San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ big building guru is leaving the city to work for the mayor’s political strategist.

Phil Rath, Sanders’ deputy director of policy, will head Public Policy Strategies, a lobbying firm owned by Republican strategist Tom Shepard, starting at the end of November.

Rath was the mayor’s point person for the $2 billion in massive building projects on Sanders’ agenda: the under construction downtown library, the stalled new City Hall and ongoing efforts to expand the Convention Center and build a new Chargers stadium downtown. He also was in charge of all other land-use and redevelopment efforts.

In a statement, Sanders called Rath “a tremendous asset.”

“While I am sad to see him leave, I know that he will thrive in the next chapter of his career,” Sanders said.

It’s unclear if anyone will take over for Rath as the big building point person. The Mayor’s Office will not fill Rath’s position and instead will reassign his work to other staffers, a mayoral spokesman said.

At Public Policy Strategies, Rath is replacing Geoff Patnoe, a former head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and former chief of staff for County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Patnoe is returning to the county as a deputy to longtime Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard. Patnoe’s official title will be director of strategic and intergovernmental affairs, a position Ekard once held.

“I enjoyed running this firm and advising our clients over the past few years but there is a warm and fuzzy feeling I get when working in government that I just couldn’t ignore and I am thrilled to be going back in such a perfect job,” Patnoe said.

(Full disclosure: He has also served on’s development committee, occasionally advising on business and marketing strategy.)

The political carousel typically begins spinning after an election. Rath said his departure wasn’t linked to the failure of Proposition D, a sales tax-financial reform ballot measure Sanders had championed.

“The important thing to me is the mayor understands my reasoning and he knows it has nothing to do with the election,” Rath said. “I know some will speculate, but I can’t do anything to stop them.”

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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