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Wednesday, July 20, 2005 | Several spouses of candidates in the mayoral election possess public and professional records, and are practically as distinguished as the candidates themselves. Voice of San Diego’s series of profiles of these spouses and their foreground and background roles as they accompany the candidates through the campaign continues today with Diane Rider, wife of candidate Richard Rider.

Diane Rider believes her husband Richard should become the next mayor of San Diego the same way he became a national communications mogul.

Richard Rider’s climb started with the matriculation, in 1997, of the Riders’ eldest son, Steve, at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“When he went to college, we knew we would never hear from him again if we didn’t get an 800 line,” laughed Steve’s mother. “Richard researched the best phone company for our son and acquired so much expertise that he began to share it with others. He tailored their location and phone needs with the most economical company.”

Pretty soon, Diane said, word of mouth sent students knocking on the “Phone-man’s” door at UCSB, “to find out how to get a good rate for their phones.”

And that is how Richard Rider became founder and president of Economy Telcom, now doing business in 41 states.

Since 1997, the business’s student base has declined with the rise of cellphones. “But now we have expanded into small business services in 41 states,” Diane said. “We broker local and long distance service, high-speed data lines and conference calls.”

Economy Telcom is a good example, Diane Rider said, why her husband should be San Diego’s next mayor: He saw a problem coming, researched it, and not only solved it, but turned it into something.

“He sees outcomes that become problems before anyone else,” Diane said. “With the Charger ticket deal, he figured out that with the ticket guarantee, the Chargers would make 85 percent more money on an unsold seat because he would not have to pay the opposing team or the city. He knew the deal would never pass if taken to a vote of the people.”

Rider sued to get the issue on an election ballot and took the case all the way to the state supreme court, which ruled against it.

“But he was right.” Diane said. “In 2000, he stood before the city council for his allotted two minutes and warned them that they should not be giving themselves and the city unions huge pension increases knowing full well that the cost would come back to haunt us all. He not only understands all these complicated issues, but can see beyond them for the unforeseen consequences.”

Sometimes, she said, he also has to fix problems closer to home.

“When we are traveling in unfamiliar territory,” she said, “I am the navigator because the trip was probably all my idea in the first place. Sometimes I get confused and lost. Richard pulls the car over and looks at the map and looks at the surroundings and figures out where we are and away we go. He does all this very cheerfully – hmm, that makes a metaphor of his run for mayor. Other people have created the problems, but he is willing to fix them and get things going in the right direction.”

Richard and Diane Rider have been on the road together for 30 years this summer.

“Richard and I met at a famous meeting spot in San Diego in the early 1970s: MCRD on a Friday night!” Diane said. “It was during the Vietnam War, and the Officers’ Club had music and dancing. All the single young women – especially teachers, secretaries and nurses – would go. I had just taken a teaching position and was beginning that week. Richard was a Navy lieutenant just back from a Vietnam deployment.”

It was “like” at first sight, she said. “During that time, it was popular for women to wear wigs,” she said. “On the night we met, I was wearing this killer blonde wig. Many years later, I asked him if he would have invited me to dance if I had not been so obviously blonde. His diplomatic answer was: ‘We’ll never know, will we?’ I think one of the things that has made our relationship so special is that we both think we have the better deal.”

They were married in 1975. While Richard, who remained in the Navy Reserve for 22 years after active duty, was building a career as a stockbroker and financial planner, Diane continued in her new teaching position.

“I taught from 1971 until 2003 in the Sweetwater Union High School District,” she said. “I taught English as a Second Language as well as honors English. I loved it all. People say one of the great things about being a teacher is students come back and thank you. Well, that’s nice of course, but for me, the joy of teaching was working to make it all come together.

“During that time,” she said, “I did a lot of work with teacher training both in the district and with San Diego State University. I taught at SDSU and am now on the faculty as a supervisor of student teachers.”

Command of the subject, of course, is a given, but how would a mentor and supervisor advise a young teacher in taking command of the classroom?

“The key is to be prepared and proactive in discipline,” she said. “When teachers have a coherent, comprehensible, engaging lesson, then discipline is not such an issue. It’s when a teacher or a politician doesn’t know the material, or doesn’t have a plan and ‘wings it,’ that trouble arises.”

Richard Rider, as a candidate for several offices over the years, including this one, has positioned himself in a politically independent way, as a “Taxpayer Advocate.”

“If his goal were to be popular and become a professional politician, he would have affiliated himself with the mainstream,” Diane said. “People have urged him to do just that. But Richard is the most principled person you will ever meet and he will not sell out if that is what it takes to be elected. It was the mainstream that got us into this mess. It is the mainstream that is piling debt onto the next generation.”

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.

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