Bob Filner summoned me to the fourth floor of City Hall last week.

It had been an otherwise ho-hum day. Mayor Jerry Sanders was delivering his final press conference.

But Filner had something he wanted to talk to me about. I headed to the fourth floor of City Hall, where he was waiting for me. It’s where the city used to house its planning department, Filner explained, before it was wrapped into the Development Service Department.

Now, it sits empty.

The mayor-elect proceeded to show me around, pointing out the relics of the old department that seemed almost haunting under the fluorescent lights of the bureaucratic institution.

He launched into his vision for the space. It should be bustling with workers. The city should be thinking long and hard about its communities rather than just approving building permits. At the very least, he said, they should be using this space rather than renting offices elsewhere for city employees.

I continued snapping pictures as he spoke.

There were no handlers by his side. He wasn’t speaking from a script. Instead, it was all hallmark Filner theatrics, which he often deploys to get a point across.

He pressed on to one of the back offices to tell me he had found a “sad little desk.”

It was indeed sad. Broken on one side, resting unevenly, it was nothing more than a piece of scrap wood or a carpenter’s project.

I shot a few photos. “You should stand by it for a picture,” I told him.

“How about if I lie down on it?” he countered.

Why not? Filner lay down and shot his signature grin into the camera. I fired off a few frames and we carried on with the tour.

In eight years of covering Jerry Sanders as a reporter and a photojournalist, he never came close to dropping his guard like this. He spoke with caution, stayed on message and allowed media access to more candid moments only begrudgingly.

The new mayor brings a wildly different personality to the office. His demeanor allows foes to brand him as a loose cannon; it’s also endearing to friends. He represents a textbook definition of candid.

That’s a quality and aesthetic we look for as photojournalists, and it’s not always easy to get in the political arena. San Diego’s photographers will have plenty of revealing material to work with over the next four years.

Sam Hodgson is a freelance photojournalist and contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can contact him at and check out his work on his website.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Sam Hodgson

Sam Hodgson is a freelance photojournalist and contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can contact him at

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