Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Jeremy Ledford believes he’s a natural leader, but he recognizes his chances of winning the election to replace outgoing Mayor Dick Murphy are as likely as a pot of gold falling from the sky to relieve the city of its $1.37 billion-plus pension deficit.

Still, the fourth-generation San Diegan is serious about the message of his campaign, no matter that he hasn’t spent anything comparable to the front-running candidates and is the only one of the 11 running to not have a functioning Web site.

Ledford, 33, believes the troubled San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System is a case-in-point where elected leaders are a little too good at getting elected while their ability to lead leaves much to be desired.

“I’m definitely going to be a leader,” he said. “The City Council is used to running amok. I’m going to have to take the reigns because … they’ve been running this city into the gutter.”

Ledford, a Republican, said city leaders should be taking their direction from the people of San Diego and not deal-peddling lobbyists and unions.

“I’m not an enemy of the union worker, but I think their leadership is letting them down,” he said.

To fix the financial problems that have stemmed from the pension debacle, which has been targeted by most candidates as being the single-biggest issue voters will consider when casting ballots July 26, Ledford proposes giving the unions one last shot to renegotiate benefits he believes were created illegally.

If a sound agreement cannot be worked out, he wants to allow private companies to bid for work currently being performed by city workers.

“To solve this, we basically need to choke out (the union leadership) that got us in this mess,” he said.

Ledford, a Helix High School and University of Phoenix graduate, admires the leadership style of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and believes the city’s voters can resolve San Diego’s biggest issues through direct-ballot initiatives.

“The people of San Diego are a pretty conservative, common sense-type of people,” he said. “If you give them true information, I think they’ll make the right decision.”

One of the decisions he is confident voters will make later this month is to approve Proposition A, which would direct the city of San Diego to donate the Mount Soledad Cross memorial to the federal government.

He’s also among the many candidates who believe increasing fees or taxes is not an option for the city’s fiscal recovery. Like his opponents, Ledford wants to trim the budget of costs he deems unnecessary after studying the city’s books further.

“We’re not going to increase revenue, we’re going to cut, and put it out to the people why we’re cutting and give them the real numbers,” he said.

Those who know Ledford, who is married and has three sons, say he is capable of being a leader who grounds himself with the interests of everyday people.

Jeremy Strauss, a colleague of his for five years at McKesson, Inc., a health care information technology provider, said his co-worker is a “normal person who is very concerned about the issues.”

“He would really like to see everything better for the kids in the future and everyone else as well,” Strauss said.

Ledford, who resides in San Carlos, said the campaign is teaching him about politics, a longtime ambition of his, so that it will prepare him to run for office in the future. He aspires to be a congressman in 20 years and believes that his best shot at starting a political career is by running for the San Diego City Schools Board of Trustees. Ledford volunteers for the Benchley-Weinberger Foundation, an organization that fundraises for the elementary school attended by his sons, and he formerly served as the foundation’s president.

But Ledford said he couldn’t pass up the chance to run for mayor when he learned in April that Murphy, who he voted for twice, was stepping down.

“I was really disappointed when he gave up, but now when you look at it, he hasn’t been leading for awhile,” he said. “That’s where a leader is supposed to step up, give people options and provide the city with solutions.”

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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