from high school at age 16.5 years, joined the military at age 17 and embarked on a 21-year military career (1940-1961). He was active in two wars, with 4,000 jet hours logged. My lens on America as a child was viewed through a stay-at-home mother, and a retired Air Force Major father who went to college (SDSU) and law school (USD) at night while working full-time every day for eight years. Hard work, sacrifice, respect, core values (regardless of your color or religion), and a “no-free lunch” mentality.  Kick the can and hide-and-go seek were afternoon playdates. It wasn’t perfect or easy, but compared to what I see today, is sure feels more honest, less complicated, and certainly more real.

But as I look to the future, I am inspired by the advancements we are making in so many fields – telemedicine, technology, clean energy, etc. I applaud the social progress that has been made concerning equality — for women, same sex marriage, religious freedoms, and working to ensure a greater parity for people of color — the list is long. We moved to San Diego in the early 1960’s and Jews were not allowed — or perhaps I should say the real estate community would not sell homes — in some communities (i.e., La Jolla) to people of the Jewish faith. As history notes, only people of Caucasian European ancestry were allowed.  So yes, progress is not easy, but it is being made. However, I am not sure if I can say with confidence that our best days are ahead of us.

America has been through several dark periods, and I feel we are in one again. In the past 10 or so years, the lack of civility between people here in our country is appalling. The dominance of social media and the control it has on our youth is of great concern. The days of TV and print media that largely told (versus editorialized) the story and highlighted the facts are all but gone. Government’s dominance in our lives feels all pervasive. Our pendulums simply, IMHO, swing too far one way or the other. We have more in common than we have in conflict, but it is the conflict that is highlighted to the point of saturation these days. I guess my response today would be… flip a coin, or it’s a tie.


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

I worked my way through high school and college as a food and cocktail waitress at several places in San Diego County, starting when I was 16 at Pernicano’s Pizza in El Cajon, and ending up at 21 working at Time Conspiracy, an upscale fine dining and dancing restaurant in UTC. Time Conspiracy was a themed restaurant where sectioned off areas had different motifs such as Roaring 20’s, Medieval, Old European, etc. The waitstaff also wore costumes and yours truly was Wonder Woman. Over the years I have been told many times I look like Linda Carter (I wish). But if I had to choose, I would have Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman 2.0, play me in my biopic. She is bad ass. A positive feminist, a mother of two, a lawyer, a former IDF soldier, and was crowned Miss Israel – and all of this was before the age of 35. She has also faced head-on anti-Semitism, which is clearly on the rise. We need more badass icons like Gal Gadot. So when the time comes for my biopic, please reach out to Gal to see if she has the time to take this on!


What is your favorite sports moment?

Setting aside my son’s club soccer days or my daughter’s high school lacrosse games – my favorite sports moment was on October 28th, 2018. It was game five of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium. I was George Mitrovich’s “guest and chauffer,” and we were guests of the Red Sox Nation. For those who knew George, I am sure you are smiling as you envision George walking around Dodger Stadium like he owned the joint, showing off a previous Red Sox World Series ring to anyone what would stop to look, etc. While our politics rarely aligned, it didn’t matter, and I was honored to be a founding member of FOG (Friends of George – along with Dan McAllister, Jan Percival, and Jeff Marston). The sunset that night was stunning, our seats were great and yes, we also were invited to spend the last few innings in the Red Sox private suite. So, that evening and the Red Sox victory must be my favorite sports moment. If you were a Boston fan, the energy was simply contagious. The consummate baseball fan, this was the last World Series George would ever watch or attend.  RIP Mitrovich from the Authority!


What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Earlier this year I participated on a panel of women business owners hosted by Dr. Kaye Switzer at SDSU for her Capstone Campaign Class in the Communications Department. We were asked a handful of questions to help some soon-to-be college graduates get a jumpstart in the “real world.”  One question was along these same lines:  What advice can you give a college senior as they are preparing to enter the workforce (in your field)? In no order of priority, here are some of my top suggestions:

  • Invest in your job search by securing a couple of internships.  That is a great way for both parties to “test drive” one another, so to speak. Don’t simply tell us you want to be in communications because “you like people.”
  • Spell check and QAQC any written submission. Too many people over the years have sent cover letters or even resumes that included serious errors: Public has an “l” in it. We are not in the business of pubic relations.
  • Show an interest: Volunteer, raise your hand, ask questions, show an interest in what you are doing or being asked to do. Find a way to standout. Initiative pays off.
  • Look everyone in the eye. Effective communications and personal engagement require a connection that can’t be made solely with 280 characters in a Tweet. Get rid of the “you know,” “like,” “ummmms,” etc.  As a representative of your employer/company, you are their brand, and you need to look and act the part.
  • Be willing to pay your dues. You should not get a promotion or a bonus just for showing up on time and/or having occupied the chair for a year. Good work, a positive attitude, and a little extra effort can and will go a long way.  
  • Read the damn newspaper. Can’t tell you the number of people we interview that have college degrees in communications, public relations, or even journalism that do not follow the news everyday – heck, even once a week. Yet they think they would be good in media relations… WTH?

We see a lot of FB posts of you and your kids. Any proudest moments you want to share?

Two of my recent proudest moments are both associated with my kids. My daughter Alena was accepted to a coveted program at University of Southern California (USC) in the field of Occupational Therapy. Even with an impressive GPA, great aptitude scores, and a well-rounded CV, the competition was fierce. USC was her first choice for this specific program — an accelerated six-year doctoral program that only accepts 10 students each year. And to top it off, she was the recipient of the only merit scholarship awarded by the college for her undergraduate degree. #ProudMom

The second of these recent proudest moments was in June of 2020 when my son graduated from the University of Oregon. U of O was his top choice for college, and it proved overall to be a good fit. While we never imagined his graduation ceremony would be held virtually in our family room, compliments of COVID-19, it turned out to be wonderful and even extra special: surrounded by close friends who were there in person to celebrate this accomplishment.


What would you change about yourself?

I have said for years that I have a college degree in worrying… certainly nothing to brag about. And sometimes I think I went on to receive my master’s degree, even with honors, in worrying. Big stuff, little stuff, things I have no control over, yet still I find reason to worry… In fact, as I respond to this interview, I worry if this is what you were looking for in terms of responses ????


Chris Cate

Edgy Interview: Chris Cate

When we began working with Chris Cate and his consultants Jason Roe and Duane Dichiara on his 2014 race for City Council, I asked for biographical information, how he grew up and things like that. Buried was a snippet about Chris starting an auto glass repair business while in college; no one knew much about it and he didn’t make a big deal about it. I made sure we got that into the focus groups. Sure enough, our participants thought Chris paying his way through USD by running his own business was a huge positive for him. It told them that Chris was a guy who was willing to work hard, to persevere and who believed in himself. Those who know him still see that today, along with a Councilmember who’s willing to wade through budget briefing books and keep a sharp eye out for the taxpayer.


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

I didn’t grow up in a political family. We didn’t talk politics or campaigns and such. I didn’t even declare my major until a year into my time in college. But after 9/11, I started getting more interested and asking questions, and just jumped into it. In my last semester at University of San Diego I interned for a DC lobbying firm. I was just starting to get more interested in politics and this was during the time of the Duke Cunningham and Bernie Madoff scandals. I went to DC pretty green, but really eager to learn. Not only did I fall in love with the history of that town, I fell in love with the work that I was doing. I was really focused on the policy and looking at various problems and trying to find solutions through the legislative process. I knew immediately I wanted to be in the world of politics, but I just wanted to figure out a way to do it in San Diego. Part of my time I also figured out that national politics wasn’t for me, but I wanted to focus on local government and the services that have the most impact on residents.


You’re the San Diego City Council’s only Republican. Do you have advice for the GOP moving forward?

This is honestly somewhat of a loaded question, and I have a lot to say on the topic. I think the two pieces of advice I’d give are to determine a path to better understand the communities within the districts you want to be competitive in and to be more open to finding the appropriate messenger and messages to communicate what you stand for.

For the first suggestion, the residents of each neighborhood give those communities very specific identities. It could be the cultural identity of that community, it could be the parks and other community characteristics, or the businesses in their neighborhood they patronize. No matter that “thing,” they are proud of it. I think if Republicans want to be competitive, they must be very understanding of that fact, ingratiate themselves to those things and show they are invested in these communities.

My second point is an extension of the first: messages and the messenger matter to these communities. The same old talking points that are general in nature aren’t going to cut it to communicate the values and policy ideas of our candidates and elected officials. At a local level especially, the communication needs to be tailored and delivered by trusted sources that have a relationship with said community.

All of this is not to say this isn’t being done, but I think it needs to be part of our DNA and constantly remind folks about it if we want to win. We must be on the ground — involved at the community level — if we want to be competitive. Unfortunately, in the City of San Diego, that currently isn’t the case, but that’s not to say the days of being competitive once again aren’t going to be right around the corner.

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

Great question… I think I would want to go back to chat with John Adams. Mainly because I want to know what his thought process was with going so far as to support the Sedition Act. Having a conversation with a revolutionary intimately involved in the founding of this country and the creation of the most brilliant legislative documents produced. Not to mention his serving as both President and Vice President, his relationship with Thomas Jefferson… a beer with this guy would be amazing [ed. Also amazing, sharing a beer with John’s second cousin Sam.]


Briefly review the last good political book you read or movie you saw.

I recently re-read Larry Tye’s book “Bobby Kennedy.” It’s a fascinating look at Robert Kennedy, including the start of his political career all the way through to his presidential run, and there is a particular focus on his time with his family. The family stories are the ones I took away most from the book because that has really defined my last few years on the council since I got married and we had our children. I did not know that Robert Kennedy worked for Joseph McCarthy. I appreciate these looks at important figures that don’t just focus on their career, but their personal lives as well.


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

It wasn’t the first concert I ever went to, but it was the best, and that was the Up in Smoke Tour in 2000. I was able to go with my best friend as our high school graduation gift, so we went down to Coors Amphitheater as it was called then and had a fantastic time. It was amazing to see Dr. Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Warren G, Nate Dogg, and Ice Cube all on the same stage. That is a concert I will never forget!


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

I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop and R&B. I was obsessed with Tupac. He’s by far the best that ever lived, and my friends and I had his CDs on constant loop. But whenever I was in the car with my mom that meant listening to a lot of Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Chicago [ed. This is a must-see for Terry Kath’s solo], and Jimmy Buffett. So, my taste in music is wide. But right now I’m listening to the early albums of Linkin Park. I got sucked into a YouTube hole of watching some of their old concerts and now I’m listening to their stuff.


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

I would want Bruno Mars to play me. He’s amazingly talented, a good-looking guy, and Filipino! I mean, can’t you see the resemblance?


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

When I think of competitive eating I think “easy to hold in your hand and eat,” so with that, I’m going to go with Lumpia.


Favorite cuisine and where do you get it? 

Piggybacking off my choice for a competitive eating contest, I’ll stick with Lumpia and plug what I believe is the best place to get it. Fredcel is in City Heights on the corner of University Ave and 38th Street. It’s a small shop, but you can smell the lumpia from the street. I don’t know what it is about their oil or whatever they do when they’re frying the lumpia, but it’s incredibly delicious. If you go down there or make an order over the phone, bring cash because they’re cash only.


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

This is the one question I was so looking forward to answering! I would want to compete on “The Circle.” If you’re not familiar, the purpose of the show is to be the most popular amongst the group and earn the most votes from them. But it’s all remote and you don’t get to see the other participants. ADDITIONALLY, you don’t even have to play yourself! You can be a catfish and pretend to be someone else, so whatever you need to do to win and create alliances goes. At the end of the show, you get to finally see everyone in person and see if they’re actually who they said they were. This became our guilty pleasure show at the start of the pandemic and we really got into it. You can find “The Circle” on Netflix!


What advice do you have for young people starting out?

I’m going to assume you mean starting out and running for office. With that, my first piece of advice is to get off social media. Twitter is not real life. The social media advocacy you often see or hear about is quite different than the things that matter to everyday San Diegans. If you’re a candidate running for local office, be prepared to constantly be on the phone raising money and knocking on doors. A lot of first-time candidates think running for office is about giving these grandiose speeches that conclude with attendees chanting your name. In reality, running for office is a mental grind. It’s not for everyone, but it’s incredibly rewarding if you’re fortunate to be elected. The only other thing I would say is: make sure your spouse and family are supportive. You will be spending A LOT of time away from home, and in my opinion, they should have veto power over your decision. If I was in this same family position eight years ago, I most certainly wouldn’t have run for office.


We see a lot of SM posts of you and your kids. Any proudest moments you want to share?

With three kids three and under, it seems like we have proud moments all the time! Whether it’s one of them learning to crawl, or walk, or eat solids, or learn to write their name, it’s all an adventure! When they learn to say “I love you momma” or “I love you daddy,” your heart just melts. Suffice it to say that I love being a dad and at this point, just trying to soak in all these moments. It all goes by so fast. The next thing you know they’re going to be asking for the keys to the car!


Take us through Chris Cate’s “perfect day” in San Diego.

Hmm… well it’s not all that extravagant, to be quite honest. I think it would start out with my kids all waking up in great moods (no crying or fussing!) and my wife Maria and me dropping them off at daycare. I’d then go grab some coffee with Maria on our way back home. I’d then head over to Torrey Pines and play a round on Torrey North with some friends and shoot a decent round. I’d then head back home and go with Maria to pick up our kids, who will still be in great moods. I then cook some steak and lobster tails for dinner with a nice bottle of wine and enjoy the evening with the kids (still in good moods) and watching MadiRose cook s’mores with Maria. For me, that would be a perfect day!


What would you change about yourself?

In the illustrious words of Skee-Lo, “I wish I was a little bit taller.”


You’re termed out. What’s next for Chris Cate?

My first step is to find a job! I have 3 kids to feed! I’m honestly looking forward to whatever the next chapter has in store for me. I still plan to be involved at a policy level on matters that impact San Diegans, but from the outside and not as an elected official. I’m not going anywhere, and you’ll still see me weighing in on issues. I like to remind people that just because I’m not running for something right now doesn’t mean that it won’t happen at some point in the future. I think that I still have a lot to give but after 2022, I’m going to enjoy spending more time with Maria and our kids.



Kristin Gaspar

Edgy Interview: Kristin Gaspar

Google “hard worker” and Kristin Gaspar’s picture should pop up. She is the first in her family to graduate college, working two restaurant jobs to pay her way through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Arizona State University. Gaspar is the youngest woman ever elected to San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors, unseating an incumbent in the process! Before that, she served on the Encinitas City Council, then became that city’s first elected Mayor. Not enough? Gaspar was the CFO of very successful Gaspar Physical Therapy and now serves as Vice President, Philanthropy, for the Palomar Health Foundation, the largest healthcare district in the State of California. Just as important, Kristin’s my friend and I hope you enjoy reading her take on things in this installment of the Edgy Interview.


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

A fisherman! I grew up fishing with my grandpa and just loved it! Some of my best memories surround summers spent in the Sierras wading in Robinson Creek and fishing for rainbow trout. I wanted to have my own fishing show – “Kristin’s Katch” – and even went to broadcast journalism school with that in mind. Maybe one day!


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

I always blame hormones. I was eight months pregnant with my second child and attended a fundraiser my husband (who was far more political than I was) hosted for then-State Senator Mimi Walters. Someone introduced me to her as a “future senator” and I laughed. Mimi just glared at me and said, “why not? What’s your excuse?” And I motioned toward my pregnant belly. She told me that was no excuse, that she had run with small children, and it could be done. Not long after, there I was with my own small children in a wagon going door-to-door running for City Council.

What achievement are you proudest of during your term as a County Supervisor? Encinitas Mayor?

I was the youngest woman ever elected to the Board and I joined a Board that had been together since I was in junior high! I was proud to prioritize people. I worked to highlight mental health and set the foundation that the County uses today to partner with healthcare organizations. As the first elected Mayor of Encinitas, I am most proud of the Encinitas Community Park, Moonlight Beach renovations and the Marine Safety Tower construction.


What was it like meeting President Trump?

Surreal. The most powerful person in the world walks through the door and takes a seat at the head of the table where I was sitting. Later, while on a tour of the West Wing, I realized that door led to the Oval Office. While I was nervous, I was there with a clear mission – to tell the heartbreaking story of 27 year-old Alexander Mazin who was gunned down in cold blood in San Diego. His murderer fled across the border and was living in plain sight in a Tijuana motel. I held up Alexander’s photo and told his story to the President of the United States who committed to bringing justice for the Mazin family. A few months later, I got the call from District Attorney Summer Stephan that Alexander’s murderer was extradited and his feet were on U.S. soil to face trial. I’ll never forget sharing tears and hugs with Alexander’s parents. With the help of the President, justice was served to a family whose lives were shattered.


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

I’m not sure I would repeal it in its entirety, but the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA has been weaponized in recent years to shut down any sort of development or even redevelopment. I think the most reasonable solution is tort reform. There are lawyers (on both sides) who make a living filing or fighting CEQA lawsuits while counties and cities struggle to approve and actually build projects. In fact, my last year as Supervisor, more than 5,000 units were held hostage in court between two environmental attorneys in town!


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

I’ve always been a fan of country music and even worked at a country music station in Phoenix – KMLE Country 108. I’ll never forget how I got this job. At the time, I was putting myself through college bartending at Red Robin. One night we were short staffed, and I was given the task of manning bar service for the entire restaurant and 19 additional tables. It just so happened that KMLE’s manager was seated in my section. When I brought him his check, he complimented me on my work ethic and on the spot offered me a job at the station. Next thing you know I was driving the station’s iconic Hummer out to remote broadcast locations all over Arizona and developing my love for country music. Now, my teenagers pick the playlist!


Who would you want to play you in your biopic?

My daughter, Addie. This kiddo is going to do something outrageously special one day. As for now she understands me more than in anyone else in this world. She is a careful observer, keenly aware of all of my likes, dislikes, and emotions. I can’t even do the “mom thing” and disguise when I’m sad or frustrated. Addie can see right through it and will start preparing a surprise care basket complete with all my favorites—Peanut M&M’s, Chardonnay, and a cozy blanket.


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

I’ve always been a fan of country music and even worked at a country music station in Phoenix – KMLE Country 108. I’ll never forget how I got this job. At the time, I was putting myself through college bartending at Red Robin. One night we were short staffed, and I was given the task of manning bar service for the entire restaurant and 19 additional tables. It just so happened that KMLE’s manager was seated in my section. When I brought him his check, he complimented me on my work ethic and on the spot offered me a job at the station. Next thing you know I was driving the station’s iconic Hummer out to remote broadcast locations all over Arizona and developing my love for country music. Now, my teenagers pick the playlist!


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

The first concert I attended was a giant Country Music Festival in Arizona while working for KMLE. My job was to manage the backstage meet and greets before the performances. A new band was opening for Tim McGraw: Rascal Flatts. When I finished taking all the VIP’s through, the lead singer of the band, Gary LeVox, asked me to take a picture with the band. Just as we were posing to take the picture, Gary jumped up in the air and exclaimed that I had pinched his butt. Security started swarming over and the whole group was busting up laughing. It took Gary several minutes to convince my boss that he was only joking. This opening act in 1999 went on to become a trio of musicians with a combined net worth of $180 million with 12 No. 1 Hot Country hits and millions of records sold.


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

Chardonnay, Diet Coke, and Chardonnay


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

Gum. I’ve swallowed many pieces per day since I was a kid and — so far — I’m alive to tell about. Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years. It’s either a myth or politics has just made me extra resilient.


What is your favorite sports moment?

Coaching my two girls in Pop Warner Cheer and winning back-to-back National Championships our final years together and watching my son score the winning touchdown in his Pop Warner championship game!


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

Funny you should ask. I love reality TV and often feel like I am actually on a daily reality show – like The Truman Show. I am a big fan of 90 day Fiancé, but don’t think my husband would approve of me going on that one.


Politically, what’s next for Kristin Gaspar?

I’ve been thinking about becoming San Diego’s Premier Pollster. [Ed. Hah, hah.]


What would you change about yourself?

Nothing and it reminds me of story. When I was Mayor, I had a particularly nasty hit piece done against me. It was a photo of me with all of these evil comments about my physical appearance. I decided to turn this around and use it for positive. One of the best parts of being in elected office is the opportunity to speak to school groups. I took the ugliness in this piece and used it to talk about bullying and body image with young children. Social media is here to stay. While you can’t control what people have to say about you, it is possible to control your reaction to it.


What advice do you have for young people starting out?

Trust the journey and no matter what you are doing at the present moment, be the best at it. My first job was as a chicken carver at Boston Market. Glamorous right?! No, it wasn’t exactly what I closed my eyes and pictured doing for the rest of my life or even in that moment. I made the decision that, if I was going to be a chicken carver, I was going to be the best chicken carver! Not long after, I was noticed by a customer who happened to be the general manager at Red Robin. He offered me a job as a hostess and the rest is history. Red Robin became the job that opened the opportunity for me to afford college, the steppingstone to a job in radio, and acceptance into the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where I proudly became the first college graduate in my family. I just knew there would come a day when lifting those greasy and not to mention heavy chicken spits would pay off! Have faith… trust the journey.


Mark Kersey

Edgy Interview: Mark Kersey

Mark Kersey gets things done. We had a problem with the bridge near our house. It wasn’t falling apart, it was loud: when trucks or really anything with more weight than a moped traveled over the bridge, it was like the Blue Angels were flying over the neighborhood. The neighbors complained, but not until Councilman Kersey intervened was the bridge fixed and we could enjoy an evening in the side yard. As you’ll read, that’s not the only thing Mark accomplished during his two Council terms. He’s also a successful entrepreneur, baseball player, and Dad. Get to know him in this installment’s Edgy Interview. 


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

I wanted to be a firefighter. The closest I got to that dream was interacting with many firefighters while on the City Council and appropriating their budget every year. Not exactly what little kids envision for when they grow up. In fact, the first City Council meeting I ever went to was with my Cub Scout pack. I remember thinking how boring it was and why would anybody ever want that job?!


What advice do you have for young people starting out? 

I really dislike the old adage “find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” because it’s just not true. Every job or profession has its long days, unnecessary meetings, or dealing with people you’d rather not — all of which definitely qualify as “work.” So young people starting out need to find their passion, be prepared to work really hard, and exceed their higher-ups’ expectations. I think they’ll find there’s always going to be a path to success for people who follow that playbook.


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

An old mentor told me that there are two kinds of people who enter public life: those who want to do something and those who want to be somebody. He advised me to choose the former. Sadly, today’s political climate seems to disproportionately reward the latter.


What achievement are you proudest of during your term on the San Diego City Council?

We made substantial progress on rebuilding the City’s infrastructure during my eight years. In prior years there were times when the City’s street repair budget, for example, was close to zero. Radically changing that approach and driving an agenda that prioritized fixing streets and sidewalks, replacing 100-year-old water mains, and expanding City parks was a big part of not repeating the mistakes of the past. San Diego had never had a multi-year infrastructure strategy, so we got one done. We streamlined the approval process for projects, substantially reducing the time for those projects to go from concept to completion. We evaluated certain City assets like sidewalks for the first time so we’d know how much it would cost to fix them. This all culminated in the passage of Prop H in 2016, which committed millions more taxpayer dollars to infrastructure without raising taxes.

There’s always more work to do, of course, because decidedly unglamorous work like infrastructure maintenance never stops.


With Cask & Coast Whiskey you’ve embarked on a totally different path. Tell us about that.

A decade in politics prepared me well for my next career in the whiskey business. My business partner Richard and I started Cask & Coast Spirits Co. last year and we’re getting ready to bottle our first release of California bourbon. Our bourbon is a proprietary blend that’s distilled and aged in the Midwest (where they’ve been doing it for 200+ years) then we finish it for a year in California Cabernet wine casks from my partner’s vineyard. In my admittedly biased opinion, it’s excellent bourbon and we’re really looking forward to being able to actively distribute it this fall.


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

I always have craft beer, vermouth (sweet & dry), and blueberries in the fridge (for separate consumption of course). I got a mixology certificate many years ago, so I enjoy experimenting with interesting cocktails. I’m hoping the superfood elements of the blueberries offset any health downsides of the other two.


Favorite cuisine and where do you get it?

I’m a sucker for good Italian food and as such enjoy several local establishments — most frequently my neighborhood spot Rosina’s, both because it’s within walking distance and it has great food. The arancini, chicken Bolognese gnocchi, and burrata alla panna are fantastic.


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

You mean the lowest-rated biopic of all time? Let’s go with Keanu Reeves…maybe Neo could drive some views. Whoa!


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

I’m a big fan of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi dating back to my study abroad days in Spain. His buildings are so unique and unmistakably his. La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona is a sight to behold, and despite being under construction for more than a century, is finally nearing completion.


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

As a 90s teenager I was a pretty big fan of grunge, especially Nirvana. Not surprisingly I became a big Foo Fighters fan — now the last great rock band. A few years ago they played at Kaboo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Dave Grohl mentioned that the last time he played that venue was in the early 90s with an upstart band (that he didn’t specifically name), and the crowd went wild. It was a cool moment. I still listen to plenty of both bands.


What is your favorite sports moment?

 Back in college, my roommate and I went to a Mariners-Blue Jays baseball game in Toronto and saw Ken Griffey Jr. hit three home runs. In his other two at bats he hit long fly outs to the warning track, so he came within 10 feet or so of hitting five HRs in one game, something no one’s ever done. Best all-around player of his generation.


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

Dwight Eisenhower. I’d love to talk to him about D-Day: the preparation that went into it, the operation itself, his contingency plans if it didn’t succeed. Countless D-Day books have been written and TV shows have been made, but to talk directly to Ike himself about it would be amazing. My grandpa was at D-Day as a young sailor onboard the USS Laffey destroyer, so I’ve long had an interest in the invasion, and was fortunate to be at Normandy for the 75th anniversary festivities in 2019.


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

Boy, it’s tough to pick just one but Prop 47 has been a disaster. Looking at just one of its provisions, it seems clear that downgrading shoplifting and grand theft up to $950 per incident to a misdemeanor has been one of the main causes — and likely the primary cause of — the dramatic increase in theft seen around the state over the last several years. A big frustration is that 47’s opponents (me included) predicted these kinds of negative consequences, to no avail.


You’re a traveler. If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go and why? 

I’ve spent some time in Ireland the last couple of years as part of another whiskey venture, and I can’t wait to return. It’s a beautiful island with incredibly friendly people, and it’s not very big so you can see quite a bit of it in one trip. Part of my family came over from Ireland a couple centuries ago, so it’s been a great experience to go back.


Take us through “Mark Kersey’s perfect day” in San Diego.

A perfect day includes spending time with family, including my English bulldogs Winston and Duke, sampling some whiskey, and taking in a Padres game at the best ballpark in America. Hmmm come to think of it that’s what I’m doing today!