Ronald Reagan's political strategist, Stu Spencer, advised San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson not to run for governor, saying, "California is ungovernable." When Councilwoman Toni Atkins pondered taking over as interim mayor until Jerry Sanders took office, I said, "Don't do it. This place is coming apart at the seams and there is no upside for you." Atkins, now the second-most important member of the state Assembly, ignored me just as Wilson ignored Spencer. She governed the city with grace, intelligence and class. The moral here may be that political leaders should ignore political consultants in these matters. It's above our pay grade.
Then he became mayor. Using a mystical combination of disciplined focus, raw power, compassion, intelligence and a delightfully foul mouth, Jerry held this city together with spitballs and paperclips. Seven years later we are healed at the broken places, and a stronger community because of his service.
I am grateful for the various civic duties entrusted to me by Mayor Sanders, but behind the scenes it has not been all roses. While he and I have very few differences on policy, I have not been a fan of his administration's handling of process. But he got an undoable job done despite seven years of my private kvetching. I continue as a great fan of Jerry Sanders, no longer just because of the equality stuff, but because he had the right stuff when San Diego needed it most.
Bob Nelson is a Unified Port of San Diego commissioner and has served on numerous local and national boards and commissions. He runs BNA Communications, an advertising and public relations firm. Read the full article online at voiceofsandiego.org.