Photos by Sam Hodgson, except Fulton photo via Creative Commons license.
Clockwise from top left: Denise Montgomery, Felipe Monroig, Richard Barrera, Myrtle Cole, Julie Dubick, Bill Fulton, Cindy Marten, Lorena Gonzalez. Center: Jerry Sanders.
The city has undergone a changing of the guard this year.
Some of San Diego’s biggest and most influential institutions are being led by new faces — or old faces in new roles.
Here’s a rundown of some of the people at the helm of groups that hold tremendous sway over how the city functions.
New gig: He’s the new chief of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the region’s umbrella groups for unions.
Previous jobs: Barrera serves on San Diego Unified school board. He’s also worked as a regional organizer for both the United Domestic Workers and United Healthcare Workers.
Challenges ahead: Barrera replaces Lorena Gonzalez, who played a prominent role in regional politics. Barrera will need to etch out his own public presence and approach to leading the organization. Barrera has said he’d like to focus on forming partnerships with business leaders to improve conditions for struggling families in the region.
His approach: “My background is I’m an organizer and what that means is the way that I approach any challenge is I try to pull as many people together who care about the situation facing working families. It’s about engaging people and developing solutions and building coalitions between people who even might have a variety of different perspectives.”
New gig: Cole was recently sworn in this month as councilwoman for District 4, which includes San Diego’s southeastern neighborhoods.
Previous jobs: Until recently, Cole served as coordinator of a local home health workers union. Before that, she spent years working in various City Council offices and as a police officer for the San Diego Community College District.
Challenges ahead: Cole won a hard-fought battle for her City Council seat but emerged with some battle scars that resulted in a skeptical CityBeat write-up. She’ll need to re-establish her reputation and work to follow through on campaign promises to prioritize public safety and development in neighborhoods often seen as neglected by City Hall. She’s promised to work with labor leaders to draw a grocery store and more locally owned restaurants to her district.
Her approach: “Public safety and improved infrastructure are among my top priorities for District 4 and I look forward to working with the mayor and City Council to improve and better serve our neighborhoods.”
New gig: CEO of the Balboa Park Celebration Inc., the group organizing the year-long 2015 event at the park.
Previous jobs: Dubick spent about two years as former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ chief of staff. Before that, she specialized in corporate, real estate and employment law at a San Diego law firm and worked for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Challenges ahead: Dubick is charged with organizing a year-long event without a clear budget or a publicized assessment of what it should cost. She and others must work to raise necessary cash to ensure the event draws the tourists, economic benefits and community pride they envision. This will involve lots of coordination and plenty of creativity over the next year despite significant unanswered questions.
Her approach: “I bring a very extensive knowledge of the city, a pretty good brain, a lot of fundraising experience, a lot of energy but if you want to pick one word, it’s collaboration.”
New gig: Soon-to-be director of the city’s newly renamed Planning and Restoration Department. He starts July 8.
Previous jobs: Fulton most recently served as vice president of policy and implementation at the Washington D.C.-based Smart Growth America, an advocacy group. He previously served as mayor of Ventura. He’s also publisher of the popular (among planners) California Planning & Development Report.
Challenges ahead: Fulton could find himself in some awkward situations given Mayor Bob Filner’s proclivity for supporting local residents’ views of proposed projects. Sometimes those views conflict with the smart growth vision that Fulton brings to his post. Fulton will also take on the most significant management role he’s had in his career. As Ventura mayor, he didn’t direct day-to-day operations but Fulton’s new job means he’ll supervise dozens of planners and perhaps even more current development services staffers.
His approach: “I think the fact that Mayor Filner has come in inside the strong mayor system gives us an unusual opportunity to really re-establish planning with a visionary approach,” Fulton told Voice of San Diego. “But particularly, the basic work has been done on the transit system, on downtown, on some of the close-in neighborhoods and it’s time to radiate that out to every neighborhood in the city.”
New gig: Gonzalez was sworn in as assemblywoman for California’s 80th District last month after a special election.
Previous jobs: For about five years, Gonzalez served as high-profile chief of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. Before that, she served on the California State Lands Commission and worked as a special adviser to then-Lieutenant Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
Challenges ahead: Gonzalez will need to quickly get up to speed on statewide issues and get used to a larger constituency in the South Bay. The longtime activist also must get used to the compromise necessary to get things done in the statehouse. After years of representing union interests, she may be confronted with tough decisions that could pit her against some longtime supporters.
Her approach: “As much as I love to serve as a worker advocate, my frustration has been in the lack of ability to really do anything about the job situation in California, and in particular in the South Bay,” she told KPBS. “So I know what was something I wanted to focus on, along with how to implement Obamacare in California, and what we’re doing in our public schools. I had to go to a different level and change what I was doing in order to have a real effect.”
New job title: Marten will take over as superintendent of San Diego Unified School District on July 1.
Previous jobs: Marten spent years as principal and vice principal at Central Elementary School in City Heights. The former teacher also served stints at Beth Israel Day School and as a literary specialist in the Poway Unified School District.
Challenges ahead: The passage of Proposition 30 and a new California educational funding model are likely to translate into more available dollars for the school district, meaning the worst budget cuts are likely in the past. Marten will need to decide how she wants to make use of newly available cash and avoid promising substantial salary raises that could cripple her ability to make positive changes in the future. And as a principal who was unexpectedly vaulted to the district’s highest post, Marten will need to surround herself with a strong team.
Her approach: “These are our schools. This is not my school system,” Marten said at an April VOSD event. “I’m not doing something top down to you. I’m not going to do this to you and I’m not going to do this for you. I’m going to do this with you. We’re going to do this together and we’re going to create a school system that is the best in the nation.”
New gig: Coach of the San Diego Chargers.
Previous jobs: McCoy spent four years as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos and nine years as a coach with the Carolina Panthers.
Challenges ahead: McCoy has years of experience but this is his first head coaching gig. He’ll need to grow into that role while attempting to restore fans’ confidence in a franchise that’s endured several rough seasons.
His approach: “They all laughed at me when I walked in with all of these books and binders. That is my life’s work,” McCoy said at a January press conference. “We have a detailed plan here that Tom (Telesco, the Chargers’ general manager) and I are going to put together. All of the schedules we are doing for (organized team activities), minicamps, how the players are going to eat during training camp, meals, times of practices, how we are going to go on the road if we are going to the East Coast, if we are leaving on Fridays or Saturdays for road trips. We are going to have a detailed plan.”
New gig: Monroig is now president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
Previous jobs: Monroig worked as former Councilman Carl DeMaio’s chief of staff for three years. Previously, he spent six years at the DeMaio-founded Performance Institute, where he focused on good government research.
Challenges ahead: The Taxpayers Association has long billed itself as an independent voice of taxpayers but it’s gotten a reputation for ties to conservative causes in recent years. The group worked closely with DeMaio and has often been in lockstep with the Lincoln Club of San Diego County. Monroig’s appointment seems to signify that trend will continue. Monroig will likely confront this perception repeatedly in his new role, particularly if he decides he wants to take the organization in a new direction.
His approach: “My focus is just to really stick to the core mission of the organization. We’re here to promote efficient and effective government throughout the county and that’s really what we’re gonna be looking at.”
New gig: Executive director of the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture.
Previous jobs: Montgomery directed arts programs for the city of Denver and a Colorado business group. In San Diego, she led marketing efforts for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and worked as a consultant for other institutions.
Challenges ahead: Montgomery must try to persuade city leaders that arts funding deserves a boost in despite tight finances. Regardless of how they respond, she’ll need to find creative ways to bolster awareness of San Diego’s arts and culture offerings. She’ll also need to make the city friendlier to the folks who bring unique contributions to the community.
Her approach: “I want artists and creative people, and I know the mayor does, to feel that they can make their career here,” Montgomery told VOSD. “Part of that is financial, that there are adequate opportunities, and part of that is community. Are there like-minded people here? Is there energy and inspiration? Can people find the creative juice they need? I think that’s all here. So being a connector and bringing people together.”
New gig: Sanders is now president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Previous jobs: Sanders served two terms as San Diego mayor. He previously led the city’s Police Department and the United Way of San Diego County.
Challenges ahead: Sanders’ time in public service earned him instant credibility and name recognition but the reality is he’s never been a businessman. He’ll need to soak up knowledge about the business sector and its day-to-day experiences to maintain that credibility.
His approach: “I think one of the things I have is CEO experience,” he told U-T San Diego. “Whether you’re chief of police or mayor, you’re still the CEO and you’re dealing with a lot of the same things that business owners face, like budgets, management and personnel.”
New gig: He’s general manager of the San Diego Chargers.
Previous jobs: Telesco spent much of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, most recently serving as vice president of football operations. He began his NFL career as a scouting assistant with the Carolina Panthers.
Challenges ahead: Telesco, like McCoy, just got a promotion. He spent more than 15 years with the Colts but never held the general manager’s post. Telesco will need to establish himself in that role while earning the respect of fans exhausted by bad seasons. To do that, Telesco will need to assess the team’s personnel needs and build a comprehensive free agency strategy for next season.
His approach: “(I) come into work every day trying to find the best players we can,” Telesco told ESPN. “Part of building chemistry with the team and the team process is getting to know the coaches well, getting to know the scouts, the front office. That’s all part of team building for me. It’s just trying to get to know everybody really well.”
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